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I was so excited when I started this MA. As I bloody should have been – the university is paying for it, after all. The excitement reigned supreme for over a year. It caused me a few problems, when it coincided with many shitty things and I cycled up and down for months. I enjoyed my classes so much but I needed Valium to help me sit still. I was very unwell (that was the year that I was on sick leave for two and a half months) but the studies kept going and I loved every essay. I was incredibly nervous about the exam, and that combined with unstable mental health caused some problems at work, but I loved it. Two years ago I was in my element. Two years ago I was settling down to revise every topic we had studied that academic year and write an essay or two on it. YAY BOOKS!!!

Tonight I look at what is ahead of me. Yay books. I’ve just counted 16. And I have to do another library trip next week. Nine topics in two weeks. Not too bad really. Arabic material in the mornings, English material in the afternoons. I can do that. I can write an essay once every two days and prepare myself for the three-hour onslaught that cripples my hands every year.

I’ve been trying to work out what has caused my enthusiasm to wane. Undoubtedly tiredness has some part to play. I should have perhaps done the degree over two years instead of three. Three years is a long time to give up every weekend, every holiday. But if I had done that I may not have made it past the first year given the mentalism. So there’s tiredness.

There is also the little fact that I have a very specific interest area, and I find certain aspects of Islamic studies impossibly mind-bending. Yes, there’s that. The minute legal significance of this one verse in this one really long chapter of the Qur’an really doesn’t do it for me, and neither does the cosmological impact of whether a description of God with a hand actually means that God has a hand.

Add to this some naivety. I got some good grades and thought I could do a PhD. I perhaps could. In reality, no. I’d have to live my life the same way I’m living it now and I couldn’t do that to myself, or my husband. It would mean six years of lost weekends, lost holidays, lost everything, and for what? A couple of letters after my name? It certainly wouldn’t guarantee that I get a better job than I have right now. So what would I be doing it for?

Intellectual stimulation? That is what it boils down to. I have enjoyed pulling apart these complex subjects that very few people understand (and I’m certainly not claiming that I understand them). My boss (an academic) saw one of my books from the library today – he said I’m a true intellectual. And all because the book has a fancy name on a stupid subject called anthropo-fucking-morphism written by some dude a few centuries ago. He has no idea how much I dread opening that book. It, along with a few others, made my arm go blue carrying them home from work. But yes, intellectual stimulation is important to me. I can’t stand being bored, and my job does not really switch the old brain cells into gear.

People have always been very encouraging, they have cheered me on – yeah, do a PhD! My friends who did my undergraduate with me have been astounded by the silly subjects I’ve studied. They think I’m mad, haha. But it’s not important. It doesn’t mean anything. Look at what is happening. Yes, you may think that I’m being emotionally affected by what is happening in my beloved Syria, and you would be right. But it has just opened my eyes and heart to what has been going on for years. I love the Middle East. I love the Arab people. The people got into my blood more ten years ago and I can’t get rid of them, academia isn’t enough. It isn’t real.

This has to go on the back burner for now. There are many factors at play, not least of which is the very fabric of my personality, which has often been obscured by mental illness, but which has been making its presence felt since last summer. But I don’t have time to work these things out in their intricacy. For now I merely hope to purge. To admit out loud, as it were, two things I have known for a very long time – 1) I want to live in the Middle East and 2) I want to do something and I don’t know what that something is but I know it isn’t academia.