I love Hengrave Hall. There is nothing so soul-restoring as spending time there. It's a sort of retreat centre run by a Christian community who are dedicated to ecumenism and interfaith. There's the most incredible atmosphere of love and kindness and peace; it seems to make people treat eachother the way that human interaction ought to work in an ideal world. I can't describe it, really, but I've loved the place and the community since I was 10 (and I've been there almost every year since then).
And the ECAPS conference is cool, it's a get-together for people from small Jewish communities in the SE of England but outside London. That includes the synagogue where I grew up, Harlow, and the synagogue I now call 'home', Cambridge Reform, plus there will be lots of other people there I know and love from previous ECAPS conferences. This year's is particularly cool, because it's on Judaism and Science, and has some quite outstanding speakers, and I really, really, really want to be there.
To compound matters, my parents want me to join them, as they're attending. And I've just got an email from one of the organizers, a rabbi who has always been good to me and whom I admire, telling me how much he wants me to be there. I know he really means it, he's not just trying to get more money by filling more places.
But. The registration fee is £105 and I can't find any transport cheaper than £70. It's not like that money will make the difference between having enough to eat and starving, but it does feel extravagant when I only have one more month's salary still coming to me and I really don't know how long I'm going to have to live on my savings after that. I'd probably spend the money if that were the only down side. It's not prudent, but it's worth it to me to be able to go to Hengrave. The real problem is that the Hengrave is (obviously!) in SE England, the middle of rural East Anglia to be precise. And it means about 18 hours' travelling in a three-day period.
Again it would be worth it except that the weekend of the conference is the weekend after doseybat's birthday party. Doing both would mean travelling back and forth between here and Cambridge twice in four days, which is a bit daunting. And if I do go to Hengrave, there's absolutely no way I'm going to be able to go home for Christmas, because I'd have to travel back to England again within a few days of coming back from Hengrave. Going home for Christmas would please my parents and probably give me an all too rare opportunity to see the sibs. And would allow me to join in the celebrations of my grandmother's 85th birthday. And it's one more opportunity to spend time with lethargic_man; if I don't go home then, the only time I will see him while we're still together is at Bat's party.
I'm also having a hard time deciding, because of the usual PhD stress. I should be far enough through my thesis that I can afford to take a week or so off by Christmas. But I might not be. And it would be incredibly annoying to find myself trapped in Dundee over Christmas with nothing or nothing urgent to do. But I'm not certain enough that I'll be at that stage to go ahead and just book to go home in time for Hengrave and stay over until the new year, which is what I really want to do. (Actually, the ideal would be to stay for a week or so, until my Grandmother's birthday and mine, and then come straight back. But the trouble is that the time between the end of Hengrave and my birthday is somewhat over a week, and anyway I can't easily travel across country between Christmas and New Year.) Besides, thinking along these lines is just stressful because it gets me into a whole 'am I ever going to get through this' hamster wheel, and it's not good.
Does anyone have any advice? Words of comfort about this horrible limbo of not knowing how long it's going to take me to finish my PhD?