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Saturday, September 22, 2012

5 Grad School Observations

You are not in college

You are not an undergraduate anymore.  Undergraduates suck and you do not suck, as much.  If you’re at a state school, undergrads flock by the hundreds, clogging up roads, sidewalks, bars, libraries, and gene pools while never taking their eyes from their phones.  Most of the time, it won't even seem like they have anywhere to go.  Maybe they just walk around for hours in circles, checking their facebook walls.  You will run into some.  It’s not your fault.

It might be wrong to refer to them as a plague, but is it inaccurate?

Free food is better than not free food

This is one truism that remains from college, only amplified.  In college, you had a pre-purchased meal plan paid for by scholarships or loans that you wouldn’t have to worry about until you were out of school.  In grad school it’s just you and the measly stipend they throw at you at the end of every month, if that.  Learn where and when the free food is on campus, or make friends with someone who does.  Also, lose your shame.

Everyone is smarter than you now

Getting into grad school probably made you feel pretty smart.  Attending grad school will make you feel pretty dumb.  You realize that your undergrad professors who made their profession seem so attainable were really just holding back, and they were pretty smart to begin with.  You realize this because many of them have already done everything that you’re now expected to do.  Your classmates will bemoan the same sentiments, but then rattle off the most insightful analysis of bunch of books that you've only vaguely heard of before.  Then they’ll tell you they already have their thesis picked out and are working on it, but really, they're so behind.  You will feel dumb, like really dumb. 

You are not in college: part II

As an undergrad you might have made weekend plans, gone out on certain nights, were involved with other activities, but in grad school you read and then read some more and then write about that.  And then you do it again.  Actually, as a grad school student, you should be doing all of those things too.  Going out to the bar to have a drink with some folks, watching a movie, with people, you know, stuff that reminds you that you're actually still human despite being expected to robotically churn out work at a furious pace.  As long as you can learn to become efficient with your work load (not this guy) then you can be a grad student with some semblance of an actual life.  Otherwise, you'll drive yourself insane.  Don’t drive yourself insane. 

It will all be worth it in the end

But when does it end and where?  And define "worth it". 

In my last post I may have inferred that now in grad school, I should/ would be more diligent in posting.  Mistake. 

The work load is definitely a factor—it’s a big factor—but perhaps more important is the kind of writing that I’m doing in this blog.  It’s lazy, conversational—enjoyable—but sloppy and not the kind of writing that I should be focusing on.  In future posts, whenever those are, I’ll try to step it up.  That’s my promise to you, the reader!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I Wish I Could Go Back to Not College

I’m not unaccustomed to moving—I’ve done Pittsburgh, PA to Greencastle, IN for college, to St. Louis, MO for AmeriCorps where I continued to move around on a regular basis, and now to Columbia, MO for grad school.

Each move has had its challenges, learning how to do laundry in college, figuring out how to do it at a laundromat in the real world, and discovering that there was no laundry in AmeriCorps.  There was only that which was Febreezed and that which could do without.  Easy stuff.  The hard part came with acclimating to the new location, but more than that, accepting and embracing a place until it somehow became home.  It’s the difference between visiting somewhere and living somewhere, between being content and being happy.

It's just like a washer, minus the water!
If the saying goes, “when in Rome, do as the Romans” when visiting somewhere, in terms of moving there I’d say, “when in Rome, fucking love being Roman”.  If everyone else is drinking the Kool-Aid, you’re draining the punch bowl.

This past Labor Day weekend I drove back to St. Louis where I seamlessly melted back into my old life.  I stayed at my old house, ate at my old haunts, hung out with my friends; I felt like I had returned home after visiting grad school for a few weeks.  Dangerous stuff.  Mixing up realities is a high price to pay for even a great weekend like this one.  But not everything was exactly the same.

I celebrated a good friend’s birthday out at the bars where I realized that while everyone else was buying drinks, my tuition waiver didn’t even cover rail whiskey.  I helped some friends move into a great new apartment where they will begin their married, career-driven lives together and while people were going out for lunch, I stayed back to read and eat a Hot Pocket—just one, the other one was eaten for dinner.

It’s really an inconvenient time to begin pining for the Real World, because baby, I’m far from it. 

I'm a winner!

I’m back in the bubble-wrapped cocoon of a college town where nothing gets in or out, where I reveled as an undergrad and loved it and never wanted to leave it.  But I did leave it and I’ve since drunk the Real World Kool-Aid and have become addicted to a whole new brand of drug.  Oh, the irony.  Now, I have to find a way to kick it and adopt Columbia and grad school as my new home. 

As the great poet laureate of our generation, Robert Thomas so elegantly mused, “I wish the real world would just keep hassling me.”