Monday, August 26, 2013

Grad School, Day 1. Also, a Pet Octopus.

Hi, howdy, ahoy!

Today was my first day of grad school and I am more than a little exhausted, but I wanted to jot some things down so that there’s some record somewhere about the fact I started grad school today.

First of all, all I had today was an orientation for the English grad program and then my first class (at 7pm).

Here are a few quick things about the day. These are in absolutely no order of any sort:

- It was extremely and unbearably hot today. Like ninety-some degrees. I have always said that I prefer 110 degrees to 90 because once you get to something like 110, there is nothing to do but give up and give in and everyone is suffering. At 90 degrees I am sweating out all of my liquids but not everyone is. Some people seem built for it. Me, I have always felt that I am built for more northern latitudes. I think I have gone through like four shirts today.

- There may be some problems with my financial aid, which freaked me the fuck out for a bit today. I’m still kind of pissed about it, but will work on it some more tomorrow.

- I heard a woman today say “sub-quentially” instead of “sequentially” and it really knocked me back a step. How in the holy hell does that neural pathway even form in someone’s brain?

- I also heard someone say, “theoretical lens” as in the theoretical lens of a particular literary theory that one brings to the reading of a text. For instance, “It is easy to find Miley Cyrus’s performance at the VMAs demeaning and an example of the enacting patriarchal sexism when viewed through the theoretical lens of Feminism.” Anyway, it has been a long time since I’ve heard anyone talk about the theoretical lens.

- I felt old today. Comparable to many of the students around me. But I expected to feel old. It wasn’t until about halfway through the day that I realized I didn’t actually feel old, I felt unaccomplished. I was shocked to discover that people younger than me and starting the exact same program I’m starting are already working as tutors through the school’s Student Instructor program (which is usually a pathway toward being a TA, which is a pathway to getting teaching experience). Some of them have also presented papers at conferences. I wanted to stand up and shout, “Look, I have been very busy and important working in the REAL WORLD these last few years!” It was also made even more clear than ever that these academia people don’t realize that academia is a zoo; it looks like the real world and feels like the real world, but it is significantly easier and safer when you’re a zebra. Not to make fun of anyone, but I met a lot of zoo-raised zebras today.

- A guy in one of my classes looks exactly like a young Fred Savage if you look at him dead-on, but looks exactly like Ryan the Intern from The Office if you look at him in profile.

- A guy in one of my classes wasn’t sure what country Beijing is in. This is his last semester in grad school. He is going to have a Masters degree before me and he didn’t know what country Beiling is in.

- I pointed out during a class discussion that a question being discussed was unresolvable. I made the point that it was - basically - academic. And only later did it occur to me that this was a deeply ironic thing to say given where I was sitting right then. It made me realize that these past few years - which have been admittedly pretty difficult for me - may have fundamentally changed me a little. The same way that time, heat, and pressure fundamentally change coal. I had gotten used to working in a situation where facts and numbers could be bent to support predetermined truths. Part of me forgot that that’s backwards; I had forgotten that one of the real joys in life - and one of the things that I actually DO ENJOY - is talking it out, whatever ‘it’ may be. Talking out unresolvable issues, talking them out in big round loops, is not a vice, it is in fact a virtue.

- I realized today that grad school is not so much about what one does in class, but rather about all of the stuff one does outside of class (please see: presenting papers at conferences).

- I realized today that what I really want to do is write. This idea of buying into the academic world is great and all (and may somehow provide a career path), but even that is a Plan B. I’m not sure that I really want to teach. What I want to do is write. So I better get on that. I have sucked at it as of late.

- In non-school-related thoughts: one of my cats, The Kitten, has a little red and white octopus toy. She has had it for years and when she thinks I’m not looking she carries it around in her mouth. The thing is that when I try to play with her and toss it across the room, The Kitten doesn’t run after the octopus (the way she does with other toys). Well this morning it occurred to me that The Kitten doesn’t think of that octopus as a toy, she thinks of it as a pet.



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