"Trapped" was written by Jimmy Cliff, and most famously covered by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Yes, I know there's a Tupac song by that title too.
These are the lyrics to "Trapped" and of course I'm envisioning them as a love song to the Academy (one of sorts, that is):
Seems like I'm caught up in your trap again
Seems like I'll be wearing the same old chains
Good will conquer evil
And the truth will set me free
And I know that someday I will find the key
I know that somewhere I will find the key
Seems like I've been playing your game way too long
Seems the game I've played has made you strong
When the game is over I won't walk out the loser
I know I'll walk out of here again
I know someday I'll walk out of here again
Well now I'm trapped
Seems like I've been sleeping in your bed too long
Seems like you've been meaning to do me harm
But I'll teach my eyes to see beyond these walls in front of me
Someday I'll walk out of here again
Someday I'll walk out of here again
Trapped (et. al., with reprise and sax solo)
I've always liked that song, from way back whenever it was put out and I was asking, "Bruce who?" I'm not a diehard Bruce fan, but it's hard to be in your teens in the eighties and not have gotten the whole "Born in the USA" album mainlined into your musical bloodstream. That and "Thriller" and all that Paula Abdul later on. Eh, we cannot always choose these things.
Here's what you might call the "diegetic" trap: It's April, and at the end of this month, I don't work for my fellowship gig any more, but I do work these awkward afternoon teaching hours until the end of the month. This makes it hard to work part-time, and makes full-time working impossible, until May. The problem with not being able to make money beyond my $400/month from teaching, is that I owe over $1000 on May 5, and I won't have it. This is the trap. I mean, someone will no doubt give me that money (family/friends) but I can't be self-sufficient and teach; it's not enough. This fellowship is intended for grad students, and its supposed to be a boon, but for me, it has turned into a trap. $14000 a year is no good when your loan debt is $12500 and next year, with all loans on at once, will be $17000.
So the great paradox is that because I've stayed in the academy, I can't afford the debt which I accumulated FROM staying in the academy. That's the trap, and it's looking more and more like I won't even GET an academic job so that I can pretend there was some poetic justice.
That's a pretty raw reality. It's not easy to swallow that.
It'll be fine, I'll survive it, but ever since dissertation writing, the "big retreat" from real life, which I thought that grad school was, has been turning more and more into what feels like emotional abuse (which I've received first hand, so I know what I'm talking about).
Back in 2003 I swore that I'd never get myself into a bullshit position again, by which I meant a position of agency-less, powerless frustration at someone else's hands. However, this is exactly what I've wandered into, and I've got an oceanic level of bitterness about it.
From roughly May 1995 until December 2002 I stayed in a relationship which had been great fun from January 1995 until that May and which, as of May, turned more and more manipulative and emotionally harsh. It looked nice, and both of us became masters of deception in different ways, and no one knew it was all rotten inside except me (my theory is that she was able to deceive herself about its rottenness; it's complicated but I think I'm right about this). We got married and shouldn't have, in June 1998, and by 2000 the whole relationship was emotionally dead to me; ever done that? Do you know what that feels like? Imagine Jonah inside the whale, being slowly digested but not minding, and then imagine that the whale beaches and dies and begins to decay and he stays in there for six years and dances about so that none of his family will know that anything's amiss. That's what that feels like.
I have stories from that relationship which can turn listeners to ice. I have stories from then which are so vile that I bet they can make people physically ill. A combination of honesty and lies got me out of it and it looks like I'm the one who acted dishonestly and "broke the bond," and true-to-life, I did, but I'm not the one who maintained the lies, the surfaces (well, that's not true: I did, but at the same time, I cruised an underground which was massive in scope). I stayed because I was afraid to be myself, and she stayed because she was afraid not to live the illusion of household and "maturity" and so forth, all of which was backed up by a willfully undercut self-image and past sexual abuse (at the hands of partners, not family). That whole thing was rotten inside and out.
I remember realizing in a cafe one afternoon that that relationship would kill me. It would make me dead to myself inside, and I KNEW it, it wasn't just some perjorative hyperbolic thing to say. Then I saw _American Beauty_ and I knew that this sort of thing REALLY HAPPENED to people.
I spent thirteen years in a grad program because I spent seven of them doing THAT. Really, and I can't ever explain this in a cover letter, I finished a MA/PhD program in about six years, because for the other seven, I was doing different stuff.
This trap feels like that one. It's different, but the frustration is the same, the immobility, the weariness, the certainty that the system, knowingly or not, means me harm, or will cause it, no matter what it intends or doesn't. I swore on everything real, that I would never do this again. But I didn't know that a dissertation led here: a PhD should MEAN SOMETHING, right? It should give ACCESS, open DOORS, right? Well it doesn't seem to. I didn't know, and I was ignorant of things, and I apologize to myself and I forgive myself for not knowing this.
This frustration cuts deep, to old frustrations, past wounds that aren't all the way bled out yet. When I have my worst days with this job search, it's not pure job search; it is channelling other things too.