Monday morning I found myself in Zurich, as an unexpected but pleasant detour on my Europe trip. It was the day that the full force of jet lag hit me, so I was walking around in more than a bit of a mental fog. Fortunately as I breakfasted with a local friend (@chanson), she showed me the sights without my having to think too deeply about where we were headed…
And for lunch I met with a friend that I hadn’t seen since I was 14–someone who knew me when I was diagnosed with cancer, lost my leg, and underwent chemotherapy. I asked him what he remembered about that time because my memories are so dim and fragmented. We talked a bit about what it was like as I lost my hair and became sicker and sicker.
“it was just so sad, we were all so sad,” he said.
Then he recalled a clear memory of seeing me in the hallway at school one day, when someone was carrying me because I was too weak to walk. He said that even though I had to be carried around the school, I was happy.
“You were always happy,” he affirmed. And then the conversation moved on to a different topic.
It wasn’t until later that evening, long after I’d moved on from Zurich and was on the next leg of my trip through the Alps, that I remembered that May 21st, that Monday that I met up with my friends, was the anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. 28 years ago. 1984.
Lots of tough things have happened since then…many long dark nights and many days filled with fear. But I’m still happy and expect that I always will be.
What I woke up to, this morning…
I was filling in the template for my dissertation file last night. As I typed up the dedication page, I was pretty humbled by all of the people that I wanted to name–those who listened and read and helped and were just there when I needed them. (really friends, you are amazing and I owe you so much…)
But as I thought about what it meant to me to do this degree and how it impacted the lives of the people around me, I realized that getting a Ph.D. is probably the single most selfish thing that I’ve ever done. I did this for me. Not for my kids or for the money or for my parents or for god.
Cyborg writing is about the power to survive, not on the basis of original innocence, but on the basis of seizing the tools to mark the world that marked them as other.
Ten years ago I took the first steps to something important, this becoming-a-doctor thing. It’s so close now, that the last step is consuming all of my mental energy and my discretionary time. In the midst of it all I’ve left emails unresponded-to, missed appointments with friends, and have been a bit short-tempered in situations where I would usually be calm.
I’m told, by others who’ve done their PhDs, that this is normal. The end is hard and intense and time-consuming. For me, it feels a lot like when I’m almost to the top of a rock-climb and I’m exhausted and my whole body is shaking from the effort to get there. At that point it’s all I can do to keep focused on what’s in front of me and take it one step at a time. If I get distracted by anything other than reaching the top, it’s likely that I won’t have the energy to do that one last push to get there.
So…I apologize for my flakiness in the meantime. Just a few more weeks and I’ll be on the other side of this and life will go back to photos and paddling and poetry and time-with-friends once again…