My dissertation advisor, when I told him that I was having difficulty staying focused on my writing, on my work, told me that I just need to put on blinders, to shut everything out.
I felt tears starting behind my eyes and willed them back.
He isn’t wrong. I do need to shut out everything and finish this dissertation. I need to be done with this phase of my academic career. I’ve been a graduate student for too long.
But when he said to “put on blinders” he was only partially aware of what has been distracting me. I’m worried about finances for the coming year, since I’ll be entering the ranks of contingent faculty, uncertain of my income from semester to semester. I’m worried about becoming a burden to the friend who has generously offered me a room in her house while I figure things out and finish my dissertation. Those things, I can’t control, so yes, I do need to put blinders on and just focus on the work.
What he doesn’t know is that Brock Turner’s case triggered a severe depression relapse–bouts of crying and anxiety and apathy that kept me clicking links for articles, reading Twitter threads, and feeling compelled to write my own experiences.
What he doesn’t know is that I spent a day too numb to cry, and a night crying too much to sleep, and several days after that unable to think about anything other than the faces, the names, of those murdered in Orlando.
I don’t quite know why I should feel this so strongly; I’ve always had difficulty separating out my feelings from that of others. Am I appropriating the grief of others? Do I even have the right to feel this keenly, this sharply?
But I do. It’s as if the pain of the world seeps in through my skin and settles in my bones.
How do I put on blinders to that?