Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spring semester senior year: An interlude.

Sometimes I can't believe I'm getting married. Especially in the midst of the extended—well, nightmare seems like too strong of a word, but dull dream sounds too pleasant; waking tedium? Coma of boredom? No, a coma would not be nearly stressful enough. Whatever it is, it's my last semester of college, and it's never. ending. It's strange to be so happy and miserable at the same time, all of the time.

This week is a good example. I spent half of my spring break working/doing homework and the other half wedding-planning. Somehow I've become the go-to person for staff and faculty at school writing their dissertations, and so I've been working closely with two over the past week, and have promised to do another in the next couple of weeks. These on top of the two dissertations, master's thesis, and book manuscript that I did in January-February. Daniel and I are also taking a geology class at a community college that has a different break than ours, so we drove down Tuesday/Wednesday to go to class.

On top of all that, I have a term paper due Monday, so I spent hours painstakingly researching and typing out eleven pages on a subject I didn't choose and couldn't care less about. Right now, I'm halfway through Monday's assigned reading, trying desperately to think of intelligent things to say so I can look like I'm paying attention in class even though I want nothing more than to stand up and say, "I hate William Wordsworth" and walk out and go do something more productive with my life, like read Slate articles.

I ask myself often what I'd rather be doing at the moments in which I'm struck most forcefully with this overwhelming sense of inescapability, this immediate and oppressive frustration that I'm trapped, proscribed, forced to prodigally spend my moments in soul-sucking pointlessness. Common triggers: comments from my precious classmates about the text we're discussing ("Have any of you heard of Hegel? He's this guy who wrote about the slaves uprising"), fifty pages of lit crit/aesthetic criticism of the Romantic Era/Heidegger to get through after I've been running from 8 am to 8 pm and before I can get in bed, professors who interpret things wrongly or who don't know the answers to questions when they should (I'm revealing my intellectual arrogance here, but I had to explain Nietzsche in class recently. I pay an awful lot of money for this education—is it too much to ask to have well-informed professors?).

So what would I rather be doing? I have such a hard time answering this question in anything other than the negative. I'd rather not be paying extraordinary amounts to be talked down to and subjected to flat-out incorrect information as often as I am. I'd rather not be compelled to spend twenty hours of my free time on term papers that a professor will spend five minutes reading. I'd rather not be stuck in the myriad little absolute monarchies of the classroom, induced to pay fealty to the profs and figure out the specific ways in which each one must be succored. I'd rather not have the tyranny of letters lorded over my head, not be induced to beg for extra credit or perform spectacularly on every single task or complete every single assignment or lie awake at night fretting about the points I lost on the last test. I'd rather be paid for my efforts.

Was I always this smug and bitter? Past blog posts/journal entries incline me toward yes. But does it help if I say not all of me is like this?

I attended the senior women's retreat a couple of weekends ago, and one of the icebreakers involved answering personal questions in little groups: "What is your favorite place?" I thought and thought of a place in which I was always comfortable, a place to which I could steal away when things were too hard or loud or much. My dorm was nowhere near this, nor was my parents' home, where my bedroom has been reappropriated and where every corner belongs to someone else. No coffee shop in the city provided such asylum for me, no park or cliff or nook. I didn't realize how uncomfortable I was in my own life.

There was an image in my head, though. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized how often I retreated there. When it was my time to speak, I decided to be honest. "My favorite place doesn't exactly exist yet." And I tried to describe what I saw in my head, a clean place, where all the space was mine, where I knew the last time the bathroom had been scrubbed and the floor had been vacuumed, where the couch was large enough to curl up on, where it was quiet, where everything had a place. Where I could come home from work and not do homework. The philosophy prof who was in my circle liked my answer, what with all its not-yet-existentness, joking that I "won" that round. But I was serious. I am serious.

So I guess that is what I would rather be doing: sitting in whatever little apartment I can manage to afford, working forty or fifty hours a week instead of, well, how would one calculate my normal schedule? Eighteen credit hours of class time, plus ten hours at the library, ten hours as an administrative assistant, about ten hours for the newspaper (depending on the week), and various and sundry hours grading as a teacher's assistant and freelance editing. And then I do homework. Supposedly, a student is supposed to have double the number of credit hours of homework outside of class, which would put me at thirty-six hours of homework. Good thing I'm a fast reader. But even if you estimate half of that, I'm responsible for sixty-six hours' worth of work, on a light week. A full-time job would be a (major) break.

So after working that full-time job (or multiple part-time jobs; I'm realistic), I'd like to come home and do things that aren't compulsory. And it would be nice if Daniel were there, too. That is what I'd rather be doing.