Grad School: The Reckless Adventure!


A detail from a recent sketchbook page. I believe the monster is a kind of radioactive zombie-ghost hybrid suggestive of post-apocalyptic rot and decay. The professor probably just prefers his facility's to be clean. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine just what the hell it means.

A detail from a recent sketchbook page. I believe the monster is a kind of radioactive zombie-ghost hybrid suggestive of post-apocalyptic rot and decay. The professor probably just prefers his facility's to be clean. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine just what the hell it means.

 I go see the nice lady at Carleton University's Career Services office. She greets me with a smile, “I understand you're interested in coming back to school.”

“Life's not going anywhere worthwhile anyway so I might as well waste some more time at university,” I reply, completely deadpan.

She does a double take. “... Do you think it's a waste of time?”

“Eh, I think everything's a waste of time.”

It was a truly bizarre meeting. I began to wonder, as I unloaded a detailed account of my activities and interest, who the fuck this lunatic is I've apparently become. “My degree was in History, Classics, and Religion with a minor in Japanese,” I began, “but the only major job I've worked since graduating was digital illustration for video games.”

I showed her my sketchbook to her utter astonishment. Apparently most of the shlubs waffling over whether to go back to school don't come in with a hundred pages of horror vacui psychedelia. “Recently I've been working on a magical realist novel I hope to fob off on a publisher one of these days,” I continued.

At some point it came out that I was acting in community theater that very week—“a play based on field research into young people who identify as spiritual but not religious conducted by Carleton professor and former chaplain Tom Sherwood—who, by the way, I've been friends with ever since he provided me invaluable counseling while I battled conventional psychiatry over my rights as a transsexual—actually, he'll be performing the service at my lesbian wedding at the beach later this summer.”

I can't help wondering, at times like this, how it could be that I'm not lying. Was this really my life? Now and then my inner 12-year-old gasps in shock at the Delphic oracle revealing to him the adult he is doomed to become—it's not that I find myself unflattering so much as my surprise at the middle-class suburban boredom that permeated my formative years being so overwhelmed by forces I had thought to belong to fiction and fantasy.

You know, I look back at my undergraduate days with great fondness—precisely the fondness particular to excruciating personal disasters that have since become funny stories. University was a terrible place but it was also the petri dish in which I was created.

People who transition genders as young adults are in the awkward position of moving from one awful puberty straight to another. After years of trying to get a handle on being a big, angry, hairy beast with a wild sex drive, I finally failed. Suddenly, I found myself seeking a place as an anxious, vulnerable women desperate for love—only to discover that all the complaints Feminism makes about womanhood are entirely justified. Today I have made peace with being, well, whatever the hell I am.

Oh yes, and I also studied some things while I was at school—can't for the life of me remember what they were, but I'm sure they were really important. At the very least it was nice having an awesome library well-stocked with books I'd actually want to read.

I've heard grad school described as like getting married to a subject. That's terrifying. The only subject I'm particularly interested in is the totality of all human systems ever!—history, economics, sociology, anthropology, psychology, politics, religion, culture, language—I'm obsessed with the whole world mankind has created.

Perhaps it's that I find it impossible to have any sort of self-respect without the support of a theoretical utopia to justify myself against. The validity of my actions and lifestyle need to be evaluated against whether they create a better world. The upside to this approach is that it renders the entire world extremely interesting—the downside is that it puts you in the awkward position of having to figure out all the world's problems.

My plan in university was to graduate, teach English in Japan, master the language, then return home to do an MA in East Asian studies. I'd work towards being an academic while striving to make it as an artist—quitting the former at the first sign of creative economic sustainability. Alas, the Japanese flipped me the bird and declined my services—probably because I was trans. Oddly, East Asian studies doesn't quite have the allure it once did...

Now, I don't know what to do. I don't really want to marry a subject—as an intellectual, I'm basically slut. I like to sleep around with all kinds of crazy ideas! Actually, if there's anything I'd like to write a thesis on it's mind control. I'm obsessed with unpacking the systems of coercive indoctrination used to condition people to blind conformity—so, basically things just like academia.

During my undergrad I was so sick of my History Theory and Method class that I sabotaged my own year-end paper. I composed it as a polemic against, and parody of, post-modernism. Extremely thin on footnotes, it rapidly flew off the rails into flimsy invective and grandiloquent pronouncements on the nature of history, complete with satirical portraits of the kind of people who read and write history—I was too callow to realize this was probably the most post-modern thing I possibly could have done. My bored and restive TA assigned me an A+, probably for having entertained him.

I wonder if perhaps I shouldn't filch some scholarship money and start writing a disingenuous thesis—just start writing whatever the hell I felt like, for the hell of it, without paying any mind to whether anyone in their right mind would ever accept the damn thing.