Tag Archives: school

So, I had this great idea . . .

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Another semester has been survived . . . barely. It seems that with each subsequent semester  more personal wounds get reopened and more triggers pulled. That’s what I get for studying the humanities, I guess.

Workload-wise this last semester was challenging because I had another round of the Humanities Seminar. Each week we had to read books by authors such as Plato, Shakespeare, Wolff, DuBois, Emerson, Thoreau, etc. Procrastination was not an option with that class. You had to read a book each and every week and be prepared for discussion, as well as some written work that was also due. Loved the material. Hated the pace. My other class was my science requirement – Environmental Science. The lectures were really interesting, but the lab was poorly organized. It was taught by two different professors who apparently had very different standards when it came to grading.  A paper graded by the old fellow would maybe get a C+, while a paper with the exact same effort graded by the younger woman would yield me an A.  The class was made up of a lot of middle-aged white ladies who take their grades VERY seriously. So, naturally there was a revolt. Deans were called. Complaints filed. And ultimately, grading responsibilities were taken away from the old fellow. Don’t fuck with middle-aged white ladies.  We will cut you . . .well, probably not, but we will file a complaint and make a few phone calls.

The most taxing of my courses was the little 1 unit P/NP class called the Senior Project Workshop. Every senior has to do a Senior Project.   You can either do a 30-page research paper, or a creative project with an 8-page research component. I am, of course, opting for the latter. The point of the workshop is to help hone your topic, find an advisor, and get a good start on your research.

I came into the semester really excited about my project. You see, I had this great idea: I would do my research on trauma and memory and then as the creative bit I was going to revisit the event that was the beginning of the end of my academic career in my 20s.  There was something poetic about coming full circle and transforming that trauma from being destructive and painful to something  triumphant and  healing. It was going to be fucking awesome.

The idea was to revisit this event by interviewing the witnesses and those close to me at that time. I wanted to film the interviews. I thought their expressions as they revisited that time would tell more of the story than their actual words. Two filmmaker friends of mine agreed to help me.  Friends as well as my academic and spiritual advisors were cheering me on. It was bold. It was brave. And, of course, it was doomed to failure.

The problem with a project such as this is that is dependent on other people willing to play along.  Over the years I’ve done lots of processing of this event, and I was ready to look at it with a new lens.  I wasn’t prepared for the resistance I encountered from the other witnesses: one refused to speak to me at all, two initially were willing, but blew off our appointments to talk; one, I sadly discovered, killed himself; and my brother said that he “has chosen to forget everything about our shared past together.”

Ouch.

For the workshop, our final deliverable was supposed to be an introduction to our project, complete with thesis statement. I wrote, instead, a eulogy for not only my project, but for any hope of me having anything substantial to say ever. It was pretty bleak.

My advisors offered me suggestions for salvaging my idea. They tried to prop up my spirits. I felt completely depleted, bereft of hope or inspiration. As you can imagine, this made the holidays super fun.

As of this writing, I still don’t know what the hell I’m going to do. However, having had a little bit of rest and solitude, I feel slight sparks of inspiration returning. There may even be something in the failure of this project that may become a project. There have been learnings, but they really have nothing to do with the original trauma I wanted to explore.

School starts again in about three weeks. I’m hoping that those little embers of inspiration don’t burn out, but rather become some wonderful creative fire so that by the time the semester starts I’ll once again be brimming with enthusiasm.

Wish me luck. I’ll need it.

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Quarterly check-in

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Yes, it does seem that the only time I remember to catch up with my bloggedty-blog is when I’m on break from school. And so it is now.

This has been my summer of aversion. Both of the classes I took this summer brought out all kinds of lovely, teenager-esque bouts of rebellion and sullenness. As I told my therapist/teacher/mentor it felt like I was finally going through the adolescent rebellion phase I missed out of as a teenager.  My inner voice was so loud and whiney – I don’t waaaaaaaant to. This is stuuuuuuuuuuupid! – it sometime leaked into my outer voice.  It is indeed fortunate The Boyfriend suffers from some hearing loss, as it gave him an easy out to ignore my bitchy, petulant complaints.

I had been looking forward to what I thought was going to be an easy A – The History of Stained Glass. It was one of those short courses: two-and-a-half hours a night,  two nights a week for five weeks, with a few of those nights being field trips to local churches. Oh right. Churches. Christian churches. Religious iconography. Lots of Christian religious iconography. Did I ever mention I have some long-standing and deep-seated issues with Christianity? One would think after the anguish and angst  I put myself through the last semester writing a 20-page paper comparing and contrasting Christianity and Buddhism to meet my World Religions requirement, that I would know better than to submit myself to an intensive class filled with a whole lotta Bible tales.  However, my prof was cool and kept the emphasis on the metaphorical aspects of color and light and made it quite approachable even for us heathens.  Yet, when it came time to do our final project, I didn’t go anywhere near church glass and did my paper and presentation on Frank Lloyd Wright. And yes, I got an A, but I wouldn’t describe it easy.

The other challenge I took on simultaneously, except for it lasted 10 weeks, was math. Please don’t ask me what kind of math it was. I doubt the teacher could even describe it.  The catalogue called it Finite Math. It didn’t much matter what they called it, it was a requirement so I had to take it.

While I wouldn’t say I was looking forward to it, I’m not completely math aversive. When it comes to everyday and business math, I’m pretty good. Back when I used to crunch numbers for survey research, I even found it fun. This class was not fun. If it weren’t for the kindness of the substitute prof (the original professor was in a serious car accident the second week of class and never returned) who took pity on us, I could have easily ended up with something less than an A. (Who me? Obsessed with grades?) I think we were graded by our efforts and earnestness rather than any real understanding. Inwardly, in class I was screaming “Why? Why? This is stuuuuuuupid!” yet from all outward appearances I was engaged and was able to answer questions by mere pattern recognition rather than any deeper understanding of the problem.  The final was a take-home and we were encouraged to work with our classmates on it. On the final day of the class, our prof made us each a card with a personal note, and gave us a hug on the way out.

In about two weeks, I return to school.  From what I can predict this semester will be filled with lots of reading for my Humanities seminar, and who knows what the Environmental Sciences class will be like. I also will start work on my Senior Project. Lots of thoughts swirling around about that. The one I’m most interested in doing has a lot of contingencies around it. It’s an exciting prospect, but too early to write about.

Hope all has been well in your parts of the world.

School’s out for summer

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I wrapped up my last class of the semester this week. It was an intense semester, with nary a break in workload. Essentially, I was doing a full-time class load on a part-time basis. So, one would think that when the end finally came last Tuesday, that there would be sense of elation in being free from the heavy workload, or at least a flush of pride for my accomplishment. But, no. Instead, I immediately felt my spirit start to slip downward. While I posted “woo hoo” on Facebook to acknowledge the end of the semester from hell, I felt more like “wah, huh?”

An old classmate from Burbank responded to my “woo hoo” status with a faux yearbook comment, including the mandatory (or at least in our day) “have a bitchin’ summer.”  Those words released a flood of memories of what the last day of school used to be like: it was only a half day, with no expectation of any kind of serious work to be accomplished; the giddiness of the prospect of three months where every night was like a weekend night wherein we could stay up late and sleep in the next morning; and usually, that first night of the summer felt particularly celebratory, including the mandatory blasting of this little ditty:

It’s different as an adult. Being out of school just means a temporary let-up of the pressure of the unrelenting due dates. With less distractions from school, I can give more energy to work. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

I need to stop this before I once again land in my dark place. I just wanted to touch base, say “hi” to y’all. I’m hoping that I’ll have the inclination to blog before Summer semester starts at the end of the month. After this semester, I done run out of words with all the writing I had to do for class – maybe about 60 pages total?  So, it makes perfect sense that right now what I’m most excited about is the Oakland Internet Cat Video Festival where no words, or much thought is needed to enjoy such simple pleasures as surprised kittens.

The lack of adventures of a middle-aged coed

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As I wrote a few months ago, I’ve gone back to school to finish my senior year of college, and to finally lay claim to those letters that I gave up on 30 years ago. And I don’t regret that decision. Not at all. I just wish someone had told me how much freakin’ work it entails!

I was quite excited about being in the classroom again. Firing up some old neurons that hadn’t been sparked in decades was something I was looking forward to. Perhaps even meet some new interesting people with whom I would spend my leisure time chatting with at a cafe or lounging on the quad discussing some obscure philosophical treatise. Ah yes, college life.

But somewhere in this fantasy, I forgot about having to complete actual homework assignments; papers, projects, and presentations.  Oh right. So, most of my non-school evening nights and weekends are now dedicated to homework. I do allow myself one evening of guilt-free TV viewing. Which, course, is not to say that I only watch TV one night a week. I just watch it and feel guilty about it.

The old, bad habits that got me in trouble the first time around are once again rearing their ugly head. I am a major procrastinator. But, at least this time the procrastination gives me a jolt of adrenalin and I finish the assignment just in time. Before, I would procrastinate until I would be awash in panic which would then turn into hopelessness and I would just give up. I’m not giving up anymore. And apparently whatever I’m doing is working because I’ve been getting A’s on all my assignments.

One thing is different this time around, though. I’ve found I’ve developed this streak of perfectionism. Or maybe I’ve had it all along, I just gave up before since I knew I couldn’t achieve it. Now, I’ve developed this delusion that I can actually achieve it. I polish my papers until the prose glistens. We’re required to use at least five citations on our research paper? I use 15. I question my art history professor’s qualifications because she gave me 100 on a paper when later I found a misplaced comma. I really only deserved a 98 for that mistake alone.

Hopefully, next semester, I’ll calm the fuck down. I doubt with my class load I’ll have time for my neurotic shenanigans. My Humanities seminar (non-Western civilizations) requires us to read a book a week, and in my Critical Inquiry class I will be producing two to three 15 page research papers.

Why yes, yes I am crazy. But I’m kinda loving it.