I feel disillusioned. There is a way in which cancer grabs any last shred of not knowing, any leftover innocence and throws it to the wind, never to be found again. I really doubt I’ll ever feel the kind of innocence I didn’t even know I had about life from the pre-cancer times. I don’t think about the future as a wide, expansive space of possibility anymore.
It seems more like a life or death game, where you need to sprint from shelter across a field to another shelter, with snipers shooting at the empty field. You don’t know, in this game, if there is another field you will need to run across after you make it to the shelter, or how many fields there are after that, or how long they might be, or if your comrades will be shot at and wounded or killed while you cross the field together. You regroup with the others at each shelter, holding each other carefully and checking for wounds. We patch up the scrapes and sleep for a while before we build enough energy to peek out again, peer across at the next field, and wonder if the next forest that will provide shelter will be the forest that is actually the healthy world again, if it will mean we are done sprinting, done dodging bullets, done wiping wounds. Sometimes people are catapulted from the shelter into the middle of the field, sometimes they are made to languish in the shelter, not knowing when they will need to sprint across the field they are staring at, amassing information as they wait and watch others cross, anxiety mounting. There is no way to know. And so we cling tightly to each other and hold hands and whisper encouragement and duck our heads and start sprinting. It’s terrifyingly comforting to have each other, the only people who know what it’s like to sprint across that field, and to hold so tightly to each other and know we won’t all get across to safety in one piece.
The disillusionment isn’t only cancer. It’s also the academic job market. It’s wondering if I should duck out now, or keep slogging through, hoping to beat the odds. I knew these odds existed when I entered graduate school, and I’ve done *everything right* as they say, publishing and conferencing and teaching a little and finishing the diss. Still, a great many of us know brilliant young scholars with a Ph.D. and without a tenure track job. I just now find myself in a double-bind of unknowing.
All this unknowing, this deep sense of disillusionment, this feeling that the world is not as I thought it was, but actually, much crueler than I ever imagined makes me want to speed things up. It makes me want to bandage everyone in a hurry and get through the sniper fields. It makes me want nothing in moderation, and it makes me want everything in excess. It makes me wonder if we will every again catch our breath long enough to wonder at the nighttime sky. It makes me want to speed up and slow down, fit more into the afternoon, stay up all night long. It makes me wonder if this is the new normal, operating at high intensity, heightened awareness and anxiety, speed so fast it might be a blur. Will I have time to think about whether the academic job market will be kind to me? I do not know.
And so I haven’t posted, lately, feeling this way. Wondering. I’ve wondered what to post. I’ve started many a draft. You’ve checked in and wondered what’s up, where the writing that sometimes just gushes out of me is, if everything is all right. I just don’t know what to write. I can’t decide. I don’t know what to think, or which way is up. It’s confusing. It’s disillusioning.