Sometimes in life you are faced with the structurally-prescribed task of making decisions to which and for which you cannot rationally apply any rational criteria for the evaluation of options—for which you cannot even determine what such criteria should be because you simply don’t have enough information to decide whether you will be fucking nuts if you choose A over B, or whether you will be fucking nuts if you choose B over A, or whether you will be fucking nuts either way, or whether you will not be fucking nuts but instead absolutely fine in either circumstance.
In this case, A is the qualifying examination that I must take before I can achieve full candidacy status. I don’t know the questions that will be on it, I don’t know who will grade the exam that I take, I don’t know what a completed exam looks like or how it was graded, and I don’t know what the consequences will be in terms of social prestige/power/leverage/opportunity if I choose to postpone it until the fall semester, rather longer/later than it is usually taken. I am in a good position now at the school but I cannot for the life of me determine what sort of position I might be in if I postpone taking it, nor what sort of position I might be in if I do take it, since I cannot determine what sort of performance I might reasonably expect to achieve given all of the unknowns, not the least of which are the exam itself and what a “good” completed exam or set of essays contains or looks like.
At the same time, B is the job that I have held for a year-and-a-half or so at this point and which has gradually decayed into something akin to emotional torture, a field of uncertain payment, uncertain expectations, uncertain authority structures, uncertain daily tasks, uncertain measurement and evaluation of those tasks, and an uncertain future. In this context I am being asked to sign an uncertain and patently illegal (not to mention self-contradictory) contact for which there are (at best) uncertain consequences both of signing and of not signing. If I refuse to sign, do I still have a job? Does a person even exist to tell me whether I still have a job if I refuse to sign? If I do sign, what exactly are the requirements that I agree to fulfill? It’s not entirely clear. When can I have them clarified? That is also unclear. How will I know if I’ve met them? Also unclear. If I fail to meet them, what are the consequences? Also unclear.
If I approach the problem conservatively and somewhat normatively, presupposing all of those things that I consider to be the “most likely”—and in this case, “most likely” is really a synonym for “I flipped a coin” since I have no fucking idea what is “most likely” in any case, I’m more or less choosing on gut instinct—I then assume that I have two responsibilities competing for my attention. The first is to deliver a certain amount of work and time to my employer, and the second is to spend a certain amount of time studying for the qualifying examination to be held in just a little more than a week.
Two deadlines that feel arbitrary, self-imposed, and immaterial, like fictions I’ve cooked up for myself in order to fuck myself up. But yet they also carry the air of reality with them precisely because I’ve cooked them up in response to gut feelings that arise in turn in response to real circumstances that I’ve lived, even if I can’t enumerate fully and elaborate on the many facets of the causal dynamics involved. I feel as though if I don’t take the exam now and do well, I’ll suffer later (possibly catastrophically), and I feel as though if I don’t put in a rather large complement of hours rather soon at work, I’ll suffer later (possibly catastrophically), even if there are no logical or empirical reasons to make such suppositions.
Have I simply convinced myself of the importance of things that are important only as ideological points brought to bear by other parties’ interests? Can I reasonably expect to convince myself of the opposite?
And how will I appear to myself and others if I (a) postpone the exam, especially now after having decided to take it in a few short days and after having announced as much, or (b) quit my job, especially when I have financial responsibilities? Yet it remains quite certain that I am physically, emotionally, and intellectually incapable of fulfilling both of the largely (I have been made to feel by all involved) imaginary commitments that I write about here. Fucking passive-aggressive world, passive-aggressive reality, passive-aggressive causal nexus, that’s what.
I hate this dynamic and set of decisions and completely unclear contexts and they make me feel frustrated, increasingly angry, and rather more selfishly alone than I’m accustomed to feeling or being. I feel like a jackass and a martyr and a needless dramatic all in one. Depressing. Frustrating.
Fuck . them . all .