So this week has been something of a mixed bag for me. It started really well; I found out that my Grandma’s tests for cancer came back clean, I got offered several exciting ARCS from publishers, and I found out that my favourite musician, Ben Howard, is releasing a new album in June and is touring. I somehow managed to snag tickets for me and the boyfriend, despite there being a huge fuck up with the presale [anyone who preordered the album was meant to be emailed a code for presale access. They didn’t email most people with it until around 10am the next day, an hour after the presale started]. For anyone who doesn’t know me very well, Ben Howard’s music got me through some really tough periods of my life. I listen to his music when I’m happy, I sing to it in the shower, or as I’m getting ready on a morning, I listen to it when I’m curled up in bed on a Sunday night, with my fairylights glowing, my candles burning, a coffee in my hands and a good book to read. I also listen to him when I’m upset about something and need reassuring. His lyrics are like poetry, and although they’re not upbeat, they are something I really like listening to. And it means even more to me, because now I get to go see him live again, four or five years after I last saw him live, and I get to go with my wonderful boyfriend, who knows how excited I am about the whole thing and is prepared to put up with me doing a non-stop manic grin for the next three months.
And then we hit Thursday, and things stopped going quite so well for me. I found out that I hadn’t got the funding I needed for my PhD next year, leaving me with the options of taking a year out, or getting a student loan and a part-time job to squeeze by for a year of part-time study and hope that I got funded next time around. It hurt to know how far I’d come, and to not be offered feedback [the email said that they couldn’t offer personal feedback because of how many people applied] so I don’t know if it was just because it was so competitive, or if it was something that I’d done wrong and could improve on. And while I’m really happy for the three people who did get funded from my department, especially since all three of them did the horrific part-time course with a part-time job for a year, I can’t help but wince whenever I see one of their celebratory statuses. To be honest, I feel like I’ve failed, even though I know rationally that I did all I could. Perhaps that’s why I feel like a failure, because I sent them the best application I could possibly write and I still got rejected. Where do you even go from there? I knew I cared about getting the PhD, and since I was applying to write a thesis on YA literature, I was really passionate about making it work. I knew that, and it still didn’t quite hit home how excited I was about the project and doing a PhD until I got knocked back. And although I have actually been accepted by the university I applied to, not having the funding means that I really do only have those two options, both of which come with their own risks and hardships. As of right now, I’m not certain which option I will take. I’ve barely spoken to anyone about this because I know I’d be met with sympathy and the inevitable ‘so what’s next questions’ and I feel like I A. don’t deserve sympathy just yet and B. really need time to mooch around and feel sorry for myself with a tub of Ben and Jerry’s and a terrible rom-com until I feel like a human again. The idea of having to make a potentially life-altering decision while I’m still feeling a heady mix of numbness and devastation is really not doing it for me right now.
So yeah, unfortunately that’s where I now stand. I’m trying not to let the anxiety and panic set in properly, and I’m trying to think rationally about what I could do to help myself. I know that it will work out, and that in a few years time I will probably look back on this moment and wonder why I was so stressed out over nothing. It happens. Life isn’t about being successful in everything you touch. And yet it does sting when you feel like you’ve found your place in the universe and then it gets tugged away from you. Maybe I will manage that PhD, next year, or the year after, but right now I need to think about moving forwards. And that starts with a tub of Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream and Ben Howard’s Keep Your Head Up on repeat.