February 24, 2011

Happy Thursday

In the world-weary words of everyone’s favorite homosexual Disney villain; “Life’s not fair, isn’t it?” (Scar, by the way folks.  Scar.  The Lion King.  Yea, I know, figuring he was gay was a mind-blowing event for me, too).

I very frequently describe my workload as an ocean.  It is vast, uncountable, uncontainable, and the best I can ever hope to do is tread water within it.  At a certain point in the semester, this treading water becomes strategic drowning.  Where can I take a break?  How long can I hold my breath?  Where do I really need to break the surface, how much is that going to take out of me, and in the long run will the effort to do so equal the greatest rate of return?

Generally, this feeling begins right around midterms time.  If I’m lucky, I can keep it at bay until I begin research for my finals.

Well I’m two weeks out from midterm number one and already I’m gasping for air.  I blame the common reading exam.  You see, usually when my work is done for the week I have a few hours with which to relax with the knowledge that I have nothing to do (unless I want to be an over-achiever and start on next week’s reading).  With the exam, however, all that time is diverted into (gasp) more reading.  It never ends.  As soon as I think I’ve caught a break, another wave comes by and shoves me right back under the water.

So I’m tired.  And stressed.  And my brain feels like oatmeal (maybe with little chunks of bananas because there are still a few bits that haven’t liquefied yet).  I’ve started getting the stress-headaches and all the wonderful things that erupt from them (tired eyes… migraines with aura are AWESOME let me tell you), my traps feel like someone stuck a fist in them and clenched and has refused to let go, and of course there is the ever-lurking threat of becoming sick yet again.

With that in mind, I’m having trouble being coherent this week.  Here’s a list of random stuff that has crossed my desk recently.

1)    I’m reading Northanger Abbey for aforementioned Best Professor Ever’s Gothic class.  I love this book.  I LOVE this book.  Have I mentioned how much I love this book?  I wrote a paper about it for my Austen class last semester which then became my PhD writing sample and I’m hoping to whip it into publication shape as soon as I have a moment to breathe.  I have to say despite everything reading this book feels like coming home again.  Shhhh.  Don’t tell Will I said that, he may be jealous.

2)    I’m giving a talk Saturday at the inaugural Rutgers Newark MA Consortium.  I haven’t looked at the paper I’m giving in months.  I haven’t looked at the notes on the paper I’m giving in months.  Luckily, I have a presentation written up I just have to brush the dust off of it and remember my Nietzsche.  Easier said than done I think.  Hey, by the way, come to the Rutgers Newark MA Consortium on Saturday!

3)    In a month, I will be past the roughest spot of this semester.  I’m torn on whether this is an awesome thing or a horrible one.  According to www.thegradcafe.com, Columbia’s decision letters usually come out the first week in March (or at least they do for my program).  My first midterm is due 3/9 (I will be begging an extension though so that I have Spring Break to work on it).  Spring break is 3/12-3/20.  MA exam is 3/21 and 3/22.  After that, I’m not gonna say it’s all smooth sailing, but at least I can ignore the extra reading that keeps weighing me down like a big regency dress on a chick who was forced to walk the pirate plank into some exotic gulf in Bermuda. 

4)    I am not where I want to be with my short story that I’m writing for my writing group.  I have a draft.  I want to have several drafts.  Pens down on this story is in three days.  Several drafts is so not going to happen.

5)    First stack of grading came to me yesterday.  I both adore and loathe the first stack of grading.  I am always eager to jump back in with my red pen in hand and learn them undergrads good.  On the other hand, putting a grade on the first assignment innately limits the potential of the students.  Before that first grade, they are all A students.  As soon as I mark this paper, lines are drawn as to the quality of the class and the work which should be expected from them.  This point of view may grant me, the grader, a little too much agency in what is really a problem precipitated by them, the students, but I can’t help but see things this way.  I want them to do well.  I don’t want anyone to do poorly; there’s no reason for them to do poorly.  The assignments aren’t mind-bending hard, we have resources for students who aren’t stellar writers to get help, and it’s not like they didn’t have warning about the workload for the course.  With proper time management skills and resource utilization, there is absolutely no reason why these students should do poorly in the class.  And still, I can nearly guarantee, at least a third of these papers will exhibit piss-poor quality (possibly poor enough to fail).  Sigh.

6)    I would very much like a massage, an honest-to-god day off, a good-looking man to come feed me chocolate-covered strawberries, and a pony.  Is that so much to ask?

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