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Well folks, grad school is almost over. Completed first draft of thesis over the break, and I’m down to the wire. Paperwork filed.

Is this the end?

Will I go back?

Do I need a 12-step program to wean me off school?

Maybe.

 

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Did I just tag “graduation?” Shit. YES I DID.

Not me, but she sure looks like a grad student!

No matter how hard you try, and how vigilant you are, there are certain things that seem inevitable in grad school. Such as,

  • sporadic moderate-t0-heavy drinking
  • brain lapses
  • finger blisters/laptop burns
  • late-night delirium
  • extreme productivity followed by days of nothingness
  • meeting a professor who calls out your bullshit (even if you didn’t know it was in fact bullshit)
  • lack of every-day hair-washing

Oh the irony: my school's library is named after Charles Shultz.

BUT, today’s kick in the ass is brought to you by the library, who so lovingly supplies you with books, and so hatefully charges you when you don’t bring them back, because, you are, you know, using them. (And definitely not letting them sit on your desk collecting dust while you write blog entries. Never.)

When you have 37 library books checked out, and 27 of them come to your from LINK+, from other libraries, one is bound to slip through the cracks. Add to this the fact that the lending period for LINK+ books is only a couple weeks, and you can only renew if for 2 more weeks. And if you happen to, eek, not return it on time, the fee is A DOLLAR A DAY. In the grad school world, that burns.

So many future drinks already gone.

And this weekend, I entered my office and checked my email only to see that I accidentally ignored an email stating a book was due 12 days ago. Which, math folks, is $12. Sigh.

Um, yes....?

So, in grad school, you will check out books. You will “forget” to renew them. You will accrue fines. And, screw it all, you will pay them. Because it’s the right thing to do.

…Ok, truthfully, you will pay them becasue the library will stop you from checking out new books until the fines are paid. Clever-tricky bastards. (Whom I love despite.)

During my years at grad school thus far, I have been plagued with the obligation to pass the 494 qualifying Master’s oral exam. Techincally, one is supposed to take the test during their first year, on the basis that the reading list should give you a foundation for graduate work, blah, blah, blah. But like 95% of my fellow grads, I put it off. And off. And off. (After my class they amended the English graduate handbook so that taking the test is a requirement for the first year. Wise decision, people.)

Enter my last year, when I need to advance to candidacy and finish my thesis – oh yes, and pass the 494 exam.

Perhaps I should preface this by saying that the reading list for the oral is a collection of 40 or so items including novels, poetry, and critical theory. not horrific in any sense. Thankfully I had read over half of it as an undergrad (this, however does not guarantee that one remembers anything about the text, including the names of the main characters.) And I’m not someone who feels they need to read every word of a text to get what you need to know; usually if you read most of it, and you know what happens, you can pass a test (I’m not advocating this for serious study mind you, but just for certain required readings that you’re no very into. Once cannot write a thesis based off spark notes.) Though there is one student in my program who is reading every single text in entirely, which I commend, but which takes a boatload of time. Eessh.

So at the beginning I contacted the head of the English grad department, and finally -dun dun DUN! – scheduled the exam for Tuesday October 5th. Let the studying cramming begin!

I printed out a 75+page compilation of sparks notes of all the books (just to brush up, you see) and summaries of all the theory texts, and proceeded to re-read all the poetry selections, skim the short works, and make page after page of notes summarizing main ideas, concepts, memorable lines, etc. I memorized publication dates and biographical information, and read Norton introductions to all of the time periods. I reviewed the texts, reviewed the notes, re-reviewed the notes, and skimmed pages right before going to sleep.

Finally, Tuesday arrived. As I got closer to school and the department building, the nerves started to kick in a bit, and my heart began to pound (my usual trick to calm myself down is to cup my hands in front of my face and breathe in some carbon dioxide. Usually works. Like a paper bag, only less psychotic.) I did a quick review in the bathroom (don’t judge) and then arrived at the conference room, 10 minutes early.

But I should tell you, my school operates at a usual delay of about 10-15 minutes, so my exam started at 12:10-15ish. And a strange thing happened: as I sat there in the room, I started to calm down; I knew I was prepared, and that I was going to pass, and that it was not frightening at all – mostly just getting it over with was exciting!

And then a small act of God: one of my questioners – who is notoriously combative and harder to please –  was out sick, and replaced by the dept head, who is a fluffy bunny in comparison. So it began.

It opened with a question about the Fairie Queen, and as a medievalist, that made me a little happy (though we did skip over Chaucer, sadly). We discussed Keats, Melville, Roth,  and Woolf – and that was it. I brought in a few other texts, some critical theory, some fiction, to support my answers, but in all considerations the exam was not comprehensive. The hour passed like it was 5 minutes, and the professors not only asked me questions but commented on them themselves, making it feel more like a conversation than an intense question-and-answer session.

So here is the secret my fellow-grad friends: From what I experienced, and what the examiners told me, what they really want to see in a qualifying oral is not that you can read 50 books and rattle off the information, but to instead be able to engage critically with texts and bounce ideas and concepts around texts easily. They want to see if you can take an issue like racism and see how it works out in different texts, to make connections. But most of all, they want to see that you are at a graduate level of engagement. If there’s a question that you don’t know the answer to, admit it, and talk about what you do know.

What I found funny was, after about 40 minutes, the dept head simply said “I think that’s enough” and let me go, saying that it was clear I had proved what needed to be proved well. It was a strange feeling; it felt like I had just gotten there, and there were so many other texts that I wanted to talk about. But that’s not important, because after all this time I was finally done. I can now move further into my thesis without having the 494 in the back of my head, and that is certainly worth a couple days of cramming!

Now I know that Ph.D orals are notoriously awful, but if you are worrying about your Masters orals, relax. It may put the fear into you, but it’s not there to trip you up!

[And holy $%@# does it feel good to have them over with!]

Let me premise this entry with single most overwhelming statement being uttered on the interwebs right now: Facebook is Down.

[Does this mean college students all across the globe are now being forced to …gasp… do work? *shutters*]

I got to work this morning and promptly checked my email, only to see that a friend had written something begging a reply on my wall. And as I clicked to write on said post….nothingness. Thoughts flew through my mind, as if I was standing in line to buy something fantastic only to realize that I left my wallet at home.  “But – but,” you say to yourself,  “I wanted it!”

And my life has been thrown into a wacky off-kilter perspective.

It’s strange how something like a website can become so woven into our daily routine that we don’t even pay so much attention to it until it’s gone. It’s like (insert personal example here) the years before I realized I couldn’t eat bread: I hardly ever ate sandwiches but knowing I can’t eat one makes it evil incarnate.

And Facebook knows what it’s doing. If I were them, I would let the website crash ever now and then (DNS Server my ass) just so people appreciate it and realize that they can’t live without updating their statuses every 2 hours. The irony of course, being that an event like this is what most people would write about in their status updates. Genius.

I saw one new-site that said, ” You  could go back to Myspace…yea right.” Seriously. There’s a monopoly in this world and we all live in it. (Except they’re not playing with paper money.)

[Note: Just as I was posting this, Facebook came back online. Damn. There goes my metaphor.]

ponder 

There is a curious juggling going on in my head right now, between whether I should continue on after my MA to get a Ph.D, or not. And it’s beginning to become clear that the real division here is between an almost purely intellectual pursuit, and you know, making money. I think.

Intellectualism isn’t the same as it used to be, it seems. Or maybe it is, and it’s only that the values of the surrounding societies and culture have changed. To me, continuing in school seems almost selfish, which is odd considering that career path is generally regarded as less-selfish in the eyes of others – after all, becoming a professor requires a certain commitment to others, perhaps more than being, say, an engineer. But to keep going, and to put off getting a “real job” will certainly require me to put my desires ahead of those of some others. It could mean moving away, not paying off debt, acquiring more debt, and not beginning my career for several more years.

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For example, I already have a considerable amount of student loans at this point, while my boyfriend has little to none. This of course means that if we got married, he would be responsible for that debt, in part, and it would certainly restrict some things in the future, financially. They don’t bother me because I know that my education is worth it, but he’s the type of person who gets nervous about debt. And I know that regular non-school work could be years away, so there is nothing I can do about it now.

And it’s not to say that I couldn’t be happy doing a different job that doesn’t require a Ph.d, but the question, I think, is whether I could be happy in a job that doesn’t have the same academic, intellectual mood. But there’s always been a part of me that has wanted to have money; that sounds a bit awful, but I’d like to be financially secure, in other words, not the traveling scholar who carries all his belongings on his back. The stereotype of always being wrapped up in academia appeals to me, the stereotype of eating beans out of a can does not. But maybe both stereotypes are nothing but that; fallacies. alice,in,wonderland,films,alice,film-daaf98f939d869dcce68ef60e83a09fe_h

One wonders: in our modern world, is there still a way to pursue scholarly desires, and still pay the rent? Where is the happy medium?

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Good things recently.

[If you aren’t into the whole “glass half-full” thing, you might want to leave now.]image

 1. Being sick: You may be thinking “But illness is generally a bad thing….,” to which I say,  yes, it does suck. Especially when your ears are completely stuffed up and you have a Latin final during a time when you wish you could be at home watching re-runs and trying not to get sucked into the abyss of a head cold. But, what does not suck is when you start feeling better, and every day you wake up you feel progressively more like a human being again. Ah, to be able to appreciate the everyday normal workings of one’s sinuses. Plus, whenever I start getting down about my allergies (which are at their best right now, as I live in the capital of tall-growing sneezy grasses) I remember that they aren’t as bad as the recent evil cold.

image Ok, so I don’t have a window, but still…

2. New Job! So, as of this week, teaching English 99 will soon be over. Classes themselves are officially over. No more lectures about topic sentences and thesis statements, no more fervent 1a.m. grading sessions. I’m a bit sad not to be teaching at SSU anymore, but I was also getting a bit weary of it all. But, I will not be unemployed in the Fall – you’re looking at (well, reading at) SSU’s newly-appointed WEPT person. Which means an office upgrade; I get my very own little office (with a door and everything!) in a corner of SSU’s administrative building with which to do lovely WEPT-related tasks. I can only thank God (or the patron saint of employment, whatever) for giving me a reason to be away from home and to have a space of my own (well, for a time anyway) at school where I may escape into the small, bureaucratic world of filing, phone answering, and email replying. 

3. Finishing Latin: One whole year, down! Now to decide if I want to submit myself to the slightly-masochistic realm of language one again. I’m also considering French…whenever I look into Ph.D programs the language requirement makes me feel rather inadequate as an intellectual. I’ll work on it.

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4. Europe Trip: Less than 2 weeks away! Am I freaking out a little? Yep. Am I still in disbelief that I’m going, and that I actually have the money to pay for it myself? Indeed. Very, very excited.

5. Gluten-Free Cinnamon-Sugar Donuts: Enough said.

Overall, general bounciness. I still have a pile of work to do before the semester ends, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. A super-shiny-travelly-light.

It’s odd how the end of the job search can be so sudden and yet, at the same time, very anti-climactic. in After searching for a summer job since February, after attending several interviews which seemed very lovely but came to no success (I blame not being hired for summer camps because of all the teachers flooding the job market) I finally got a call: Someone wants me.

And mind you, this is not my dream job. This does not utilize my UC degree, nor my grad school-skills, and has no real place in my future. However, it will get me out the house while my father, returning from UCI for the summer, stays in my house. (Plus it will pay the bills for my new very fantastic cell phone. Yip!) But economic beggars can’t be choosers, it seems. Plus I get to play with clothes all day.

So I received the call that I was hired on May 23rd, and was told I would start on June 1st. Great, I thought. Just enough time to lay around being bored, I thought. HA! they said. Not so fast. Fast forward to Monday, when they call and say that I’m now going to have to come in June 9th and 11th instead. Honestly, by the time it takes to find a summer job, get hired, and go through paperwork and training, there is no more summer left!

(Though they don’t know I’m only planning to work the summer…it’s not like I’m going to jeopardize school and teaching for a little more than minimum wage.)

When you know you’re going to have to work soon, but not too soon, it first seems like freedom. Then, the freedom turns into something like anticipation, which turns to furrowed brows and yelling “Just start already!!”

Also, I think the weather has become aware that I recently acquired a watercraft that should be used in warm weather. How come finals week has an extreme heat wave, and summer is filled with wind and rain? Hmmmm?

Thus I have spent more time indoors, shopping indoors, and working out indoors. This is an odd thing; have you ever discovered some random muscle that is completely weak compared to the rest of your body? As in the machine on the lowest weight setting feels like you’re lifting an anvil? Just wondering…

To explain, no sum up, I re-watched The Princess Bride again last night. Oh, the awesomeness.  Following is a chart describing said awesomeness. That is all.

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