May 18, 2011

Pomp and Circumstance

Well folks, this is it.  The end of an era.  The closing of a chapter.  The valiant conclusion of our hero’s epic tale of love and loss as she battles the dragons of English literature (or at least book two of such).

As of yesterday, I have had officially conferred upon me the degree of Master of Arts and I have a pretty certificate to prove it.

“How do you feel?” seems to be the question on the minds of the people and, honestly, no different than I felt the other day.  The feeling of accomplishment was achieved when I submitted my last paper.  The elation of being finished really hit me when I saw that all of my grades were in.  The discovery of this rumored thing called “free time” occurred late last week.  I no longer wake up in the morning and run through a mental checklist of everything that I have to do to keep my head above water.  I can feel the stress begin to roll off my shoulders in waves of calm (well, you know, as much as can do so when I still have a move to plan and a veritable wall of things which I had put off doing until all of my coursework was in).  I have returned all of my library books.  I have sold back my unwanted textbooks.  I have purchased the requisite school hoodie to keep me warm in Boston.

As I tie up loose ends here, I keep having to fight the urge to mourn what I’m leaving behind.  As I addressed in a previous post, it’s not so much that I’m leaving anything, but rather that a golden time has passed.  My friends are moving on too, with no coursework to do here and no library access it’s not like my research would flourish, I think at the end of it I just have a tough time saying goodbye (and I’ve had the muppet song stuck in my head all morning.. trust me, it’s not helping misty-eyed matters).

The convocation was nice (though our graduation speaker was atrocious… note to the world at large: if you need someone to speak at a graduation, get someone from the humanities not the hard sciences… we want a touching and inspirational message not a lab report).  Post-convocation family dinner plus friends and their families was perfect.  I am still trying to figure out what to do with this egregiously expensive polyester cap and gown, but I’m a creative person and I’m sure I’ll think of something.

At dinner after graduation, my dad looked at me and said “Congratulations, Doctoral Candidate Rosvally!”.  It really hit me at that moment that it was time to don the new hat (over my MA cap, of course… you can’t really leave something so mind-altering as a theory-intensive program in your sock drawer).  I guess it was such a shock because I had been so relying upon the summer as a time during which I wouldn’t have to be in the process of becoming something.  This summer, I am something.  And that’s enough.  The Doctoral hat can wait on my bookshelf; I’m not quite ready for it.

In the meantime, I think I’m going to take a much-needed (and well-deserved) break.  I keep threatening to pretend that I’m illiterate.  We’ll see how long that lasts.

May 6, 2011

Anticipatory Nostalgia

Ho… ly… crap.  As the semester draws to a close and the number of days until graduation slips into the single digits (nine days… can you believe it?), I am (less frantically than I was a week ago) scrambling to finish the final coursework of my MA while simultaneously planning my great Northern Migration and looking forward to a summer of pretending to be illiterate (well… maybe at least a few days out of the week).

I have two papers which I am currently putting the final touches upon before they get gleefully patted on the bum and sent scampering along down the e-mail trail to their intended recipients.  After that, we are in the clear for a long-anticipated and much-deserved break before I dive back into this crazy mess that is my life as a scholar in September.

I haven’t really planned any sort of celebration (besides the obligatory post-graduation family dinner) to commemorate this achievement… but I’m sure that at some point someone will decide that it’s at least worth a trip to a good micro-brewery and drag me out accordingly (hint… hint…).

In wrapping things up, I’m not-so-slowly becoming nostalgic about everything that I will miss about my life here.  It’s not the place I’m going to miss per say (though there are some local spots that have their charm), but rather the moments in time which comprised my existence as a Master’s student.  I have before hinted at the importance of this program to me as an individual and a scholar, and that importance remains.  I really can’t think of a single (feasible) thing that would have made this great learning experience more positive, more fruitful, or more full of personal and professional growth.

So since I haven’t done one in a while (and since I’m running on empty for brilliant ideas right now), here’s a list of all the things that I know are going to be different upon my arrival in the new fishtank that is Tufts and thereby will miss about my old fishtank that is Rutgers.

1)    The feeling of comfortable ease which allows me to say whatever it is I want whenever it is I want.  There is something to be said for being a big fish in a small pond and being the type of student who is known by the faculty.  Having pre-established relationships with my professors and colleagues, I have never felt stifled from speaking out in a class, even if my point of view is completely unpopular, tangential, or downright wrong.  This feeling will return once I manage to find a certain comfort zone at Tufts, but for the first little bit of time there is always a difference when moving in to new territory.  I’m going to have to get the lay of the land before I make any critical mistakes, and that could take a while. 

2)    Getting away with whatever I want to in certain courses run by the Best Professor in the World/my Boss.  This overlaps thing one, but definitely deserves its own category.  Since a mutual respect has been developed between myself and said professor, I try not to push the limits on this one.  I am a model student when it comes to reading and deadlines, but class discussions make me spunky.  I really do try not to de-rail conversations too horribly much, but having the freedom to “peanut gallery” (yes, I just made up a verb) really adds to my classroom experience.  Thank you, Best Professor in the World (you know who you are) for putting up with my antics.  This will be missed.

3)    The Best Professor in the World.  Here is a man who mentored me through my program, gave me advice about sensitive professional topics when I was nervous, wrote me glowing recommendation letters whenever I needed them (at least, I think they were glowing…), bought me wine when I deserved it, and overall provided the sense of always having an academic big-wig batting for my team.  Of all the people who I’ve met in this land of Oz, I’m going to miss him the most… and part of me wishes that he could come to Boston with me (though since he just got tenure, I wouldn’t really wish the implications of that fate upon him).  Thank you, BPitW.  For everything and more!

4)    Our local dive bar.  There’s something to be said for having the popular watering hole within walking distance of both my apartment and classes.  There’s also something to be said for being able to say, at any given time, “come out with us for drinks!” and having everyone in the room know exactly where to meet you.  They do killer wings, they always have Blue Moon on tap, and our waitress loves us and consistently buys us free rounds and SoCo shots at the end of the night.  God bless her and bottoms up.  I can’t believe I’m going to have to find a new dive bar.

5)    My jobs.  All of them.  This includes my co-workers, my bosses, my students, and the administrative officials associated with said forms of gainful employment.  Not much to say about this other than god I hope I find something as good as what I’ve got here in the next port of call.

6)    My friends and colleagues who have made this experience a pleasure.  There are very few fields in which you may directly glean the quality of your relationship by the quality, consistency, and vehemence of the fights in which you partake together.  I’ve met some amazing people in the past few years, two of which in particular (and their attached significant others… so I guess that makes four) have added so very much to my existence.  We’re scattering to the winds this summer (literally.  I’m moving North, B’s moving South and L’s moving West) and I can’t help but marvel at the fact that our lives intersected at all.  I very much hope that, someday, we will be drinking at the MLA convention (after we have each spoken on our completely disparate panels) and recall fondly the days when we were just bright-eyed kids in Newark with two nickels, a dream, and access to the OED. 

7)    Living across the street from the library.  For reals.

8)    New York City.  It’s my home.  Even though I don’t exactly visit regularly, just seeing the skyline while I’m driving around doing errands is comforting.  It is nice to know that, if I want to, I can go see a play, or walk through Central Park, or do a run for Thai food at four in the morning.  When myself and aforementioned colleagues were talking about moving, we were all in agreement that NYC was what we would miss the most about Jersey (which is funny in and of its own right).  I’ve always known that my road would take me away from New York, but I’m a New Yorker and reserve the right to be anxious/sad about that.  Boston’s okay, but it sure ain’t New York.

9)    The relative proximity of mom-cooked meals.  Okay.  I live an hour away from my parents if the traffic is good.  I don’t visit them all that much, and when I do it’s usually waving from the car as I pick something up to whisk myself to my next destination.  But there’s something very very comforting about being close enough to get that special mom-food when you really really need it.  Come on, who doesn’t like mom-food!?  It’s the one thing you NEVER grow out of.  And the leftovers!  My god the leftovers!  Koogle and Matzoth Ball Soup and Brisket, oh my!

10) My local coffee / tea digs.  From the coffee shop with the muppets, to the coffee shop/art supply story, to the cafĂ© with the best half-cooked tollhouse cookie soufflĂ© ever invented, to the tea shop that has an array of pots and mugs from which you pick your own de la guarda style.  I collect awesome coffee shops.  I only hope that Boston delivers, because man this area is chock full of amazing grading/homework/paper-writing/class reading spots.  And everyone knows that a graduate student runs on caffeine and Derrida.