Friday, May 22, 2009

The Vagabond

3 summers ago, I had completed my first year in graduate school. I had gotten full funding a semester earlier and I slacked off like hell. I didn't study much, partied a lot and missed most deadlines. As a result, when summer arrived, I hadn't applied for any internships. On campus jobs were hard to come by and my visa limitations meant that I couldn't work at a gas station or starbucks.

My department gracefully offered me a part-time job. I earned half of what I was used to. My credit card debt soared, and soon I had no money to pay the rent. I survived on rice and canned beans and tomatoes for nearly a month. When I cooked, the kitchen had strong smells of Indian spices, and preservatives in the canned food. The taste was strange, unnatural and unhealthy but it was all I had.

Well, that and the first major purchase I made after I got funded. My set of 4.1 Boston Acoustic speakers. I had picked up a futon from the trash, and the bedsheets mom had sent me were a reminder of the luxuries I'd left behind less than a year ago. I set up 2 speakers at me feet, 2 at my head.

The jarring sounds of Jason's Nevin's remixes, set to weird anime as accompaniment to the rancid food I was eating are memories I find hard to let go of. I slept all day, and I'd set my laptop to play lounge music from Then my roomie got me hooked to Air. There was a song featuring Beck called "The Vagabond".

I'm running after time and I miss the sunshine
Summer days will come happiness will be mine
I'm lost in my words I don't know where I'm going
I do the best I can not to worry about things

I feel loose
I feel haggard
Don't know what I'm looking for
Something true
Something lovely
That will make me feel alive

I can't say that's the one song  that got me through, but it's an important part of the big puddle of sights, songs and smells from the time.

When I write posts like these, it makes me wonder if I really had it that bad. Perhaps some of it was self induced, and it still wasn't as bad as some others had it. But as vivid memories are, looking back at "me" from then is like watching a biopic on someone else's life. It's surreal, slow and eerily predictable. I feel little pity and an odd sense of detachment.

I don't want to go Freud on myself (nor would appreciate anyone else doing so), but I don't think it made a difference in how I behave now. It was just...that summer.


Perakath said...

How did you get from there to the Mazda so soon?!

Rassles said...

First of all, love that song. Second of all, I've been living off rice and tomatoes for two years now.

And it doesn't really matter if you had it "that bad" or not. Struggling through anything like that changes you. Sometimes better, sometimes worse. Either way? I think it builds character.

Purely Narcotic said...

This self-induced self-inflicted suffering is the best form of torture /suffering there is. In another century when it was not quite the rage, it would have made you JC but for now we can settle with just being 'experimental'.

Thanatos said...

@ Perakath : Lots of things changed, but I'm not out of the woods completely yet.

@ Rassles : We should trade recipes then. Hope it helped me for the better then.

@ Narcotic : At this point, the most amount of suffering I'd willingly endure is getting drenched in the rain :)

Purely Narcotic said...

Don't leave out the pelting with hailstones just yet!

I find it interesting that you say you look back and find yourself feeling pity. When I look back at the times in the woods, I'm filled with awe. Whowouldathunk I could pull it off sorta thing. I'm wondering about the pity bit, however.

Thanatos said...

Pity, only a little. Because you know, I like me.

Blues said...

grad school for me was unbelieveably torturous. On the other hand, the funding part and the job part of it was actually the best gig I´ve had yet. Pathetic, I know. But you can´t beat getting paid for 20 hours and doing maybe 8. Which actually, if I had to work more than that, I wouldn´t have made it through grad school to begin with, and they must have known that. My stomach hurts just thinking about that time.

Thanatos said...

Yeah, that's true. I loved my job and the lack of work it carried too. But we're grad school survivors, we kick ass.