I remember a discussion I had this spring with my high school seniors discussing our summer travel plans. Many of them were flying to various parts of the country, and some were even traveling overseas to different countries in Europe. I was somewhat amused then at their collective shock when I told them my wife and I would be driving down to Florida for our two weeks of vacation. “You mean you don’t fly?!?” The truth is, as I told them, I hate flying. It has nothing to do with the actual plane itself–ok, I’m not crazy about the cramped seating–but it has more to do with the waiting that takes place. I just can’t deal with it.
Put me in a car on the highway and I am moving! I can see parts of the country I don’t normally get to experience. And I’m moving… most of the time anyhow. Of course, I don’t want to romanticize the road. There is an absolutely brutal stretch of I-95 between Washington, D.C. and Richmond, VA where you move about as fast as a three-legged dog who has two legs tied together. And did I mention there really is no alternative route? It makes for some long highway driving. Lisa and I know that before we hit this stretch, we need to have made a good rest stop beforehand because it will be sometime before we’re free and clear. Coffee should be topped off and plans are made for either an early or later lunch. When you’re on the road, you just need to plan ahead and buckle down for those long stretches of highway.
So what does this have to do with my Ph.D. in Lit Crit? I can’t help but see my time here as a long stretch of the interstate where there are few rest stops along the way. There are simply hours that disappear amidst the chapters of the many books we are assigned to read on a daily basis. My days consist of reading between 150 to nearly 400 pages of reading punctuated by brief rest stops in the form of going to class, meals, or the occasional exhaustion induced respite. And this isn’t counting papers or other side projects. As of now, I am exactly half way through my first summer semester. I will have about 3 1/2 days to go home, see my wife and son, recharge as best I can, and then back into the car for another 5-week stretch.
This summer, of course, is only the first half of the trip. Next summer, begins the second half as I finish the rest of my coursework on this very rewarding–but challenging–road to my Ph.D.