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This Is Not a Valentine’s Post February 10, 2012

Posted by Onely in "Against Love"...?, Dating, Food for Thought, sex, single and happy.
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It’s been almost 6 months since I crossed continents and landed in Beirut. I’ve got to say, living here has added strength to my already strong Onely sense of self – and it’s not just because I made it here on my own. Certainly, simply making this journey made me stronger. But now that I’ve settled a bit and feel less like a stranger, I have come to realize that, for the first time in my adult life, the work I’m doing is absolutely satisfying.

That’s not to say that the work I’ve done in the past wasn’t satisfying – I’ve always loved teaching, and I loved getting my Ph.D. It’s just that my work never made me feel like this. I never imagined it could. And recently, the way I feel about my work has been thrown into high relief when I’ve been forced to compare it to the way I feel about the three men who have recently expressed interest in me.

Let me explain the work first, and then I’ll get to the men: When I was working on my Ph.D., I was a full-time student with teaching responsibilities two of the four years. I loved it all, but by the time my final year rolled around, I was focused solely on completing the dissertation. The dissertation became my life: I woke up thinking about it, I became a runner to escape from it, I cooked to calm my mind, and I planned out my daily writing goals before heading to bed.

The work confirmed what I’d always known – I love diving into a subject, finding out everything there is to know, and saying something new about it. I felt like I was meant to work in academia. And indeed, I think this life is perfectly suited for me – but not for reasons I could have anticipated. I arrived in Beirut primarily excited about four things: a) having a job, b) living overseas, c) developing my (mostly theoretical) dissertation research into a book, and d) beginning new research unique to this place. I imagined that my life as a professor would be similar to my life as a graduate student – working in isolation for hours or days at a time, but with teaching commitments and the occasional departmental meeting.

After arriving here, my excitement dwindled as I grew frustrated with little nuisances (such as the power outages and lack of home internet) and bigger ones (including an insane number of department/faculty/committee meetings, whiny students, and a semester that extended beyond Christmas). I felt so busy when I arrived, I didn’t know when or how I’d ever get to my research. I felt like my time was being stolen by my students and my department – and whenever I arrived home, I was too exhausted to think. The last thing I wanted to do was revise my stupid dissertation.

Finally, at some point early in December, I managed to make a little time for my new research project. I stole two hours and holed myself up in the university archives one afternoon. I didn’t think about teaching, or meetings, or the fact that all my Facebook friends in the U.S. were grading end-of-semester essays when I still had 5 weeks of class to go. I only thought about the archives. I emerged feeling refreshed and energetic. From that point forward, I kept finding ways to “steal time” like that. Those hours kept me sane through the end of the semester, and giving myself permission to do the work I came here to do gave me an unbelievable sense of empowerment. Suddenly teaching didn’t seem so onerous; the meetings weren’t so long – suddenly I had work to do, and it was my work.

Fast-forward two months, and “my” work isn’t just located in the archives. Spring semester begins next week, and I am co-writing a proposal for a Master’s degree in my field, designing a one-of-a-kind longitudinal study with a colleague, and working on a collaborative teaching project with four other instructors. The meetings never end, the students will (probably) be the same, and I am ten times as busy as I was last semester, but when I go to bed at night I feel enormously satisfied. I had no idea I was capable of managing so many projects at once; I didn’t know I would enjoy collaborative work so much; and I didn’t know I could focus on my research for short spurts and still be productive. I certainly didn’t know that this work, this job would make me happier than I’d been as a graduate student.

So… What about the men, you wonder? Well, that’s (almost) my point – what about the men? In the last few months, a handful of men seem to have become enamored of me. A few years ago, I would probably have considered dating at least one of them (if not more!) – even though it’s clear to me that none of them are a good fit (one is a grad student – totally off limits in my book!; one is attractive and interesting, but about 15 years older than me and doesn’t seem to have a sense of humor; and another is simply unattractive to me and has a weird voice – not that I judge people or anything). Regular readers of Onely know that I’ve never been one to shun dating or expressing one’s sexuality. I’ve dated people off and on since Christina and I started the blog. And I’ve never been all that picky – if a man shows an interest in me, I tend to give him a chance.

Although I’m flattered by the attention I’ve received recently, and although I’ve often dated “for fun,” I don’t plan to date any of these men. Why? Honestly, I think it’s because, for the first time in my life, I’m simply not dissatisfied anymore. I feel there are far too many interesting things to get done (and there is far too much at stake) for me to spend my time dating men I only feel ambivalent about.

Plus, I’m so damn happy! Who needs anything else?

– L

photo credit: http://toomas-marit.hinnosaar.net/en/varia/Heart.jpg

Comments»

1. Rem Anon - February 10, 2012

Congrats! :)

2. Jacquelyn - February 10, 2012

I feel like that’s my life, too, only I’m pre-dissertation. Kudos to you for making it work!

3. jeanybeany - February 11, 2012

LOVE this! I recently got my PhD too and am leaving this fall for a postdoc in Italy. Very excited abt this new opportunity, but also scared abt doing it on my own.

4. downfromtheledge - February 11, 2012

I think it’s counter-productive to get emotionally involved in a relationship that, ultimately, is going nowhere. Good for you for not electing to let men screw with your head;)

5. Stella - February 14, 2012

Good for you! Glad to hear your job is keeping you happy and satisfied and fulfilled. Obviously the men are not that interesting or attractive to you, and it’s a good thing that you are not bothered by this at all.
A perfect Valentine’s Day posting!

6. Onely - February 14, 2012

Thanks everyone! I realized after posting this, I must sound like such a nerd :) So I appreciate the love!

– L

7. Vanessa - February 21, 2012

I am so glad you are feeling so fulfilled!


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