Friday, April 18, 2008

Choose an Identity

A letter I submitted last week to my graduate school petitions committee:

Ms. Administrative Person
The Graduate School
The University
Administrative Hall
Smalltown, Midwest 12345

Dear Ms. Person:

Thank you for helping me facilitate and expedite my request for an extension of the completion dates for the Incompletes I received in the Fall 2007 semester. The classes for which I received the Incompletes are listed below:

((two doctoral level seminars I have no brains for at the moment))

These courses represent 6 of 10 hours I took last fall, in addition to my TA responsibilities for teaching a section of (EDCore Course) I was not able to complete these courses because I was ill to varying degrees for virtually the entire semester with hyperemesis (nausea & vomiting) due to a twin pregnancy. Over the course of the semester, I was hospitalized 6 times overnight for re-hydration, and IV anti-emetics and vitamins.

I expected to be able to complete the work for these courses over the winter break and early in the Spring semester, but my water broke (pre-term premature rupture of membranes) at almost 20 weeks gestation on December 25, 2007. We found that one twin had died and I was forced to deliver my second twin 10 days later at almost 21 weeks, before he was developed enough to survive.

Following the delivery I developed an infection due to retained placenta, and had to have a D&C two weeks later, which required weeks’ physical recovery, in addition to the emotional recovery my husband and I were challenged with. Further, I broke my arm on the ice on the way to teach my class this February. Thankfully, this required little physical intervention to heal.

I am currently teaching a section of (Same Core Course) in addition to 10 hours of coursework (1 course, 2 independent studies and a teaching practicum). My Chair and the (Dept) faculty have been extremely supportive, but due to all of these circumstances I feel it is not possible for me to complete the work for those two classes in the allotted timeframe.

If given this extension, I plan to work closely with my professors in these classes to ensure that my work gets completed in a timely fashion once this semester has ended. I expect that I would be able to have this work completed by July 1, 2008. I am currently under the care of 2 medical doctors, a therapist and a grief counselor who are working with me to support my physical, mental and emotional recovery from the events of the last several months.

Thank you for your time and consideration of my request. Please contact me with questions or concerns at the email or phone number listed below, or by mail at the above address.

Best regards,


Who is this person? I read this letter, and I think, what a freaking nightmare. Even as I hem and haw about withdrawing this semester, I think, What the hell is this? Who is this person and why is she even attempting school? And why do so few people at school seem to recognize the impact of the last six months?

Why doesn't she recognize it? All she can say is, this isn't me. I don't like this, I don't want this. No, not me. Please, give me back my old life, please. Please.

The Nile is nice this time of year. Have you met the queen? She is me.

Who are you now?


Rachel said...

Your letter is terrifying. But my question would be, who is 'Ms. Administrative Person' and why does she get to judge whether your physical and emotional suffering has been sufficient to warrant an extension? As a fellow graduate student, I find it incredibly frustrating when the school both expects us to teach undergraduates and treats us as children where they need to read our 'notes from home' to make sure we really did have a good excuse for not finishing math homework. You know what you've been through and you know that you will finish the work as soon as you can, so why do you have to grovel before ms. anonymous (especially if your department is being supportive)?

luna said...

they can't "recognize the impact" of what you've been through because it's incomprehensible unless you've been there. it's also invisible to them.

I would have asked for more time to complete the coursework.

as for who I am now, let's just say someone I don't recognize or care to be, someone whose life I mistakenly got stuck with while mine slipped away. not a good way to be. ~luna

Tash said...

I'm with Luna -- have you sent this? I'd ask for more time. Nothing like having to write yet ANOTHER grim letter.

I've written about this, but I'm definitely different -- no hope, no faith, still not a lot of joy. You may find your not the person who can do this line of work anymore, and really? I think that's fine. And, it's totally fine and doesn't mean your disrespecting your children's memory if you say, "you know what? This is part of me that I really need to hang onto and continue." Doesn't mean you haven't changed, or you're in denial. It's just life. Just our sad sack version.

Julia said...

I hate having to explain. And to wonder whether they will judge your suffering as enough to warrant a silly administrative extension. Sorry you are having to do that.

I also agree with Tash-- if this is the part you need to hold on to, than that is the part you need to hold on to. Even if you need loads of help getting to the point where you won't need extra help/consideration anymore.

Antigone said...

I'm dealing with this is a nonacademic setting - corporate life. I've struggled to remain competitive, professional, etc... And I so wish I could say or write something like the above to everyone I work with. Just to give them a list of how crappy this last year has been and tell them I need more time, more something.

Newt said...

Good gravy. I'm outraged for you that you should have to explain yourself like this. That ain't nobody's business but your own.

Graduate school is the pits. It gets better afterward, I promise. Cross my heart.

k@lakly said...

yes, sometimes I think Hester Pryne had it easy, at least she got to wear the letter and it did the talking for her...
They may not understand it or you and what you are still going through but you know what? Who the fuck cares. You do and ask for what you want and need to get the stuff that you want done, done. If you decide it's not what you want anymore, than don't do it, but you deserve as much time as you need to make the decision. You are different now, but it doesn't mean everything has to change, just what you choose to change.
But I'm with you on the letter writing, it's just not fun anymore is it....

CLC said...

This post broke my heart. It's hard to imagine that's you you are writing about when you look at the hellish trip you have taking on paper. I hope they are understanding and give you the support you need.