Monday, March 29, 2010


There is rain falling over the forest and the clouds have made the sky dark, as though night. I'm at home, alone, and after yet another offer from St. Mary's I'm pondering what it means to value something.

Or rather, what are the values of things, really?

They offered me a scholarship today, one that would reduce the cost of tuition by half. I know the cost to go there remains considerable, but it's half-as-considerable, or to quote an annoying commercial I seem to catch everyday between bouts of the morning news: "I spent money to save money!" Fueled by this newfound saved spending, I looked into the cost to rent a room in Moraga, and then, to what sort of jobs are available. While someone would happily take $2,000 x month for a room in what I'm assured is a "stellar house" with an "awesome view" there are no jobs to be found, or at least not for me, a person who holds two MA degrees and complete fluency in a foreign language.

That's not to say there aren't jobs, because there are. I could work with autistic children if I had some psychology in my background. Or I COULD teach 5-year olds French IF I was a native speaker (I guess near-native with a Master's just doesn't cut it for those pampered bay area progenies.) OK. Well, what else? I could teach at a private school, but no I couldn't because I do not possess credentials which would allow me to teach in the state of California. I also found what appeared to be a promising post for a "new school" in Oakland that sought to "broaden students' cultural horizons." But no, I don't qualify for that either, because I don't promote the appropriate culture. France, it seems, has fallen out of fashion and people are more interested in other continents besides Europe. Sigh. If only I had known that years ago when I thought knowing where the great influential ideas come from was a good way to spend my time.

This leads me to my question du jour: what IS the value of time spent? Just this morning before St. Mary's call, I would have confidently said that I have spent my time well. While I lack financial security, I've had the opportunity to read important canonical (and I'd argue, foundational) texts in not one, but two languages an cultures. I've bettered my writing and helped others-- my former students-- do so as well. Though it may sound meager, I'd have said: no, that was a rich life. And one day, I'll be thankful I did it.

But this afternoon brought that notion another blow. Not even the bay area acknowledges my education; it amounts to nothing other than, well, beans. Or not quite beans because beans, at least, will feed you. Perhaps I ought to insist people call me "Rebecca MA, MA" so that the past three years of my life will actually mean something, even if silly and superficial.

What does it mean to be educated? Perhaps I've been deluded and I'd be better off bagging groceries my entire life. There's a security in that, a sense that while repetitive, one is able to survive in the world and maybe, if one bags well enough, to manage one's own grocery store. Or, a sense that the skills one has do very real things, like putting cans in bags. What does a French MA mean if I'm not a native speaker? Did I study any less than those who are? What does it mean that I wrote essays about French literature in French and then wrote a novel (of historical fiction) based on what I learned from those three years in the French department at UNR?

What does it mean to master a thing such as language when there's no proof of it, really? When the "proof" is another's like or dislike of a writing sample, an essay a memoir, a record of my life? What if, after all these years, I really haven't mastered anything at all?

The world is murky: I keep dreaming of water: water covering everything (streets, cars, malls, me). Nothing is clear to me anymore. Like the rain outside my window, this water makes everything dark and cold. I try to tell myself to be positive: that there's so much to be happy for. Running, for instance. And I believe it when I'm outside, under the sun, racking up the miles.

But then there's the night and these dreams which scare me. I always wake in darkness with a shiver: in my dreams, the water becomes too much and I drown.

And I wonder: perhaps I have learned to master failure.

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