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Your life has no time to fall apart when you're in grad school. Your days of opting out of going to class because you have a headache, a heartache, or a soulache are over, you have to go. You are working towards becoming one of the most privileged people in the world: someone who's paid to sit around and think. Bury yourself in those books, because their sentences are going to be the twine and duct tape that hold your sanity together.

This is what goes through my head in my little parking booth at the university hospital where I work to supplement my TA stipend. It's an ideal job for a grad student to have, since you're basically paid to study, particularly if you work nights shifts. I work night shifts. Lots of them. 8:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. during the weekdays. Trying to wrap my brain around postmodern philosophy in a tiny, silent booth, interrupted only by waves of hospital employees leaving their shifts at 11:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. and a sprinkling of tired, grieving family members and friends of patients. I'm being paid to study, so that eventually I can be paid to think.

So there's no time for my life to fall apart.

Just one problem: I'm reading the wrong stuff to keep it together. When you try to hold things together, you look for a center. Religion, politics, love, drugs, mindless fucking, whatever... find it, and hold on for dear life, let it explain everything for you. But that's hard to do with these damned postmodernists. Everything is contextual, nothing is at the center. To claim anything else is reductionist, mechanistic, simplistic, maybe even fascistic. Get over your easy explanations: they're all too easy to deconstruct.

Don't go too existentialist, either... that's tres passé. Postmodernism says revel in the incongruity of it all and stop wallowing in it... go watch I (Heart) Huckabee's if you want to do that, but not on your intellectual timecard.

Look up from that Lefebvre text long enough to take the next ticket... This womans's face is red, tears and snot everywhere. She probably was visiting somebody who just died. She's been here for over 36 hours. Her ticket comes to $20. Another small blow to her already horrible night. If I just let her out, I'll get fired.

But I did save the ticket I took when I brought my car in, one that I won't need as an employee. I always keep my ticket with me, so that one person each night won't have to pay so much. So hideously trivial, but a bit of contextual kindness. It's not a center, but it's a foothold. Let her out with only a two dollar charge. Feel a bit more sane.

No time to fall apart. Next chapter.

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