My “newly established” (heh) partner Liz (Yes, I’m still with Cortez too, for anyone wondering lol) and I went to the Atlanta Botanical Garden on the 7th. I was going through a lot of feelings in general at the time and had decided I should do something new. I wanted a change of pace. Two people had peaked my interest in the garden. One colleague told me about this exhibit around August and was curious if folks in our program would want to go. I pitched the idea to the executive committee of SGSA and everyone pretty much said no, because it was way too expensive. I scheduled the trip in my Google Calendar for some time in October, because this colleague also told me there were super sexy spots to hide away at in the garden. Not too long after this another person I smoke with sometimes posted super cool-looking photos on Instagram from the Curious Garden. I was curious! I wanted to see what was so curious about this garden, too!
So anyway, I was going to bring two cuties to the garden, but then I got too stressed out and was going to just go by myself. Last minute I changed my mind again and paid $47.81 for Liz and I to both go see this curious garden. We took a regular Lyft (not even a Lyft line!) there and back; this totaled $32.23 with tips. So all-in-all, the Curious Garden trip was $80.04. The nice cashier behind the glass told us we can apply the day’s admission purchase toward a Garden Membership. I laughed and told him that I did not have sufficient information to make a decision at that time.
I don’t know exactly how Liz was feeling during this garden trip, but I constantly felt out of place, like I didn’t belong there. It felt very panopticon-y. Maybe it was because I felt guilty or something about paying almost $50 to sit in a garden when I could just play with some rocks in the backyard, but regardless, I was very aware of everything that was stressing me out while at the garden – worries about my mom (she’s in a state mental institution), stress about school and debt, sadness about Scout and Dallas and all of the pain surrounding their deaths, gender feels, other people’s problems, all of it. Liz and I kept running into an almost-wedding; that was always disorienting for us, probably because neither of us understand monogamy or marriage. After wandering a while, I played in the rocks in this one little nook. Liz just watched me, and we talked about how the real curious garden was underneath the bench. Two black teenagers were there before us. After a couple minutes, one of them complimented my tattoos. We shared some cute moments, and I felt like there were people with souls in the garden, after all. Not long after they left a white woman, probably in her 30s, came up to the area very authoritatively and told us, “We’re going to do First Look photos… if you don’t mind.” Neither of us knew what First Look photos were, but it was clear that they wanted us to leave, so we did. The concrete pathways kept confusing me. Everywhere I turned I saw signs instructing me to “STAY ON THE PATHWAY.” Liz reminded me that straying from the pathway is a liability to the Atlanta Botanical Garden. There were hundreds of gourds painted red that were placed in a curious manner. Probably they were bought just for this art exhibit by the white man in the flyer they gave us. I was feeling sad for the trees at the garden because of all the electrical cords around. In protest I freed a red-painted gourd from its staple on a tree. Looking back at the map, we didn’t make it to the majority of the Curious Garden.
We went around in circles for several hours and kept finding ourselves back at the bottom, where the bathroom was and underneath the seating area for this “Impressive Woman”. Each time we got back to her I felt like my entire perspective on the world had changed.
Since our garden trip, I have been actively slowing down more. I’ve been telling people for weeks that there is only so long I can go around screaming, “THIS IS NOT SUSTAINABLE.” I’ve been practicing saying “No” more, and not immediately apologizing for it. My entire body is feeling how unsustainable it is to maintain this level of “productivity.” I am feeling all of the pressures that academia encourages you to feel. I am taking on too many projects outside of class. I am doing too much unpaid labor. I am unrealistically wanting to graduate with a PhD in 4 years. I am *already* nervous about the job market, and I haven’t even finished classes or taken comprehensive exams yet. I advise my colleagues who are stressed about grad school and comps that it will be fine, that we need to take care of ourselves so that we don’t burn out. What that really means is don’t burnout, like me. I have been in school for 21 years! That’s a long time to be in school, especially with no break! Sometimes I don’t even understand how I am still doing this. I have a paper due tomorrow for Theory 2 about how there is not a clear praxis for empirically applying intersectionality. For this paper we are instructed to follow an outline that includes a critique of your thesis, and a rebuttal. Right now my critique and rebuttal read:
CRITIQUE: Theoretical applications of intersectionality have been well thought-out, considered, and applied in a consistent manner. Everything is fine now. We’re in a post-racial society. Gender is a social construct! All that we do is intersectional by virtue of including people of color and tokenizing gender and sexual minorities! We are “accessible” to all and hostile to none!
REBUTTAL: That’s not even true at all. Everything is not fine! The institution of academia is a capitalist institution which relies on the exploitation of marginalized populations. Sociologists are not separate from these structures of power. We do not exist outside of the structures and institutions we study and therefore we reproduce privilege by playing this game and continuing to apply intersectionality inconsistently is a detriment to scholarship because intersectionality can be a useful theoretical tool but loses its power when used inappropriately.
What I really want to say and what I have to say in an academic paper sound very different.
I don’t really know what my point is here, but especially to my fellow friends in academia, if you need to slow down too, DO IT. You deserve it. What I really needed was to just go outside and play with some rocks in the dirt, like I did as a kid back when I wasn’t yet trying to carry the world on my shoulders. Maybe something like that would help you ground yourself, too.