So it's the first day of school at the scenic MUniversityofMichigan, and I am not going to school and I can't stand it.

Well, I can. I've been writing my Jane paper since I got to work, for instance. Papers are good. It's kind of like being in school! Yeah.

John has been getting nervous about starting grad school, and lamenting needing to go to class et al. Meanwhile I am lamenting not going to the University of Chicago three years ago. I would be done with my coursework! I would be starting my dissertation! Real, live dissertation! Oh my god.

I mean, I would rather be here, knowing the people I know and in the society I am in, yes. I had a good MFA program. I did a good lot of work, and went to bars bitching loudly but still socially about work, and was too impolitic for my own good. I learned how to grade papers, and that kids in college write terrible papers, and that my papers in undergrad were just as bad, and felt so sorry for the profs who had to sit there slogging through them every week. I did have to slog through them every week. I taught a year of classes, and started actually ironing my shirts so as to look marginally professional, and sat in my office writing frantic comments in margins at nine in the morning on the day I wanted to return the papers on which I was writing. I went to reading on reading on reading by famous people, and had workshop with the famous people, and got my own work critiqued by the famous people, and judged and bitched about several of the famous people who turned out to be bastards. I yelled with Jen and Nadine about countless bad classes, yelled about our own work and other people's work and how many of the people we knew were plastic and insincere and gladhanded the profs left and right, who said things to look good in class as opposed to actually meaning them, who skirted the edge of insult talking to you but smiled straight into your face with all their very white teeth.

One of my profs once called me Michelle in front of the whole department. Do I look like a Michelle?? I mean, I don't have the most common or easy to remember of names, but good lord.

And after I finished, I decided to take a year off. I would take a break from school; I'd never had one yet. I would have a chance to develop my writing more, with no obligations. I would make some damn money.

So I waited a year. Then I applied to PhD programs, with a master's degree already under my belt by age 23, with good grades and good recommendations and blah blah. I made some mistakes; I should have done a much better personal statement, done better research, written a more recent writing sample, been more focused. Other people made some mistakes; I should never have had to drive to Cleveland and personally bitch out the graduate dean so she couldn't ignore my urgent faxes and phone calls anymore, all so I could get a graduate class I had dropped taken off my UNDERGRADUATE transcript.

Anyway, I didn't get in anywhere for this year. And John is going to school, and Carrie is going to school, and everyone seems to be going to school. My friend Patricia is going to Columbia. I know kids in the PhD programs at Harvard and Brown. I went out drinking with these people! I know they are smart. But I am smart too, damnit, and I am stuck in this stupid job doing data entry all damn day every day, and the job market is not exactly the easiest thing to break into at this point. Granted I get to do data entry in twelve different languages, and that requires some skill, but still.

There's this student worker in my department who keeps talking about getting into grad school for English, for postmodern theory. He's a senior this year and is dumb as a post. Well, not "dumb as a post" per se, but clearly not a graduate student at all. He's stunningly mediocre. Fortunately, I don't have to know yet whether he is getting into his choice of PhD programs. I don't know; I mean, I feel better knowing that this is my competition, but if I knew this kid could get into PhD programs and I couldn't, I think I would just start screaming.

Ok. Ok. I'm glad he's not in to work today.

So. I am going to read John's critical theory books along with him all semester. I am going to write more papers and I am going to send them to journals and get them accepted. And then I am going to get into a PhD program, and this time I am not putting it off for any other degree first.

It's just a bad, bad, jealous day. All the kids going off bright shiny into classes with their new notebooks. All the paper and pens and leather smell of new backpacks everywhere. I don't have any excuse to buy new paper, to open up new pens, to classify things by color and subject so I don't bring the wrong notes on the wrong day. I bought my laptop last spring: that's my school supply for the next five years. I don't have any notes to take or interesting lectures to listen to. All I'm going to have is my own head, my books, and my fingers on the keys. Granted I am going to do theory along with John, but still. I can't go to the lectures. I can't even take German through work so I know what I'm ordering.

I just have to get into some program this year. Any fucking program. I need to write my papers, and I need some classes to help me. This is the kicker: I know I'm not good enough yet. I can't just write things outside of school. I've been writing this paper all morning and I don't know the theory behind it. And I can read the theory, but theory is really difficult, and it's entirely plausible that I seriously need the classes to understand it. Not that I'm not going to try, but still. I am not disciplined enough to stick to a paper-writing schedule myself; I was writing this paper today because I made a deal with John over the weekend. I don't have to turn things in; I'm not racing for tenure. I don't have a deadline to meet. I'm not in a fucking program, why should I write papers if I'm not good enough to get in?

This is not a good road to fall down.

So I am going to get myself out of it. I am writing the paper, after all. I've been writing fragments of this idea for months, but this is a real paper now. And then I am going to write my Wheeze paper, and I will have this Jane paper and a Wheeze paper, and have two to pick from for new writing samples. I will have two papers to send off to journals and conferences, and they will be good enough to send off, because I will be really angry at myself if I give up on this. I am damn well going to make them good enough, and I am going to get in somewhere, and fill my head with words and words and ideas and words, and this is what a PhD program is for, after all, doing better work, and my work will go from "good enough" to "better" to "actually good". I am going to get in and go and go and go.