Existential Dread

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Yesterday was the first day of classes. I decided a while ago that I wouldn't write much about my job, mostly because I like it well enough to want to keep it. But I figure there a few safe job-related topics, and I'll hit some of those.

For instance, here were some good things about the day:

1. I finally got to wear these fabulous new red d'Orsay pumps


I bought five or six months ago and have never had an occasion to wear. When you get really great new shoes, you can't wear them just anywhere the first time.... But now these shoes have been introduced to society and can go anywhere they want.

2. The M&Ms that have been sitting in my desk since April were still fresh.

3. Someone very kind left a box of lavender jasmine tea and someone else left a bag of goodies in my mailbox.

4. A student rushed into my office with an mp3 and said, "I've been waiting all summer to play you this song about falling in love in a concentration camp. The first time I heard it, I instantly thought of you." I'm not entirely sure I was flattered by that.... I mean, I did talk about love a lot, especially the traumatic kind, in the classes he took with me, mostly because he wrote about it a lot.... In any event, he showed me these features on my computer I didn't even know about and played me this cool song.

Here were some bad things about the day:

1. Tom and I don't teach on the same day--he teaches MWF, I teach Tu-Th--so chances are I will hardly ever see him this semester.

2. The crackers that have been sitting in my desk since April were anything but fresh.

3. I was plagued all day by existential dread.

I mentioned this last item to a couple of colleagues and they said, "Oh, it's Hurricane Katrina." But it's not Hurricane Katrina. The devastation she wrought in the Gulf fills me with horror and compassion, and as for what the remnants of her are doing here, well, I'm not that afraid of some heavy rain.

I've felt this way for a while, actually. Something beyond my consciousness is wrong, and since I don't know what it is, I don't how to fix it. I have the vague sense that something is menacing me, and I don't much like it. I tried to explain this last Friday to SBJ. I said, "I just have that feeling of alarmed anticipation, that feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop, that anxious certainty that something bad will happen, but I don't know what and I don't know when."

He said what he always says when you're telling him something that doesn't really make sense to him: "Huh. Hmm. Huh."

I began to fear this is a sensation other people don't have, so I asked, "Have you ever had that feeling?"

He said, "Probably, but I don't really feel like trying to remember a time in my life when I did." Which I guess I could understand; he was in a good mood, so why search your memory for trauma and pain?

But yesterday, when we were talking about our first day back, he mentioned that he's teaching a class on existentialism, and I said, "I'm suffering from existential dread right now," and he perked right up and was all over that. "I don't know what to do about it," I added.

He was as animated as a five-year-old talking about a birthday party. He said, "That's ‘cause there's nothing you can do about it. That's what makes it existential dread: it's generalized; it has no object. If it had an object, it'd be something else: fear, for instance."

"Well, it's making my stomach all tense," I said, punching myself in the gut to show how constricted it was.

"I'm sorry," he said.

"You know," I said, "existential dread is just another name for what I was trying to tell you about last week when I saying I felt like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, that something bad is definitely going to happen."

And he did that thing again: "Huh. Hmm. Huh."

I don't normally get jittery at the beginning of the term--I've been doing this a long time--so I suspect it's something besides new-semester nervousness. I don't know what's wrong. Hopefully nothing--I managed to relax after I got home and had dinner and sat down to blog (which is all I really want to do these days). But if it is really something, believe me, you'll hear all about it.

1 Comment

If the other shoe does drop... I hope it fits as well as the red d'Orsay pumps you've been working!

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on August 31, 2005 6:04 AM.

I Never Meant to Hurt You was the previous entry in this blog.

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