Boulder, Grad School and Imposter Phenomenon

13/04/2012 § Leave a comment

For the sake of honesty, Boulder is a place I visit every day. I don’t live there for a number of reasons, but mostly because of the insane expense of trying to have three adults and a child with not-so-stable income sources live together without driving each other insane. 

There are many, many things I love about Boulder and CU. I love that going to a larger school means that I have many more opportunities for fabulous public lectures, networking, generally just learning awesome things from a variety of people. I love the weather, the restaurants, the view of the Flat Irons. Boulder really is quite an incredible place. Although I scoff at the Marijuana Culture, I’m still amused that Quin and I can go to Fatty J’s and order Pizza Blunts. I love being so close to NOAA in the event of apocalypse by weather. I love that people sell enough religion here to make a series of books. (Channeling the Buddha. $20 mandatory donation!)

Boulder has its downsides, though. Part of my “problem” with Boulder is that, aside from the numerous panhandlers, poverty is almost invisible. The poor are imported to work in a city that they could never afford to live in. The baristas are grumpy and disdainful. The soft-liberal attitude means that people will bitch about taking care of the environment, but spend weekends skiing in places where snow has been manufactured. CU’s Poverty Awareness even this past fall involved buying from local shops (I’m all for buying local), but didn’t bother to go beyond in any meaningful way. I feel disjointed here. People are most active, it seems, when it involves legalization (also fine, but there are other things in the world). I feel out of place in Boulder because 1) I don’t have the money to be a yump and 2) I don’t have the values to be a hippie. I realize this is a really black-and-white way of viewing Boulder (also, haha, let’s not talk about how white Boulder is) but it is currently how I feel. I get a little thrill of joy when I meet someone who is from a lower-class background (SOLIDARITY!) or who is a nerd, or who just wants to be compassionate to people. This feeling really hits me when I’m walking around Pearl. 

It might be easier if I felt any more in place in my program, but I don’t really. Unfortunately, my personality style means that I babble, but I’m sort of shy, so in seminar, I spend all my time talking endlessly, and it only gets worse as my embarrassment grows more intense, until I’m in a babbling, nervous, feedback loop of intense mortification. Lately, this has not been aided by the fact that I don’t understand Derrida (here serving as a straw man for any reasonably abstract theory). My brain does not like anything that is not obviously applicable. It scrabbles around for a while, trying to understand the language, then it just feels like I’m ramming my head into a wall. It’s especially unfortunate, because I’ve always prided myself on my ability to understand complexity. So, I have created a reading list for this summer consisting of almost nothing but modernist philosophy and Sutras. I am hoping that, given the time and practice, this feeling of being intensely dumb will go away.

Still, I feel like I don’t belong in this (or any) program, despite the fact that, by all evidence, I have been reasonably successful. I am wondering how long my vow to “Finish the program because Fuck ’em” will endure. 

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