I feel like I have so much to update about from the past few weeks that I don't even know where to start. The graduate school interviews/traveling exploits/thoughts and musings about the agonizing decision and life changes that lie ahead could take up their own lengthy series of posts, but I don't know if it's all worth getting into just yet. Basically I have a feeling the decision is going to come down to my current university (with my beloved advisor J) versus the one I visited last weekend (not this most recent weekend, the one before). Stay tuned on that one.
Traveling is hard for me, especially when it involves staying with strangers and all the unpredictability that goes along with that. In many ways my first trip (to Big East Coast City) was easier because I was able to stay with my brother the first night and my parents the second night, which gave me the opportunity to at least unwind and let my guard down after being in performance mode all day. But the second trip—which I just got back from yesterday—was a lot trickier. I was in a very small, isolated town in a part of the country where I don't know anyone, staying with a current graduate student in her apartment (which was actually a suite in a college dorm, since she is a Resident Assistant for the undergrads who live there). There were lots of meals out with little to no "safe" options. For example, bagels for breakfast, pizza for lunch, pasta for dinner, chocolate cake for dessert. Combine these food options with the very low activity levels (all we did was sit around and get interviewed or listen to presentations), sprinkle it with a little high pressure competition as you mingle with other applicants and professors and that, my friends, is a recipe for Very High Anorexia-Related Anxiety.
And beyond just the food, the lack of privacy and alone time is really tough. I cannot be with people 24/7, especially people I don't know well. My host this past weekend was awesome and I really really liked her—in fact I think we would have ended up being friends if I went to this program—but the prospect of spending two nights on her couch, getting escorted around campus by her, eating every single meal with her, was too much. I had a moment of uber panic and frustration on Friday afternoon when I discovered that after the full day of interviews and formal events, we were going out to dinner for a four-course meal and then to a bar for drinks. Literally, I had the urge to run away and hide somewhere until everyone forgot about me. It was not even the food part that got to me, although that added to the general stress; it was just the prospect of having to spend more time and expend more energy being around people. My God if these interview days accomplish anything, it is making me utterly and completely sick of people. In the end of course I went to the dinner and the bar, had a great time, came back to my host's apartment and spent another hour chatting with her, which I enjoyed, and thus ended the trip on a high note. So I realize that the bulk of my anxiety with these things tends to be tied up in the anticipation rather than the actual things themselves, but I think a few hours to myself to unwind and recharge would have made the whole experience tremendously less stressful and exhausting.
Another consequence of all these trips is that I am about ninety percent checked out of school right now. It is almost impossible to focus on anything but PhD admissions stuff, and I can't believe I actually still have to go to class and my internship and turn in papers and take exams and show up to work. Other random stuff going on: I have to prepare an abstract and a poster for a symposium that I haven't started, I am giving a guest lecture in an engineering class next week (still scratching my head on how this one came about), and I am woefully behind on my own research project. My apartment is a mess, I have three loads of clean but unfolded laundry from yesterday, and my bank account is remarkably low....at least until all these universities start reimbursing my travel costs!!