Tag Archives: school

Flatbread Crackers & Cheese

DSC00988One time last semester, life was falling in pieces, or at least I thought it was.  I really can’t remember why I was upset.  I just know that I was in my spot on the Dennison steps, legs dangling a few feet above the heads of students walking below.   Judy came along behind me, and speaking the universal code that is I wish I could help but really can’t, she gave me food.  Flatbread crackers, tomato sauce, and shredded cheese has been my thing ever since.

I work on deadlines.  I always have.  Pretty sure the over-achiever, ambitious timelines I set fall in rhythm with my own heartbeat.  Supposing this connection were true, it would explain why not meeting deadlines of any kind, include my own, sets my pulse racing.

Watching an idea larger than I can properly explain come together has been the achievement of my academic life.  Admittedly, there are things far more important.  Likewise, a few dozen mostly coherent pages doesn’t really count for anything truly “academic.”  While its stolen my life, interests, time, relationships, sleep, and is about to get away with my sanity, a thesis is an exercise, not book.  If I’m a lucky, a dozen people will actually read it, and half of them will be either paid to do so or share my bloodline.

And yet, it’s all I want tonight, because it still matters.  The sophomoric (literally, cause I was a sophomore) Thursday night stomachache of fear and tension and not actually being fully convinced of my ability to make my deadline is setting on with prodigious force.

I spent most of the day camping out in the CSS library, a location with the unique advantage of being unoccupied, large enough to pace, and far enough away from anything that matters to yell at my computer without disturbing anyone.  The introduction I wanted to complete on Thursday is finally written and the rewrite of Part I is at last underweight, but the gaps, unwritten conclusion, edits, and eight days I have until I need a complete draft rise on my shallow breaths.

I’ve never run a marathon before, but I’m pretty sure this is the intellectual equivalent, and I’m doing it on flatbread crackers and cheese.


Downshift

Once in the eighth grade, I did all sixty-some problems in the accelerated geometry textbook for a lesson because I forgot to write down which numbers to do.  I didn’t have the phone number of anyone in the class, so the only logical option in my over-achieving brain was to spend several hours doing what was suppose to be a half hour/forty-five minute assignment.  It was the only way I could still get my five homework points.

Yesterday, I realized that academic classes are the single least important part of my life right now.  My family, work, thesis, and (gasp) even my social life are all much higher on my priority list.

No doubt this is a good thing.  On the one hand, it means that somewhere between middle school and today, I appropriately toned-down unnecessary academic intensity.  On the other hand, it just reflects new priorities.

I was peripherally cognizant of this when I signed up and fought my way into easy (but respectable) courses this semester.  A lecture-based history course focusing on an era that I’ve already studied extensively is not challenge, especially when it has less reading and writing in the entire semester than what I’d get in three weeks of CSS.  I took a seminar on Political Thought in Israel, because I realized that if I do, I get an extra line on my diploma saying that I’ve earned a certificate in International Relations (a very nice thing to just stumble across).  Given my mediocre understanding of current events in the Middle East, I was surprised by how quickly I could do the reading and still make meaningful conversational contributions to the class.

By default, everything can’t be important, because then nothing is.  But the day when academics don’t matter (relatively so)?  I suppose I always saw it coming, but I certainly never expected it actually arrive.


And it was good

The beauty of Connecticut fall catches my breath.  The firestorm on the the tree beneath my bedroom makes me smile.  So does the quiet hope that wells up in my soul.

For every exasperated sigh I swallow in my carrel and long hour with an un-exhilarating paper are a dozen moments of sweet smiles.  Ideas excite me.  Despite the realization that most people don’t care, I am incapable of saying anything about my research without getting all bright eyed and smily.

And when the brillant professor I fumble my ideas to says that my argument sounds great, the fire burns brighter.  Likewise, I gladly give my time to the teaching that forces my thoughts deep into the recluses of my mind for reevaluation.  Ideas are like that.

In the last 72 hours, a friend and I hosted a make-your-own gourmet personal pizza night, complete with fancy cheese, fresh sausage, jalepenos, and eight of my closest-don’t-talk-to-often-enough friends.  Saturday, I drove to Providence for an ISI conference on the American University.  I’ve never wanted to read Plato so badly in my life.  I figure something like The Republic or The Odyssey ought to count as an appropriate beginning of the Western Cannon : )

Today was simply beautiful, and a few friends and I will be driving  up the Connecticut coastline in the morning as we run away with every last remaining precious bit of fall break.

This overcast night hides the moon from my bedroom window, but with a monstrously soft brown blanket draped over my shoulders and the quiet beat of my fingers, keeping time with the Bublé in the background, I just can’t help but feel at peace as the dreams and reflections that can’t quite make their way out dance on my heart.

Providence, Rhode Island

 


Use capitulation in a sentence

After a few days of chaos, exhaustion, and the now-familiar onset of culture shock, the buzz of campus has settled like dust– making Wesleyan home once again.  It remains an awkward squeeze for this Hoosier, but one that I’ve learned to take in strides.

The 13 hour drive from Indiana was extended by construction across the entire state of Pennsylvania.  My high-rise flirts with ninety degrees, it took some time to locate a fan, and my dresser rivals the holding capacity of my four-year-old $12 particle board nightstand from Wal-Mart.   Understandably, the first few days were challenging.

The soothing rhythm of jstor pdfs and sharpie highlighters set as soon as I organized my library and set out to define some otherwise bland and useless floor space, but once that was all settled, I had a little bit of breathing room.

My eating room (if you can call it that) is a kitchen counter that stands at an awkward height– too low to be bar stool height, too high to be normal sitting height and massive pillar divides the living space.

Shirley and I snatched an extra bed from the 7th floor and shoved it caddy-corner to the bar– thereby constructing a make-shift couch, then bought some pretty pillows at Marshalls to complete the look.  A trip to Walgreens and the dollar store for some prints and cheap frames gave the room a finished look.

At Wesleyan, we honor Labor Day by starting school and so I found myself in American Political Economy on Monday at 11, which was quite the experience.  Despite an engaging professor and what appeared to be short, but decent reading list, I found myself unengaged.  For the first time, I found myself in a quality academic setting focused on my interests and thought the class was too easy.  That was weird.  The semester’s essay questions looked like they could all be written within a week, and I was familiar with the works and major ideas of half of the authors on the book list.  This must be what they call “being a senior.”

On that note, I’ve been working very hard on the “being a senior” objective.  I have my whole life to read books and write papers, but I only have 2 semesters of free and fun everything that comes with being a student.  So…I ditched a dinner early to catch the Avengers at the Goldsmith Family Cinema last night and recruited friends until I had a gang to catch Vertigo on the big screen tonight.

<– Embrace youth mentality, manifested as braided pig-tails

 

 

 

 

Up next?  Shirley and I will be hosting a salsa party (the food, not the dance) and have decided that inviting people to breakfast is going to be our thing.  I’ve already made biscuits and gravy twice this week.

The hurried nature of week one has not permitted time to retell my game theory invoking encounter with a skunk by my car after a 2am shift at the library, the Russian Politics reading load, what it is like to live without a microwave, or the ever-evolving moster and beast that is my thesis, but rest assured it’s coming.

So, here’s to being a student (or at least an undergrad)…one last time.