Friday, September 01, 2006

Another Overly Personal Post

As I explained in my previous post, I have been consumed with finishing my master's degree at good (very) old Universiteit Utrecht. Yesterday was my combination thesis defense/graduation ceremony. I am now officially a master of linguistics, one step (and three years) away from a doctorate. This is a bittersweet accomplishment for several reasons, but mostly because it means I will have to leave the Netherlands. I would like to return and I know that I have made friends too close to me to stay away forever. While I have every reason to go back, I can think of one very good reason to stay. I may even take the opportunity to move back to Holland next summer, but until then, it looks like I will be returning to visit my family and friends back home, albeit with a great amount of trepidation, both for losing the things that I will miss and regaining things I had been happily living without. I know it is possible to stay here, but it would require me to live below the poverty level here and outside of immigration law.

It is not that I wouldn't do something like this, but quite frankly, I haven't made enough friends here in Europe to justify living here for good. It's my own fault for focusing too much on my education, itself a reaction to how I ended up two years behind during my bachelor's degree because I was concerned more with making friends. And the thing is, I have met so many people I would love to have gotten to know better and I know there are more in my own neighborhood. I always felt guilty that my own fears of loneliness caused me extra time at Umass. As a result, I have become almost the opposite person here, focused on my studies with a tenacity bordering on obsessive. My professors were not the only ones surprised that I fulfilled all my obligations in record time. I can see all the points of procrastination where I subconsciously realized that finishing meant having to return home and subtly threw a wrench or two into my progress. Part of me misses home and feels very little organic connection to this unusual land below sea level, but it is at war with the part of me that realizes that things could be as good or better for me here than at home, if only from some hard work devoted to that end. But my family can't support me here anymore, with my twin sisters each going into their own programs of higher education. And in the end, it all comes down to money. I can't stay in the EU without getting a job here somewhere, and I can get EU citizenship since everyone in my immediate family has been in the US for at least a few generations. Although it would be poetically apt for me to become an illegal immigrant and dishwasher here, I don't have any family members to shelter and support me here when I lose my apartment at the end of next month.

I'm also a bit worried that there will be nothing for me to go back to, now that I have been away for so long. Many of my best friends have moved out of New England, to places as disparate as San Francisco and Savannah. Partly, it is upsetting that none of them have come to visit me in the past two years, but i can understand how impossible it can be to do so. i fear that the landscape I used to recognize will be thoroughly changed, with woodlands developed into housing complexes and independent stores fallen to the big box retailers. Its one thing to think that I wouldn't be able to live here in Europe because of expenses, but I wonder whether I will be able to live in the Boston area with its own peculiar expenses.

My greatest fear is that I will be persuaded to accept complacency in the form of an awful corporate position which would offer health plan and benefits at the cost of my sanity. The last job I had before coming to the Netherlands was as a customer service representative at a major insurance company. It was the best of jobs on paper, with every amenity one could want, but the worst of jobs in operation: it consisted of handling a constant stream of customers who had purchased annuities, which can be summarized succinctly as a combination of an insurance contract and a pension plan, with the drawbacks of both and the benefits of neither. I had to constantly and subtly tell customers that due to poor financial planning they would be eating pet food from now on. We were strongly discouraged from providing investment advice to anyone, as only a licensed stockbroker (who as the personal incentive to push bad investment vehicles) is allowed to. One client was hiding a great deal of money from his ex-wife, who socially engineered me into revealing this to her. A stupid mistake, but not the reason for me leaving. One day, they called us all into a meeting first thing in the morning. Our entire division, we had been told at this meeting, was being moved to the middle of Alberta, Canada. We could either be moved to another division after some training or possibly go to Alberta to train our replacements. I don't want another job even approaching the oppressiveness of that.

So once again, I am sorry if I have allowed things to go dark here these past few weeks. I've haven't found anything particularly blogworthy and since I have re-installed the operating system on this computer I have been unable to connect to Blogger. However, it seems to be part of a larger blogospheric trend, as recently reported in the WSJ, traffic seems to have a proportional relation to frequency of updating. Looking at my own meager web traffic, I can see that most of it is from a few popular posts:
  1. In Defense of Defensetech: i still get the most hits from this piece, due no doubt to i being linked to on some bulletin board about exotic weaponry. Also a Google search for the "CIA's Glass Gun", a one-shot ceramic derringer undetectable by metal detectors, turns up this page. I'm not sure how proud to be of this accomplishment...
  2. Michael Tolliver Lives!: This slightly autobiographical post is probably one of very few that talks about the projected return of this literary character, as the book remains to be published.
  3. Sonic Weaponry: another subject which receives little attention is that of sound-based weapons which this post laments yet provides just enough technical data to envision such a science fiction scenario.
A few other posts have received significant traffic, such as one I did on an episode of the Sopranos which got linked by Majikthise a number of months back. Apart, from that, since I vary so much between topics, there is no constant pattern. I guess in the future I should post more about fictional gay Mafiosos wielding sonic rifles.

Until then, I am going to try to enhance my blogging habits, especially in reference to my newly gained expertise in linguistics. Already in the process of expunging all of these misgiving and terrors from my own subconscious, I have been making room for wider polemics and critiques which are cortically brewing. Soon I hope to dish out some of the hearty skeptical analysis striven for on this page, but until then I hope you'll forgive me this moment of agonizing self-regard.

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