Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Quite a Lot of Thanks

I know I've been grousing for the past week or so - the nasty flu/cold/whatever it was bug that hit me right in the middle of presentation time made me pretty cranky - but now that I'm feeling (mostly) better, I want to re-up (is that an expression? have I just made it an expression?) the mood of the blog with only some of the many many thanks I feel today.

I am thankful for, above all other things in my life right now, the amazing opportunity of being in grad school. This experience is everything I hoped and dreamed it would be, and I am so thankful to be doing it.  I am thankful for the wonderful new friends I've made, the brilliant professors I'm working with, and the fascinating books I'm reading and work I'm doing.  I'm also thankful to have this amazing experience in one of the world's most beautiful places.  The day I moved into my apartment in Santa Barbara, as I was getting suitcases out of my car, I stood in my parking lot and looked at the light the sunset was casting on the mountains just to the east of SB.  The color, the air, and the light were all so stunning that I knew I was right where I was supposed to be.

I am thankful for my cat.  I know this sounds silly, as she's small and non-verbal and will never read this blog and feel proud to be mentioned, but I am thankful for her small furriness and her cuddles and companionship.  I never could have made it through senior year of college without her, and I don't think I'd make it through grad school without her, either.

Speaking of college, I am so thankful for all the wonderful professors I had at my various undergraduate institutions.  Without their guidance towards the best authors, the better way to write a paper, and the passion for learning and literature, I wouldn't be in grad school.

I am thankful for my best friends, whether I've known them for nine or four years.  (Yeah, you know who you are.)  The shoulders to cry on, the smiles to laugh with; the dinner dates, the movie nights, the shopping trips, the phone calls.  Everything has kept me sane and happy and looking forward to many more years of friendship.

I am thankful to my family, in particular my parents and grandparents.  Without them, I (obviously) literally would not be anywhere, but metaphorically, I wouldn't be where I am.  They are my never-ending pep squad, my patrons, my nurses, my chefs, my constructive critics, and my friends.

And, lastly, in true fashion of this blog's "appropriate pretension," as some have called it, I am thankful for my great buddies Chaucer, Shakespeare, Gower, Hardy, Eliot, Dickens, Jonson, et al for leaving me and my colleagues such a wealth of richness to analyze and interpret until our heads explode and our fingers fall off.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Being Sick in Grad School

When you're under the age of 18, being really sick sucks, but having a cold that's just bad enough to keep you home from school can be somewhat magical.  Elementary school, and even middle and high school move so slowly, relatively, that one can afford to miss one to three days.  And those days can be filled with soup, saltines, Jello, 7Up, and Judging Amy.  Or at least that's what my sick days used to be like.

College sick days are not quite as much fun.  Class now meets usually only twice a week, so missing one day of it is tough, and more than one day can be deadly.  You can still indulge in Jello and syndicated television, but there's no Mom to stop in periodically to feel your forehead or make you tea.  But, for the most part, there are friends who live down the hall or down the block who will bring you class notes and trashy magazines and, if you're lucky like I was, Mom lives 2 miles away and can stop by with some Magical Mom Healing Powers (tm).

Being sick in grad school, as I'm finding out this week, is the worst of the worst.  Forget college, when classes met twice a week.  Now classes only meet once a week!  Missed today's class?  Oh, well, you just missed the only discussion on that text you wanted to write about, and you missed 10% of the class this quarter.  My head cold has oh-so-conveniently timed itself to match perfectly (note that I am dripping not only with snot [sorry for the image] but also with sarcasm) with my overload of Presentation One tomorrow, and Presentation Two on Monday.  Not exactly the time to coddle yourself with saltines and 7Up.  I suppose taking care of yourself when you're sick is just one more of those responsibilities that come with growing up, along with privileges like going to fricking grad school, which is so infinitely more interesting than elementary school...but right now some time to take a few days off, along with some Jello and Magical Mom Healing Powers (tm) would definitely not be unappreciated.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Titles and Other Rookie Mistakes

So, I've finally settled on a new (and permanent) title and URL for this blog - Confessio Scholastici, or The Student's Confession.  It's a modification of Confessio Amantis (The Lover's Confession), the name of the 1390 poem by John Gower on which I wrote my undergrad thesis.  It also seems particularly apt for the title of a blog aiming to chronicle the trials and successes of a student.  So, I had a few misses with overly crude, cheesy, and simply un-amusing titles, but this shall be my successful sticking point.

On the topic of rookie mistakes (like titling a blog before you have a really good title for it), I made a big one this quarter.  In background, let me explain that most graduate English seminars require, along with a final paper, that each student lead class once during the quarter, presenting on a specific week's reading, describing some of the existing criticism of the primary text, and starting the class discussion with a few questions.  When the sign-up sheets for these presentations went around back in September, I eagerly scanned the syllabus for what I was sure would be my favorite topic - What will I have the most to say about? I asked myself, choosing to present on the second half of Tess of the D'Urbervilles for one class, and "The Community of Women" for the other.  Fabulous, wonderful topics to present on.  The presentations are going to be really interesting to research and give.  One problem.  Without noticing it, I managed to sign up for two presentations in the last two weeks of class.  This means that, while everybody around me who had the good sense to get their presentation over with earlier in the quarter is focusing all of their attention on writing their papers, I get to focus on preparing my presentations and writing my papers.  If just one of my presentations had already been done - but, alas, no, I have two presentations and two papers to grapple with in the next few weeks.  This is not a mistake I will make again.

The bad news about this is that I will be spending copious amounts of time staring at my computer screen, printouts of articles, and dusty books (one of my favorite smells, BTW).  My eyesight may suffer, and my hair will probably be thinned by my tearing of it.  The good news, however, is that I will surely find myself hitting an academic wall and needing breaks to do things like write witty blog posts to entertain my wide reader base (Hi Mom and Dad!).  So wish me luck on my great dive, and hopefully I'll come up for some air around these parts.