The Wife of the Wandering Scholar, Day 1

Some career advice from my husband: if you’re considering going for a Ph.D. in the humanities, and you have even the slightest reservation that the program is for you, then the program is not for you. You need to be 110% committed in order to survive. You’re going to be constantly overworked, given a stipend that won’t support you (if you’re lucky enough to get a stipend at all), apply for summer language study grants that won’t work out because of silly institutional policies, your confidence in yourself and your academic abilities is going to be utterly crushed, orals is going to be several months of sheer 250-book torture that will alienate you from your family and friends and screw up whatever semblance of a sleep schedule you had, and then immediately afterwards, when classes and orals are over and you recover your swagger and start focusing on the dissertation, you’re going to ship off to do research, alone, in a foreign country. For a year.

Yep, my husband’s at that stage right now. He left this morning for Petrozavodsk, Russia (an eight-hour train ride northeast from St. Petersburg), for a language course to improve the Russian he’s been learning for the last couple years. He’ll come back in August, stick around for a month, then disappear for The Long Haul to do research in Astrakhan (super far from St. Petersburg) until at least June, and probably longer.

Here, let’s use a map to show it all. I’ve also marked his previous travels in Baku, Azerbaijan, and Dushanbe, Tajikistan:

K's travels

I probably need this map more than you. My geography is pretty horrible.

So yes, he’s 7000 miles away, which probably doesn’t make for the best emergency contact. While my two years of Russian at a small regional university did prepare me to write like a 5-year-old and say “that is meat” and “where is the location of the post office?” and “I live in the factory,” I’m nowhere close to being able to make myself useful in the places he’s going. Plus, I feel like after several years of struggling to pull together part-time gigs, I’m finally getting really close to securing a full-time job. I don’t want to lose the foothold I have here career-wise so I can be a housewife, or domazhena, or whatever.

I’ve been without him before, for a month or so, but not for this amount of time. We’ve been slowly preparing for it. We replaced our Frankencar with a 2008 Prius that drives like a dream and (inshallah) won’t leave me stranded on the side of the road with nobody to call. He returned almost all his library books, and I’ll take care of the remaining half-dozen after I scan them for him. Mentally, I’ve been preparing by rearranging the pantry, trying to come up with single lady meals that aren’t frozen veggies and cheese, and wondering what to do with his clothes and papers. I haven’t reached a better solution than just keeping them wherever he leaves them. The clothing, that is, not his papers. They will be beaten into submission by him in August, or will suffer my organizational wrath.

Aside from getting used to living without him for a year, I have a few goals I want to accomplish. The first time I lost a significant amount of weight was when he went away for the first time, so I’m going to try seriously doing that again and reset from all the b.s. I’ve internalized about weight loss since then. Since it’ll be nice outside for the first part of his trip, it should be easy for me to get outside and exercise, and now that I have a fuel efficient, non-deathtrap car, I really have no barriers preventing me from traveling around the state. I also have all this camping and backpacking gear that is dying to get used now. In the colder months, I could start up a gym membership and really get serious about weightlifting. In the non-fitness realm, I want to write more and try to finish up a few other household projects, like a recipe book and that wedding scrapbook I once thought I’d make. Plus there’s that dog that always needs walking.

This will totally be me. Except, you know, definitely without the Russian.

This will totally be me. Except, you know, definitely without the Russian.

So day 1 without hubs kinda sucked. We’d been in Pennsylvania for a good friend’s wedding and to cram in other visits with family, and it never seems like enough time when we’re down there. I would have liked to stay a few days longer and avoid the empty apartment waiting for me, but I had stuff to do on Monday and figured it’d be best to just go straight home after dropping him off at the train station. He slept in the car like I knew he would (he’d stayed up all night packing), and he felt guilty about taking the time away from me. After we said goodbye at the station in Newark and I started trying to find my way home, I almost immediately got lost trying to get my GPS to avoid the George Washington Bridge. Seeing that it would take me 3 hours to get home felt awful. I stopped at a rest stop for some breakfast and dog-water, and it was really painful watching this girl slowly throwing together like six egg sandwiches while my bagel just sat there, awaiting its cream cheese. This was the last place I wanted to be – I just wanted to get the hell out of New Jersey and back to Connecticut. As soon as I hit the Merritt Parkway, I felt better.

At home, I decided to clean and organize things instead of nap. Probably a good decision. I also repotted all the plants outside that needed some TLC and cleaned up the porch while I was out there. Dinner was Trader Joe’s themed, with guacamame and spinach wrapped in lavash. It’s the first day of the month, and though I didn’t plan on exercising after the huge exhausting trip, I can still start taking care of myself diet-wise.

Considering all the ingredients were like 10 days old, surprisingly good sandwich!

Considering all the ingredients were like 10 days old, this was a surprisingly good sandwich!

I had the first season of Dexter player in the background, and I managed to stay awake until about 8 minutes from end of the last episode. So close! Not that puppy minded, though.


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