Natalie Zed: Defying Gravity

Monday, March 31, 2008

Department of Uncreativity

Two years ago, I received an interdepartmental email wishing my current thesis adviser well as she was about to embark on a year's leave. This was the first I had heard of her departure, and I was shocked. Neither she nor anyone else had ever mentioned to me that she'd be leaving. In the weeks that followed, she became increasingly difficult to get a hold of, as she repeatedly left the city to and went through an inter-provincial move. I would give her material, and it would take weeks for her to get back to me. It soon became clear that defending on time was going to be impossible. She agreed. I had applied to the PhD program, and when I got in with a very generous package, I applied for a one-year deferral.

My deferral was denied. The official reason I got for this denial was that I was in my second year, that i had completed all of the other requirements for my degree and the committee saw no reason that I should not be able to complete my thesis on time. I looked in to other options (switching advisers, etc.) but nothing would actually solve the problem. When my adviser left, and I had no choice but to turn down my offer of acceptance.

One of the committee members tried to reassure me by saying that when I did reapply, I'd have an even stronger application and was certain to get it.

Somewhere along the line, I started thinking in terms of "when" rather than "if" in regards to my PhD applications. So three weeks ago, when I found out that I was on the waiting list for the U of C, it was a blow. My application was much stronger than it had been two years ago, when I was not only accepted but offered a very generous four-year funding package. When I turned that acceptance and package down, I consoled myself with the knowledge that I would only be a stronger applicant the next time around. And I was: I had a book out, additional publications, a degree in hand. Being told I was not chosen in the first round was difficult, but far from a defeat.

When I got that news, I called University B. the U of C and University B were the only two schools I'd applied to because that was where I wanted to go. I would happily live in either city, be a part of either academic and literary community, and either place worked for Ed. At first, I was cagey. I said that I'd started to hear back from other schools, and wanted to know when I might hear back. I was then told that while the selection process was still underway, it did not look like I'd be receiving an offer.

Two weeks after I'd been put on the U of C's waiting list, I was taken off. They had chosen to accept seven PhD students this year, and I was not one of them.

(As aside, possibly fuel for another rant: the U of C is the one school in Canada where you can do a creative PhD. Creative Writing has been identified as one of the U of C's official "Pillars of Excellence." Number of creative-stream PhDs accepted last year: zero. Number of creative-stream PhDs accepted this year: maybe one.)

I called University B back, and was not cagey at all. I laid out my situation and I asked for an explanation for their earlier "maybe -- but no" response. I had a number of conversations that ranged from the friendly and supportive to the very odd. At one point, I was told that my application was strong, I was clearly a very talented but that University B was
"a decidedly uncreative place" and they just didn't think I'd be happy there. After that, stunned, I stropped trying to wrangle out a decisive answer.

So as of this moment, I have been rejected by both PhD programs I applied to. I've been showered with praise, and yet had the door closed firmly in my face. I will not be going to school in the fall.

I am not sure what to make of the situation. I was deeply disappointed; but I was also completely baffled. I don't fell like I am owed anything, but there is something about this situation that didn't seem right.

So, naturally, On Saturday I went out and got very drunk. My friends proved their awesomeness once again by all coming out, buying me drinks, saying very nice things, and not even making fun of me when I threw up. Well, not much.

This morning, still smarting both from the rejection and the hangover, things are much clearer. I now have this time, this raw potential time that can be filled with anything. Suddenly going to Sideshow School is easier. Suddenly I have time to finish a third manuscript. Suddenly I can study video games in Texas. Suddenly, rejection seems just a little delicious. I am a villain -- maybe I've just been given the freedom I need to build a death ray.


Natalie Zed updated @ 3:12 p.m.!! 1 comments

Monday, March 24, 2008

Feed Our Addiction

Last weekend, Ed and I threw a housewarming party. It was a most excellent event that featured an all-day rock band marathon that almost crippled Mike Davy's right leg. It was the kids of party that kep me veyr busy cooking and serving drinks and visiting briefly with everyone, but I had a blast.

Before we moved, we made a point of not buying much alcohol, not wanting to move dozens of bottles. As a result, our wine rack was completely bare. When we the the housewarming, we asked people to being us a bottle of white wine to replenish our stores.

1 full wine rack + Ed and I + lots of visiting and movies this weekend = I have woken up with a hangover for 5 days in a row. I think I need to change my lifestyle.


Natalie Zed updated @ 12:18 p.m.!! 0 comments

Friday, March 07, 2008

Print Shop Girl

Through a truly hilarious series of events, I am now employed again. I did not expect nor intend, really, to be employed. The short version of these events is that Ed and I had a small freakout about money a couple of weeks ago. Even with a team The Best Friends On Earth, moving was still a very expensive undertaking. Our rent is also going up, our car needed a lot of unexpected work, we're going on our Honeymoon in April, and we want to keep our debt under control. We talked about it a little, and I brought up the possibility of going back to work. Ed was initially opposed to the idea, but softened after a day or so. I had it in mind that after the move, I'd look for something temporary, something part-time, something that would just get us over this financial hump.

A day or two later, Neil mentioned some changes that were going on at his place of employment, Big Oil Campany. Apparently, a few people left in the middle of a project. They needed someone to fill in a bit, just for six weeks until the project ended. I spent ten minutes putting together a resume and a cover letter with one egregious spelling error and sent it off.

Within a day, The Friday Before the Move, I received a phone call and had an interview scheduled for Monday. This interview might have to go down as the Silliest Interview Ever. I came in, wearing my one Acceptable Corporate Outfit (grey slacks and a black blouse), and had the job described to me and offered to me before I could get a word in edgewise. The job paid well, and seemed to be easy and relatively stress free, so I accepted.

Thus far, my job is hilarious. Neil and I now work on the same floor, so there are certainly hijinks, but so far even more silly than the hijinks in the job itself.

I print things. Seriously. I queue up documents and print them. Then I collate the prints and put an elastic around the bundles I collate so they can be checked and mailed out.

That's it.

There is no way i could do this full time forever. Six weeks is perfectly reasonable. Much longer, and I think my face would fall off if this was all I did every day. But as a temp position, with cool coworkers, it's almost unbelievably perfect as a solution to our current financial crunch. it also strikes me as a near a great job to keep around as a very-part-time gig in my back pocket -- and they're already making noise about retaining me in exactly that capacity, maybe coming in a day or two a week to help out in the print centre at the busiest times.

I have a new job. I print things. This is going to be an adventure.


Natalie Zed updated @ 4:19 p.m.!! 0 comments

Sunday, March 02, 2008


I can't believe how easy that was.

Don't get me wrong; we'd planned the absolute crap out of this move. We were more prepared to move than any two people had any right to be. We'd made spreadsheets in excel. We were so ahead in terms of packing it was kind of silly. We'd sent out pleas for help and gotten many generous responses. We'd done all we could to ensure that the move went as smoothly as possible, and braced ourselves for the inevitable disaster.

Despite all this, I was still completely shocked by how well it all went, even considering how well we'd prepared.

When we awoke Saturday morning, we had two major tasks: go to the new apartment to sign the lease and get the keys, and get mattress bags. Completing the first task turned out to be the most aggravating part of the day. We were up early enough to have a leisurely breakfast at the galaxy (now mere minutes on foot from our new place!) before heading over to our new apartment building for our 9am appointment.

Where we waited. For 45 minutes.

Eventually, having many things to do on moving day, we went home, left some passive-aggressive messages on the Bigwig's answering machine, and kept ourselves busy. It was 10:30am when we finally got a phone call from Bigwig, asking us why we hadn't waited, since she was only running a little behind and was there "no later than 9:30" (lies!). We weren't having it, and eventually it was agreed that we were to meet Building Manager instead of Bigwig at 11am.

We arrived at the specified location at the specified time, and were promptly met by Building Manager, who unlike Bigwig seriously had her shit together, despite being new to this particular building. We went up to the new apartment to sign all the paperwork, get the keys, and do the inspection.

It wasn't very long into said inspection that another problem emerged. The apartment very clearly was not clean. There was dust, a but of grime, a dirty fridge, dirty oven, and general uncleanliness throughout the place. Building Manager was horrified. Apparently Bigwig has assured her this was all done in advance, and it was not. We were sent off with out keys and the assurance that by the time we returned with our moving truck, the place would be immaculate.

On our way home, fuming a little, we decided to try and acquire mattress bags. This had been a surprisingly difficult undertaking, so much so that we hadn't managed to track one down in the entire week leading up to the move. On a lark, we dropped into a Sears, thinking that if they sold mattresses, surely they had some bags lying around. I went straight to the furniture department, and Ed went to the front desk. I learned later that Ed was told that they probably had none, that the bags were thrown out straight away and they never had any lying around.

In the mean time, upstairs in the mattress section of the furniture department, I found a queen sized mattress bag, neatly folded, sitting atop a display mattress. After several minutes of pointedly waiting while the three salesmen served other customers before me (who were all 30+, white, and male), I got annoyed, picked up the bag, and strode out of the department.

Ed came upstairs just in time to witness my theft and began to bluster. As I continued to walk off with my prize, I spotted another queen-sized mattress bag (perfect for our box spring) draped over a chair. I told ed to grab it. Being a weenie, we refused, so I had to wrestle the thing off myself. Now with two giant stolen pieces of plastic in my arms, I proudly left the store, Ed freaking out behind me and all the way home, convinced the fuzz was going to be after us for taking two pieces of plastic destined for a dumpster. He is the moral compass in the relationship =)

We finally get home, envelop our mattress and boxspring in plastic, and discover...that's it's maybe 1:30 in the afternoon. And we have absolutely nothing to do. We ended up watching QI for about an hour, waiting for our movers (The Best Friends in the Universe).

By 3pm, most people were here and positively chomping at the bit to get going. EVERYONE who said they would come showed up, meaning we suddenly had seven eager movers. With Ed and I, that made NINE. We didn't have the truck yet, so everyone just started hauling all our furniture up the stairs. This took a ridiculously short period of time. As luck would have it, our truck was available early, so were were able to get it here before the movers got bored with just moving the contents of the house and just moved the whole house itself a brick at a time.

In the end, it took us a little under four hours to get everything in the truck, across town, and in the new place. FOUR HOURS. That's it. And by "in the new place," I mean everything in the correct room, bookshelves against walls, boxes neatly stacked 3 exactly where they were supposed to go. It was incredible. Then, we had booze and pizza and played guitar hero to the small hours. IT was absolutely fantastic.

Tara, Neil, Mike Davy, ryan, Steve, Katie, and Chris Blais: you are officially the Best Friends Ever. You have earned all the moving karma there is.


Natalie Zed updated @ 4:18 p.m.!! 0 comments