It was sometime between my morning coffee and the second tour of the day that I received a message from a good friend. The message said, ‘let’s grab coffee’ but the subtext read ‘how are your applications going?’
We met later in the week and discussed her completion of her first year in her PhD program, my current work, summer plans, etc. Then I walked outside, I gave her a hug and made plans to meet again the following week. Nothing like staring at 12 months of advanced art and feminist theory to make you want to go back to school. Two hours later, just like her text, my head and mouth were disconnected. I said that I want to get a PhD, but I knew my current path was going in a different direction.
Our coffee date happened almost a year after we both submitted our MA theses together and I still haven’t gotten around to applying to PhD programs. I’ve written a few papers, curated a show, helped with mural installations, and managed a few artists careers. The wheel has come full circle and the deadline I gave myself to go back to grad school is here.
The most challenging aspects of my year after my MA submission has not necessarily been academic requirements. I have been incredibly fortunate to have received a year-long internship at the Getty Research Institute within a week after graduating, but the internship recently ended after a workshop and larger questions begin to loom ‘what next?’ There are so many options and my path begins to fork more than it used to, but the destinations are never undesirable, so I can live with that. My five-year plan is slowly coming together in my head, I just need to flesh out all the details besides just saying ‘become Torrey Cook’ (which just means be a successful curator for emerging artists in my locality) or ‘become Alka Patel’ (which means be a professor if the planets align).
Besides being in between academic scenes, I am also in between careers. It has been the largest challenge for me, something that my former cohort has spoken about time and time again. When starting a new path, or if you get put on a different path, the life lessons that one has learned seem to filter away. As I look at the prospect of creating a new art scene in the city of Irvine, I am also staring at a different focus in my research. This shift in worldview is not easy to navigate. I am constantly struggling with balancing my research interests (South Asian textiles) with career goals (become a curator for contemporary artists).
When we work on a project for so long it is easy to attach these romantic ideas to what will happen next. When I look at my calendar and the monthly to-do lists, I feel like I am saying ‘If I make it to October, things will be clearer, I will know what I want to do.’ This virtual pause that I have placed on my project deadlines means that when I am reminded how quickly plans can change, I could be left with feelings of regret for letting my life become vanilla.
I am constantly reminded by the people who surround me how there is never only one way to achieve something. So, moving forward, as my PhD application deadlines approach I’m trying to work on a little bit from each of my interests; Trying to find a way to merge a little from column A with column B. A way for me to think small and large picture all at the same time.