Well, let’s face it. I’ve never actually been relevant. I have no idea who Zach Effron is, or even if I spelled his name right. I don’t think floral jeans are stylish because I actually wore them in the nineties so at this age I know better. Someone on Facebook asked, “Roku or Firestick?” and I had to answer Roku because what the fuck is Firestick? I NEVER know what’s what but if anything, I’ve become even LESS relevant in the last six weeks. Deeply and happily so.
So, to begin with, I quit school. Remember that whole shit storm in May? I left that day feeling pretty demoralized, unsure about what to do. One thing I did know was that if I was going to get any support at all, even just conversation with other scholars, I’d get no help from my school. I was going to have to find it myself.
As soon as I got home from that meeting with my department head, I lit a nerd beacon. I got on Facebook and Twitter and mentioned that I was a feminist theologian looking for good conversation with other feminist theologians. Then I looked up relevant hashtags and began popping into discussions and basically forcing people to be my new buddies. And it worked. Within a week I was sharing papers, making plans to meet up at conferences, etc. And the number one question that came up in literally every single discussion I had was…why am I doing a doctor of ministry? Why am I not doing a PhD in religious studies? Of course, I explained that my background was not in either theology or religious studies and therefore DMin programs were just about the only way I was going to get what I needed to then meet the background requirements to do a PhD in religious studies. But I’ll admit that the question sparked something in me. Not that it was a new one. I’d asked myself the same one before and given the same answer to myself that I had given them. But after that day in May, the question sounded differently in my ears.
Here’s the thing. Before I left her office that afternoon, my department head had said to me (rather paradoxically, I thought) that perhaps I needed to think about whether my program was challenging enough for me. And the truth was and always has been – no. It’s not. In fact, it reminds me a lot of being an undergrad and I’m bored to fucking tears. I procrastinate so hard on my work because there is nothing engaging in it. My independent study courses are much better because I help design them but that’s it. The rest of the program is so intellectually unfulfilling that I spend my seminar weeks pretending to type notes while I am actually exchanging angsty messages with my best friend or reading my Kindle on my laptop. More than that (and this is telling) is that instead of forcing myself to write a paper that I couldn’t care less about, I spent all last week meeting with different professors from various schools either in person or online drafting customized reading lists and generally just chatting about our fields.
I finally decided that that was probably a good sign that I wasn’t being challenged in my home program. So, last Friday, I pulled the plug. After meeting with a couple of professors in a PhD program I’m excited about potentially transferring into, I emailed my department head to tell her that I’d thought about her question and that my answer was no, the program was not challenging enough for me and that I was going to move on.
The truth is that I have no fucking clue if I am moving on. There’s no guarantee that just because I’m talking to these professors and reading everything they throw at me that I’ll get into the department. They may reject me. And then what? Then I’ll just be a kind of weird author/housewife hybrid, an eccentric independent scholar whose chief joy is that her office doesn’t insist on pants. Maybe I’m not meant to be clergy or even around actual people. Maybe I’m meant to be underemployed and full of ideas no one wants. Maybe I’m meant to be utterly, inescapably irrelevant.
Thing is, I don’t fucking care.
These last couple of weeks have been the best I’ve had in a long time. I have read more than I’ve ever read compressed into such a time frame. And I’m someone who reads ALL THE TIME. In lines, at bars, at a goddamn red light, if it’s long enough. Still, I’ve been reading so much in the last two weeks that I’ve taken literally hundreds of pages of notes and I’ve gone to bed at 3AM more times than I should admit and even then only after taking a sleeping pill.
I fucking love it. If my life is meant to be simply sitting in my office day after day, reading about medieval women’s contraceptive practices, writing journal articles, and drinking so much tea that I get caffeine-induced anxiety then so be it. Maybe there isn’t a life that I really fit into other than the one I’ve made for myself, the one in which I am happy and don’t know what’s on TV. A life in which I give in entirely to what I’m truly passionate about without having to worry about whether the people I minister to can relate to me or if its normal to have forty-two Amazon wish lists, including one devoted entirely to the study of solitude.
I know that my irrelevance, my inability to absorb pop culture or even know what fucking day it is half the time is a defense mechanism. Not that I get up in the morning and think, “Ah, another day in which to purposely avoid the things that matter to everyone else!” I’m not quite that hipster. But I busy myself so completely with reading, writing, and studying because, aside from it being goddamn heroin to me, it keeps me from entering a world that, with my propensity for enthusiasm, just unsettles and overwhelms me.
It’s 2:04 AM and my sleeping pill is starting to work.