Quite a lot has happened to me lately that I think it would be good to try to write out. I’ve written long e-mails to friends discussing the specifics, but now I want to write more in summary.

Aside from being put on the waiting list for the University of Arizona, and not being contacted back at all by USC, I was flat-out rejected by all the US universities to which I applied for philosophy graduate study, and I was also rejected by Oxford. The waiting list deadline is Tuesday so I’m pretty sure at this point that I’m not going off anywhere to study philosophy this Autumn.

Concerning graduate philosophy a good piece of advice that I was given by my Ancient Philosophy tutor at Oxford was to go big or go home (she didn’t put it like that but she’s American so it suits). That is, shoot for studying at the top-ranked institutions, or find another career. Now, for a good while I’ve wanted to study philosophy at a graduate level for the sake of it, without wanting to enter the horrific academic job market afterwards; my identity is sufficiently diverse right now that I think I could do better elsewhere (not ruling out the possibility of that opinion changing after many years of grad school). But I still agree with her advice because I have found that it is the intensity of expectations in Oxford that allowed me to become a better philosopher there; I don’t think it is worth spending my twenties on philosophy for the sake of it unless I’m in a similarly intense environment.

I have, though, absolutely no idea of what alternative career I should do. (The only idea I have is that it would probably be good to do something that involves writing non-fiction.) I feel that starting a career is probably a good idea, because it’s an opportunity to become really good at something, but I definitely don’t want to rush into starting a career for the sake of starting a career. I’ve got to find something where I feel I’m not contributing to the selfish and unkind rulership of the world, while still having an opportunity to pick up knowledge and skills for myself.

My current employment is really great for this situation. The job is often fun. It’s not intellectually stimulating and there is little possibility to develop my abilities while at work, but this is okay because it means that I have the energy to pursue things in my free time. And the main thing that I’m trying to pursue is how to look after myself and take care of the various small things in my life that I’ve always neglected with the excuse that there is studying to do. The reality is that putting some time into these things makes everything else easier, and I know that the amount of time I can seriously pursue intellectual projects for in each day is limited. Taking care of everything else better makes this time better.

Here’s a small example of something I’ve been working on. I’ve learnt that putting some thought into how one dresses does not require either huge amounts of time nor huge amounts of money, and it can be quite interesting. Taking care of one’s clothes properly, with careful washing and ironing where appropriate, can become an opportunity for mindfulness, and taking care of these things makes it easier to take care of other things, such as the people around you. There need be no vanity involved.

There are two other things that I’ve started exploring lately that make my time outside of work sweet and interesting. The first is alcohol. I know a lot of people in Korea, but I have two very close friends, one Korean girl and one foreigner guy. The Korean girl recently made it her mission to “get me a Korean girlfriend”; this is what led to going clothes shopping and learning a bit about putting outfits together as detailed above. For my part I didn’t think my friend had much chance of succeeding, but the project, which is essentially a make-over, is a really fun thing to do together (I’d say that she enjoys it more than me).

Now, one thing that caused some anxiety for me around girls was my non-drinking. The issue is that I was insecure about my choice because I’d never drunk more than a few sips of alcohol, so I knew almost nothing about the consequences of drinking. This made me worry that my choice not to drink was grounded purely in fear, even if the reason I usually gave out (I have fun without alcohol, and it’s better for my health) was a perfectly reasonable one. So I asked my friend, who I trust, to get drunk with me in order to have had the experience. We did[1] and it was fun, and I now find that I want to drink more. I feel as though I want to become healthier in other respects in order to offset the negative effects on health of drinking some alcohol.

The second thing is that I find myself in my first ever romantic relationship. We’ve been seeing each other for three or four weeks so I’ve no idea how long the relationship will last. But one thing permanent that I’ve already got out of it is that I now have reference experience for it actually being quite easy to enter such a relationship with someone. I’m 23, and I’ve only just kissed someone for the first time, so I had built up huge amounts of anxiety about doing simple things like this. I knew that no-one wants someone to ask them permission to kiss them, but I wasn’t sure that I could be comfortable with taking the traditional masculine role of initiating things and thus escalating the relationship. What I now know is that throwing your partner around a bit is fun that you can have together without being in an unequal, male-dominated relationship. My girlfriend and I are very much on equal terms emotionally and conversationally, even though in our physical behaviour we’re following fairly traditional gender roles. It is refreshing and reassuring to find out that this is possible.

My (admittedly meagre) philosophical and meditative training have prepared me only barely for the emotional intensity of the first few weeks of this relationship. I am finding that there is too much that I want to do during the limited time that we are together. When we are talking, I look at her mouth and want to kiss her. When we are kissing, I want to pull away in order to stare into her eyes. When I am staring into her eyes, I feel that I want to break off in order to talk to her again because there are so many things that I want to talk to about. She overflows from the present moment and I find myself unable to fully appreciate whatever it is we are doing, because there is too much that I want to do with her.

Though I often feel overwhelmed by all this I find that the fact that I’m a little older and have studied does put me in a position to do a better job of this first relationship than I might otherwise do in a first relationship at 23 (this is a good job since it’s definitely not her first!). In particular, with having not been romantically involved with anyone my entire life, it’s very easy to slip into emotional neediness and fear of abandonment: “is this the only chance I’m going to get” and other such rubbish. I can remind myself, though, that the blissful relationship we have now is very much temporary. I have no idea what a post-honeymoon relationship with this girl would be like. So the only thing I can cling to and get anxious about is what we have now, but what we have now is something that there is no chance of lasting because the first few exciting weeks of a relationship are something that never get repeated, so far as I can tell. So it just doesn’t make sense to worry about ensuring that a longer-term relationship with her happens, because I’ve no idea what that would actually be like.

So life is going very well for the moment and as such it’s been quite easy to accept my rejections from universities. My life in Korea has always been marred by huge mood swings, though; I definitely accept that my handful of strong friendships and my romantic relationship are a big contributing factor to the upbeat nature of this post and my life right now.


[1] We didn’t have to drink very much in order for me to have to concentrate in order to walk, since my tolerance is very low. Two pints of beer are enough for me to have to concentrate carefully in order to safely cross the road. Hopefully this will not last for ever.

comment L9MNOYO9IIS2LH4Y

:D. This was a really nice post to read.

(I will admit I’m not sure what you mean by ‘throwing your partner around a bit’, because for some reason I’m imagining something caber tossing-esque. This seems unlikely.)

Comment by salavant Mon 14 Apr 2014 11:36:16 UTC