Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The have-it-all generation's search for love

It's beginning to look like I may be spending another several years living in a different city from my guy.
Considering the bulk of my past relationship was spent in separate cities or with him on the road, this makes me understandably uneasy.
I don't say this because I don't have faith in myself and my relationship-- because I do. But it is a little bothersome how this is seemingly becoming the norm for many of us. Yeah, independence is a virtue-- but is connectedness such a crime?

Perhaps I am just speaking of the grad student experience... but it almost seems like a necessary criteria, along with your thesis, to have been in a long distance relationship. In a lifestyle where you are expected to move wherever the training or career opportunities are best, having a love or a family that you are committed to is almost a liability.
If you want to have a chance as an academic, you can't stay at the same university for all three degrees. Usually, at least in clinical psychology, you are okay to remain in the same place for your Masters and PhD (apparently not the case in Sociology), but they make up for it by wanting you to go to another city for your internship. It doesn't look good on your internship application unless you apply to a diverse number of settings. I've watched many a person with partners and children struggle with this decision.
In Canada, this is no small feat. Usually it entails a pretty substantial move, especially considering the acceptance rates at grad schools and internship sites are pretty low, so you often have to take what you can get.

So I've done several moves to pursue my education. I'm glad I've had the chance to live in separate cities, as, without sounding cliche, it has expanded my mind a lot, and helped to challenge what little things you take for granted as being normal. I've also had to make decisions about leaving my then-partner in a different city in order to pursue what is best for me. Now mine is having to, and I can't begrudge him for the very same decision I had to make a few years ago. Even if it does hurt.

It sometimes seems like bettering yourself as an individual and making love work may be mutually exclusive, at least to some extent. Though we speak vaguely of family values and how bad stress is, we prize stress in Western culture. We think lowly of the lawyer who goes home at 5 o'clock to be with his wife and family. I could go on for hours about the weird subculture of grad school. A friend told her advisor than her and her husband were thinking of having children, and he essentially forbade her until she was done her dissertation. We have been taught that we can have it all... if we are willing to give up a little.

I know that several of you guys have done or are doing long-distance, often as a part of graduate school, so any thoughts are appreciated.


Ant said...

I have no idea about this one - personally I think they rarely work. Relationships are supposed to be about intimacy in all senses, including the real, physical touch of being close to someone.

On saying that, the ones that have worked tend to show that the relationship is incredibly strong...

My experience of academia is that the sense of looking after your family is a lot stronger than elsewhere - yes, lawyers and corporate whores might get caned for going home at 5pm - but less so in the research world. People are generally sympathetic...

iFreud said...

For us, I am lucky that my husband is not an academic, so moving from city to city is not the that catastrophic. But I think that if T had a professional job or goals similar to mine, the situation would go from bearable, to bad.

I also think that having children during graduate school is easier than trying to do it early in your career, and easier than doing it when you are trying to establish yourself in a job. You have certain freedoms that a job does not allow.

Beth said...

It can be done. My husband and I dated for two years and then we were apart for three years. But it wasn't easy.
As for "having it all" re: family and a profession. I don't think it's possible without giving up something - but it's worth a shot. You simply do the best you can in either place. But again, not easy.

LMizzle said...

Hmm, I shall email you on the matter instead of commenting!

Based on what I know of the guy you are dating, I think that he would literally go to the ends of the earth for a wonderful lady like you. He is completely devoted to you. :0)

John said...

I totally love her, and she totally loves me. But as we've discovered, it's hard as fuck. And some.

I'm with you on this point, any tips are greatly welcomed!

Incidentally, none of this if for acedemic reasons.

Princess Pointful said...

Ant- It's a hard debate. Yes, part of the joy of relationships are of the simplicity of just being around each other, and god knows that's what we seem to crave the most when falling in love.
But I guess I also have the idea that there are some people that are worth waiting for because being around them is just that important.

ifreud- I guess you would have a little more perspective on this... it also fits with your recent post about how you & mentor both seem to work well with the non-academic spouses.

Beth- I'm happy to hear stories of people who have made it work :)

Lmizzle- Thanks :). It means a lot, especially coming from someone with your perspective!

John- I may be beginning this all again by the time you & J. are reunited. Perhaps you can teach me!

eric1313 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eric1313 said...

I am so glad that English academics do not have the same strictures to follow about diversity as your profession does. It still helps to travel, but it's not bad if all three degrees are done at the same university.

Then again, I've had many professor's tell me that I will have no problem getting in anywhere for any program. My writing samples will speak for themselves, they say--and that was before the growth of this whole bloggie adventure. Yeah, I've had PhD's pump my ego up pretty good!

I may not know you, but reading about your travails has made me proud of your accomplishments, your professionalism, and the control you exert in your life. As well as your ability to drop the mask and be silly and let your inner self out. That is so refreshing. Too many grads take themselves way too seriously. You have the right mix.

And your expository writing is top notch.

I'd love to see you take on fiction, and take down onto the page those stories you make up after looking into widows. Fiction is made up of the truth; you just put different names on people and re-arrange events to where they add up metaphorically.

And this is not shameless flattery! You write very well.

Gotta go for the night. It's good to read you, as always. I hope you are having a very relaxing weekend doing everything that you love.

take care!