Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The (End of) Summer Self

Everything and nothing happened this summer. I turned 25 and I taught a summer class at my university, but mostly I just struggled with my dissertation and felt guilty for every moment not spent struggling on it. Amanda Ann Klein said it best in her essay for Judgmental Observer: Academia conditions us to feel that when we’re not working, we don’t exist. It’s maddening and saddening, but perhaps the natural byproduct of a community of people driven enough to seek PhDs. My problem is that I’ve never been a particularly ambitious person. People who have known me a long time will probably laugh at this claim, but it’s the truth. I simply love learning (though less now than I used to).

Summer is a strange time for me. When the characters and rhythms of the university aren’t present, immediate, and ordering my life, I find it trickier to maintain the illusion that those characters and rhythms make sense in my life. They really don’t, but I have no plans to let that stop me.

I recently read a personal essay on The Hairpin (if you’ve never visited, you really ought to) that has stuck with me. In it, Taisia Kitaiskaia writes about the summer-self that withdraws from world, creating a kind of social vacuum where it may then grow large, swollen with its own intensity:

It’s like slipping outside of time—societal, human time. It’s in these slack summers that I feel most immortal, as unknown and useless as a god, unseen by any mortal eye and somehow full of a vain and hopeless majesty. I fill up more space in the room. Strange thoughts grow unimpeded.

Strange thoughts indeed. Here are some photos from this summer:

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