Monday, October 29, 2007


Last night was the first night since moving here that I've had trouble sleeping because of anxiety.
Considering it's almost November and the semester is more than half over, I think that's actually pretty good.
And really, the anxiety wasn't even that horrible. After tossing and turning for about twenty minutes, I finally told myself, "Either quit worrying and go to sleep, or get up and go back to work." And sleep won out. I did have a really odd dream about College Ex, but at least I fell asleep (in the dream I went to visit him at work and he was working as a cook in a burrito restaurant, which I think will be highly amusing to anyone that knows him in real life and would probably piss him off royally if he knew that's how my subconscious has reworked him).

Once I get this freakin' midterm out of the way I think I'll be in good--or at least manageable--shape stress-wise for the rest of the semester. But it's THIRTY PAGES LONG and all I have really done so far is organize all of my notes into helpful categories, so it's still feeling pretty overwhelming right now, to say the least.

Can you believe there are still seven full weeks until winter break?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hellacious, Yet Cold

The next two weeks are going to be extremely busy. Ridiculously busy. You know how every semester there are a couple of weeks that turn into Hell Weeks? Well, the next two weeks are my hell weeks.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. At the beginning of the semester when I was picking when I wanted to do certain projects, I tried to spread everything out as much as possible. But then one of my major projects got moved up, and my midterm for my Wednesday night class got pushed back by two weeks since we missed two classes, and now suddenly between now and November 8th (two weeks from now) I have to do the following:
1. Prepare and give a lecture in both giant intro classes (The classes I teach each week are two discussion groups that break off from these big lecture classes, and each of the six TAs has to give a guest lecture to the big class at some point during the semester, and it's my turn on Wednesday). I'm not very excited about this, partially because it involves speaking in front of 300+ people and I wouldn't say that lecturing to a big group is exactly my forte (classes of 20 to 30 people don't even make me break a sweat; classes where you have to wear a microphone to be heard are sort of a different story), partially because I don't really want to have to lecture in front of all the other TAs (I know they'll be nothing but supportive, but still), and partially because I don't know the subject matter very well at all so I'll be speaking authoritatively about a topic I'm basically going to make up tomorrow (I picked this lecture date initially thinking the subject matter was going to be about something else entirely. It was a stupid misunderstanding, but now I'm stuck with the date and the unfamiliar topic so, yeah...)
2. Research and write two fairly long papers for my Intro to Doctoral Studies class, one of which involves coming up with THREE possible dissertation topics and discussing them in detail (Three?! Have I mentioned I'm having a hard time coming up with even one that seems feasible?!)
3. A stupid group project for my Teaching class
4. An in-depth draft of a proposal for my Thursday class
5. Write my take-home midterm for my Wednesday class, which is set up as a practice comprehensive exam and involves two complex essays that each need to be 12 to 15 pages long
6. Grade 60 papers that my students turned in on Wednesday.
Those are the major projects. On top of that, life goes on as usual so I have to do all the reading I normally have to do for classes each week (which during an "easy" week has been averaging about 300 pages but can be as much as 500 or 600 pages) and write the two short papers I have to write every week (responses to readings, which are actually quite helpful for later reference but a pain in the ass at the time).
Oh, and I'm going to New York next weekend, which means all of this gets compressed even more because there's no way I'm going to get anything done on Friday or Saturday, and probably not much on Sunday night, either. I know that a more logical person would probably cancel the New York trip since it's entirely optional, but I really, really, really want to go, so I'm not going to skip it. It's my birthday, I have to do SOMETHING fun! So I'm determined to get almost all of this stuff done over the course of the next week and then go to New York as planned, even if it means I don't really sleep much at all between now and then.
I may be deluding myself somewhat, but I think I can handle it.

I was actually feeling really overwhelmed thinking about all of this yesterday, but then I called my mom just to chat and she mentioned that my grandpa went into the hospital for some routine medical tests (he has a small blockage in his aorta that they monitor regularly) and the aorta is fine, but they found a mass in his lung. He went in this morning to have it biopsied. The procedure went fine, but now we have to wait a week or so to find out if it's malignant or benign. Obviously I'm hoping against hope that it's nothing serious, but he was a smoker for 55 years before he quit cold turkey ten years ago (he started smoking when he was 10!) and so I'm bracing myself for bad news while trying to think as positively as possible at the same time.
So yeah. I don't really know what else to say about that. I'm really close to my grandma and grandpa. We have so much fun together, they're smart and funny and incredibly generous and I know logically that eventually they won't be here with me anymore, but I'm just not ready to think about that yet. Needless to say, my workload suddenly doesn't seem like anything worth bitching about when I think about how worried Grandpa probably is right now.

On a brighter note, my stress was lightened today by a little bit of retail therapy. I was talking to my mom and grandma on the phone earlier and grandma mentioned that she wanted to buy me a coat for my birthday since she knows that I'm not really equipped to handle my first truly cold winter. She said that she'd seen a nice coat in the Bloomingdale's catalog and that she could get it for 20% off if she bought it today, so did I want to look at it to see if I was interested? Not being an idiot, I said, "Sure!"
So now, in about five days or so, this is going to be delivered to my apartment! I ordered it in black. I'm in love with it already. It's such a classic style that I'll be able to wear it forever*, and it's cashmere** so it's going to be super warm. I know I'll regret saying this later, but if I get to wear that coat all winter, maybe it won't be miserable!

*The fact that I think I'll be able to wear this forever helps to justify the price, which is making my grad student brain go "Damn, that's more than an entire paycheck for a coat!" But it's a present, and my grandma is the one that suggested it and I know that as generous as my grandparents are, they also only offer to do things when they really want to do them so I think that this time around I'm just going to be grateful that my grandma is so freakin' awesome and move on.
*Confession: I have a cashmere addiction. Obviously, I cannot afford cashmere on my budget, so I'm lucky that I have a grandmother that has fed my addiction with offerings from the Bloomingdale's catalog pretty much every Christmas. Of course, I suppose I could technically blame her for starting the addiction in the first place, but whatever. I've always had way too many fluffy sweaters for someone that lived in the south where each sweater pretty much only got worn once a year, so I'm excited to live in a place where a cashmere outerwear addiction is no longer utterly ridiculous.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I'm wasting time tonight. By "tonight" I sort of mean "every night," actually, but I'm writing this because tonight's particular time waster was taking five of those "Select Your Candidate" quizzes on the internet.
I've never considered myself particularly interested in politics. Or rather, I am interested in politics, I just don't feel like I'm ever capable of intelligently discussing politics because it's all so HUGE. I can't possibly research enough to learn all of the facets to every issue, or even enough facets to feel that I can make intelligent decisions. I glean what I can from NPR* whenever I'm in the car and I listen to CSPAN radio when I'm getting ready in the morning (but only because it's the only station that my clock radio picks up semi-clearly so it comes on when my alarm goes off, and actually, it sort of makes me angry every morning; you wouldn't BELIEVE the bigoted idiots that call into CSPAN every day). That's about all I have time to do. Obviously, I don't feel like that's enough to take a real stand on any issue other than the few that I am personally invested in and therefore can argue about for emotional reasons. But really, that just makes me another one of those bigoted CSPAN people, ranting away about my beliefs, MY BELIEFS!
I feel the same way about the stock market and investing, actually. I'm very interested in it in theory (and in practice, actually, since I do have my small fund) but I just feel like I can't even begin to comprehend all of the ins and outs and the issues and the lingo and everything else I need to know to make truly intelligent decisions about it. So for now I still let my grandmother make decisions for me and for the most part we just leave the money alone anyway and I guess I hope that before I reach a time when I need to sell my stock, I'll have somehow (through osmosis, maybe?) figured out what the hell I'm doing.
I'm not condoning giving up on something just because it seems too big and overwhelming. But with so much else going on, even when I'm truly interested in something and it's something important, there are just so many hours in the day, you know?
Which leads me back to the fact that I took four of those Select Your Candidate quizzes tonight. I realize that those are mostly just crap and any intelligent person wouldn't actually vote the way Select-A-Candidate told them to, but I still thought I'd see who the quizzes think I should be supporting.
The results?
Two matched me with Giuliani, one matched me with Clinton, one matched me with Edwards, and one matched me with Huckabee. Which I guess just means that the quizzes are even more confused than I am. [Although I did say, "Are you kidding me?" when I got matched with Huckabee. Considering the fact that I strongly support gay marriage, abortion rights, and stem cell research, and that few things turn me off faster than a candidate explaining that all of his decisions are based on his faith, I'm pretty sure that Huckabee is actually a match for the Anti-Me. The only thing I saw on his campaign page that seemed okay to me is that he's a big supporter of funding for the arts, but that wasn't even a question on the stupid quiz. I didn't really look at his stance on tax and budget stuff, so maybe that has something to do with it? Whatever.]
Maybe it skews the results that I'm so liberal socially but pretty conservative fiscally? I mean, obviously there's no such thing as an ideal candidate for me and there never will be, but that just seems like a very wide range to me.
Oh well. I need to quit screwing around and go finish a book.

*Do you think the gene that makes a person want to be a professor is the same gene that makes a person want to listen to NPR? My grandma used to listen to public radio when I was growing up and I always thought it was incredibly boring. But then in the town I lived in while I was getting my MA, most radio stations didn't come in very clearly when I was driving around and NPR was one of the few that did, so I started listening to it a lot. And now that I live within range of two big city's radio stations, I still pretty much only listen to NPR because I like it now. Apparently I skipped turning into my mother and jumped straight to turning into my grandmother. One of the main reasons I listen to it is that I find it soothing for some reason. Plenty of people mock me for listening to public radio. I even mock myself for doing it. It's just so...pretentious, I guess. But I can't tell you how many times a week a prof or another Ph.D. student starts a sentence with, "I heard on NPR..." I just think it's funny.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Green-Eyed Monster

I don't bitch about being single a lot. And mostly, it's because I don't think about it all that much. There's a hierarchy to the things that occupy my mind, and lately it goes something like:
1. My own coursework (With a further hiearchy that goes something like "What do I absolutely have to do before tomorrow?" followed by "What do I have to do before the end of the week?" On a regular basis, I can't think any further ahead than that without getting overwhelmed)
2. My teaching
3. The basics of keeping my little household running ("What am I going to eat for dinner?" "What do I need to add to the grocery list?" "When do I need to order new
ear wash for the dog?" "Crap, rent is already due again!")
4. Long-term projects (Thoughts on potential dissertation topics, keeping track of calls for papers, beginning the oh-so-fun process of networking)
Scattered in amongst all these other things are the other basics: trying to keep up as much as possible with what my friends and family in other parts of the country are up to, trying to find time to socialize with my friends here, trying to just do things for myself, etc.

There's really not a lot of time to analyze my life because I'm too busy just getting through it. And most of the time this is a good thing. I'm happy with the choice that put me here and most days, even though I'm really busy, I wake up excited (or at least content) and I go to bed satisfied (or at least not feeling like a failure or a clod or something).

But the past week has been a bit much. I found out a few days ago that one of my good friends from college got engaged. I haven't talked to her much in the past year or so, but she sent out an e-mail telling everyone the big news, and I was excited for her. She's the sort of person that I figured would get engaged pretty quickly once she found a good guy (um, partially because she's one of those no-sex-until-marriage people). So when I got her news I was like, "Oh, good for her," and I went on with my life.
Until today, when I found out via Facebook that one of my best grad school friends just got engaged. Again, I'm really happy for her. She has been dating her boyfriend for a long time, and when I met her at this time last year she was already talking about how she knew they would be getting married. She actually spent quite a bit of time wondering aloud when she would get the ring, so I'm glad she's finally engaged.
But as happy as I am for her--for both of them--there's a part of me that can't help but think, "Seriously? Two of my friends can manage to get engaged in the same week and I can't even MEET a remotely interesting guy, much less go on a date with one?!" Like I said, it's just a bit much.
I don't have many single friends anymore. In fact, of the people I am closest to in my life, the only ones that are not currently in relationships are my brother (to my knowledge, anyway), Kiki, and my friend Jen. Every single one of my new friends here is either married or in a serious, long-term relationship. The only reason I don't constantly feel like a third wheel at social events is that a couple of the girls are in long-distance relationships so they're effectively alone, too, although not in the same way. My sister is in a long-term relationship. I apparently now have three friends that are engaged. I can think of at least three other friends off the top of my head that will likely make engagement announcements before the end of the school year (every time Maddi calls me, I expect her to tell me that she is engaged; she and her boyfriend have looked at rings and everything).
I know it's terrible, but there's a tiny part of me that is selfishly grateful that Kiki's brief foray into the dating pool last weekend didn't work out. I want her to have a good, long-lasting relationship. I really, really do. God knows she deserves that, and I shouldn't be selfish. Even though it didn't work out for me, I have at least experienced a healthy, long-lasting relationship (not to mention a long-lasting but perhaps not as healthy relationship) and she really hasn't. It's her turn and I know it. But there's a little part of me that hopes that maybe when it's her turn, it will be my turn again, too.* Because on the very rare occasions that I get truly down about being single, the best way to pull myself out of the funk is to remind myself that Kiki and Jen are amazing and they haven't gotten lucky yet, either.

I have to be pragmatic here. I realize that the average American woman gets married at 25. I realize that this means that it's perfectly reasonable that I'm reaching a stage in my life where I have more friends that are married/almost-married than friends that are single.
I realize that I have made many choices in life that have led me to this point where I'm in my mid-twenties and absolutely nowhere near marriage. I realize that I was scarily close to being one of those girls that gets married at 20, and even when I bitch about being single right now, I fundamentally know that I made the right choice when I opted out of the relationship that would have had me married with children by the age of 22. Even if that was the only chance at marriage that this lifetime is going to give me.
I'm even practical enough to realize that I could very well be moping about nothing. After all, I just said the average woman gets married at 25 (and that number gets higher all the time), which means that while half of women my age are married, the other half are not. So perhaps I'm just hanging out with the wrong people. Ha. Considering that 90% of people in this country eventually get married, and considering that I'm a friendly person without any weird socialization issues or emotional problems, and considering that even at my most critical I still consider myself a fairly attractive person, I think the odds are pretty good that I will eventually meet someone I like who likes me back. Most people would probably tell me that my moping and moaning is extremely premature, and most of the time I'm sensible enough to agree.

Also, when Kiki and I were talking on the phone after her dating debacle the other night and she was kind of depressed, I said, "Well, really, what's the worst case scenario?" and she pulled a Miranda and said, "I'll be sad and lonely for the rest of my life and when I die my face will be eaten by my cat before anyone knows I'm dead." But what I was trying to point out is that the worst possible scenario is that we'll spend the rest of our lives "alone". And what's so terribly bad about that?
I'm really not kidding when I say that I would be okay spending the rest of my life on my own. I'm self-sufficient, I'm great at entertaining myself, I have a lot of things in my life that fulfill me. Really, if the worst thing that ever happens in my life is that I never get married, I'm going to consider myself pretty damn lucky.

But seriously, I think two engagement announcements in one week is enough for a while. In fact, I'm going to say that that officially fills my Engaged Friends Quota for 2007, so if you're one of my girlfriends who has been ring shopping, you'd better tell your guy to save the actual proposal until January.

*On the flip side, as much as I would like to find my way into a relationship, I don't really want it to happen for me and not for Kiki. That would kind of suck.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I Hate Titles

I've been feeling kind of run down for the past couple of days. Yesterday I felt fine when I woke up, but then at about 3:00 in the afternoon while I was picking my dog up from the groomers I suddenly got so tired that it took total concentration to get myself home without falling asleep. It was bizarre. One minute I felt fine, and then the next minute I felt completely fatigued. Luckily the groomers is only about five minutes from my house, so as soon I got home I took some ibuprofen because I was feeling achy, and then I collapsed on the couch with the dog and napped for about an hour and a half. I felt fine after my nap. I had enough energy to clean my house and even go out in City B last night.
But then today the exact same thing happened. I woke up this morning feeling fine, but then at about 4:30 in the afternoon I was suddenly hit with the same body aches and exhaustion I felt yesterday, and I once again had to curl up on the couch and sleep for a couple of hours. And now here I am at 10:00 at night feeling fine again. I don't feel like doing anything productive, mind you, but I don't feel tired anymore, I just feel normal for 10:00 on a Saturday night.
Now that I'm thinking about it, the same thing happened to me a week ago Tuesday. I suddenly felt exhausted and achy and went to bed much earlier than I usually do, and I woke up in the morning feeling fine and I felt fine all the way up until yesterday.
So what's wrong with me? It's kind of difficult to describe the achiness, because it's definitely not normal sore muscle pain. The closest thing I can liken it to is the deep sort of in-my-bones ache that I feel when I have the flu, except that I have no other symptoms at all whatsoever. No headache, fever, stuffy nose, ear ache, anything. I'm not worried about it, exactly. Not yet. But isn't that kind of weird?

Other than the weirdness, I'm once again having a good weekend. Last night I went out in City B with my cousin and her husband. It was a good night, although it had some very awkward moments. One of Rae's coworkers had invited her to go out with him and his friends, and Rae figured I might want to go out with them since they're single guys and only about a year younger than me. I don't meet many guys lately, so I said sure, we could go out with them. But it ended up being very weird. We walked over to the guys' house because he had sent Rae some text messages that implied that they had a bunch of people over and were having a little party. But what actually happened was we got to their house and there were only three guys there just sitting on the couch and watchind DVRed TV shows. So then I ended up feeling really awkward, like we'd interrupted their night at home, even though the one guy had invited us over. They just weren't very good at carrying on conversation, either, although both Rae and I tried really hard to get them talking (Rae's husband wasn't much help since he's kind of quiet himself). We kind of just sat there on the couch watching Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Office for a while [actually, that was the only good part; believe it or not I'd never seen an episode of the American version of The Office before, and it was entertaining even though I didn't really know what was going on]. Eventually they decided it was time to go out, so we followed them down the street to a nearby nightlife area. The bar they wanted to go to had a line out the front door, and somehow we lost the guys in the crowd before we managed to make it into the bar. Frankly, I wasn't at all upset that we lost them. I'm sure they're nice guys, they're just boring as hell and I've never been one to try to make boring interesting.
Once we got to the bar it was kind of weird, too. The bar itself was pretty good. I liked the music, anyway. But I realized last night that apparently my gaydar is somewhat defective on the east coast. Back in my homestate, I prided myself on my ability to tell immediately whether or not a guy was gay, straight, or gay without knowing it yet. But here? I am having a hell of a time figuring it out. In this bar, for example, there were a ton of really pretty boys hanging out in groups. And I don't know if this is a new trend, but have you seen a lot of guys lately in like, John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever shirts? Or maybe Ricky Martin would be a good example. Sort of shiny, tight shirt with deep v-necks? I first noticed a group of guys wearing shirts like this when I was bartending in my hometown this summer, but I just guessed they were probably not from the U.S. and I figured it was a fluke. But now I'm thinking maybe this is some horrifying new trend, because I've seen a ton of guys wearing shirts like every time I've been out in City B. Oh, and these shirts are often accentuated with gold necklaces of some sort (chains, crosses, etc.) I am NOT a fan of the look, at all. In fact, I can guarantee right now that I'm never going to date Shiny V-Neck Gold Chain Guy. Normally it wouldn't be a problem, though, because in the past I would have assumed that guys in shiny v-neck shirts with tons of product in their hair were gay or maybe wannabe mobsters, so not likely to flirt with a girl like me either way. But suddenly, these guys are half the men in the bar and they ARE flirting with me. And I like a certain amount of metrosexuality, don't get me wrong, but there's a difference between metrosexual and so-close-to-homosexual-that-I-can't-figure-out-why-the-hell-you're-flirting-with-me. So yeah. Lots of too-pretty faces, nobody even remotely interesting. C'est la vie.

Today was so much fun. I took my dog to a party at a local retirement home for senior hound dogs. Yes, you read that right. This woman adopts old dogs that nobody else will take, and she lets them live out their lives with love and dignity. It's a pretty amazing place, actually, especially when you consider the fact that she's currently caring for 19(!!!) dogs pretty much all by herself. The home is a charity, so she's able to do some fundraising and accept donations, but for the most part she just takes care of them with her own money and resources because she decided that that's how she wants to spend her retirement years and she lives way out in the country and has a big house that provides the perfect place to do it.

I was going to post some pictures of the party, but apparently the photo upload feature is down on Blogger right now. But check the pictures out on my Photobucket, I guarantee you'll get a kick out of it, especially if you've never seen a big pack of dogs running around together before.

I was going to talk about a few other things, but I have a lot of grading to do so I should try to be productive before I'm hit with another weird fatigue spell.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

No Class Again

Remember last week when I didn't have class because my professor was out sick? Well, it turns out things weren't quite that simple.
I'm not sure what's fact and what's just rumor, but things have gotten pretty crazy around the department for the past week. It all goes back to the beginning of the semester (actually, I'm sure it goes back further than that, but since I've only been here since the beginning of the semester, I only know what has gone on in the past two months). At the beginning of the semester, I knew that one of the students in the department was having some conflicts with this prof. This prof was supposed to be her thesis advisor, but they were having tons of issues. Since I only heard the student's side, it sounds to me like the biggest problem was that the professor was going weeks at a time without giving any feedback on the thesis and then suddenly bombarding the student with a request for tons and tons of rewrites [I know that this, at least, is true. I saw one of my friend's chapters and you couldn't even see her typing for all the pen marks and questions all over it.] And then the student was doing the rewrites, turning them in, once again having to wait weeks and weeks (months, even) for more feedback, and then getting feedback that completely contradicted the advice from several weeks before. So the biggest problem wasn't that the professor was asking for a lot of rewrites [the student could actually be a somewhat poor writer, I don't really know] but that s/he was contradicting hir own advice and taking FOREVER to get chapters back to the student.
And I know, I know, this is par for the course. Everyone bitches about their advisor and how long it takes to get chapters back, everyone bitches about having to do rewrites to please one committee member only to have those very same rewrites torn to shreds by another committee member or the same one several months later. It happens. But this was all just too much, and the student was starting to freak out that her thesis would never get finished. So she went and got the department chair involved and the whole problem was finally beginning to resolve itself. Last Tuesday, the professor resigned as the advisor, and the student got a new committee chair, and yay, one less drama in the department!
But then Wednesday we got that e-mail from the prof saying "I'm sick, class is cancelled." It didn't even dawn on me that s/he might have been lying about that. I just figured s/he was really sick. Other people were rumor-mongering about how s/he probably wasn't really sick but just didn't want to come to campus because of all the drama with the thesis situation having just gone down, but I thought that was ridiculous. Why would that situation have affected any of hir other classes? Especially since the student in question isn't even in my Wednesday class.
But it turns out there's obviously a lot more going on that I wasn't even aware of. That afternoon, my friend Emily was in her office talking about the e-mail when the department chair happened to be walking by outside. She said he stuck his head in, said "[Prof's Name] isn't having class tonight?" and Emily said, "No, s/he sent an e-mail saying s/he's sick," and the chair said, "Oh really. Let me see that e-mail..." and then he read it and disappeared without saying anything else.
Because gossip spreads faster than wildfire around here, by the next evening we all knew that the professor resigned not only from the problematic thesis, s/he had also resigned from two other students' committees. And one of the ABDs is apparently a star student, so no one can think of a legitimate reason why her dissertation would be dropped. We also heard that all of the prof's teaching evaluations for the past five years or so were being rounded up for study.
More rumors, more gossip, and on Monday morning I heard from my boss that the professor is not coming back this semester, no one is supposed to contact hir [hir for him/her his/her is ridiculous, but it works], and that someone else will be covering hir classes for the rest of the semester, and could one of us in the Wednesday class please give a syllabus to the secretaries so they could start shopping the class around to see who could cover it.
And then everything got even more ridiculous. The main rumor this week has been that because this prof has tenure, s/he can't really be fired so s/he's going to sue the department, the department will have to counter-sue if they really want hir gone, and we're all going to lose our fellowships and assistantships because the money is going to have to go towards legal bills. I'm choosing to ignore this doozy of a rumor completely because
a) Surely there is some sort of fund within the university for situations like this one, so any money the university needs for legal battles doesn't come out of the scholarship pool.
And b) ever since I got here there has been a new rumor every week about how we're all going to lose our funding. The state budget really is in bad shape right now, and our department is being hit pretty hard because of it. So yes, there's a very real risk that there won't be money for all of us next year. Does that make me happy? No. It pisses me off, and I'd be even more pissed if budget cuts in my subject area weren't a constant worry all the time. Liberal arts don't get the same treatment as sciences, unfortunately, so it will be a constant battle for the rest of my life to prove that what I do is important enough to society to deserve funding. But all I can do is do my job well and hope that if they do end up cutting assistantships, they'll cut other people's before they cut mine. Straight Mate and I were talking about it the other day, and he said, "You know, I can either not worry about it and then be depressed when I lose my funding, or I can be worried about it and worried about it and worried about it and then lose my funding anyway. I pick the former." That's how I feel about the situation, too. Which is funny, because I'm usually such a worrier. This is not something I'm choosing to worry about right now, though. At any rate, I certainly don't think that this whole professor drama will be what causes any of us to lose our funding.
Anyway, that brings us to yesterday (Tuesday), when we got an e-mail from the professor saying, "Class is on for tomorrow, be ready to discuss such-and-such." I was surprised to get the e-mail, especially since my boss had just said the day before that someone new was going to be taking over the course. Nicole and I were talking about it, and she thought it was just the prof covering hir ass for legal reasons and that class woudldn't actually happen. I thought that was just wishful thinking on Nicole's part, even though I wasn't looking forward to class because I was sure it would be awkward.
But it turns out Nicole was right. I came home after teaching my classes this morning and I was worn out so I opted to take a forty minute power nap after lunch. At 3:00 my alarm went off and I moaned and groaned but drug myself away from my snuggling pets. I got on the computer immediately because I wanted to print some notes for class, and I decided to check my e-mail on the off-chance that maybe class had been cancelled just because I really, really didn't feel like putting my clothes back on and getting in the car and then thinking for three hours.
And what should I find but an e-mail from the chair with only one sentence "[Course Number] will not meet tonight."
Wow! Once again, I'm kind of grateful that I get another week's reprieve from doing any work for that class. I'm especially grateful because we were supposed to get our take-home midterms today and I'm happy to put that off as long as possible. But now I really don't know what to think. How bizarre to get an e-mail from the prof and then another e-mail from the chair contradicting it. Apparently there really is a feud of some kind going on.
Between this and the stuff that went down in our Teaching [My Subject] class earlier this semester, I have unwittingly picked the most drama-filled semester ever to enter this university.
With that said, I don't hate it. I don't even dislike it. In fact, as long as the events continue to not effect me in a terribly direct way, it's actually kind of exciting. I think it's one of the reasons I'm making friends so quickly, actually, because we all know nothing forges bonds quicker than something juicy to gossip about.

Here's what is going to piss me off, though:
-If the person that ends up taking over the class decides we still have to do every bit of reading on the syllabus, even though we'll have been in limbo for two weeks and therefore lost that much reading time
-If nobody picks up the class and we all have to drop it and not earn credit for this semester. I can't imagine why that would happen, but that would SUCK.
-If the person that covers the class can't actually teach the material effectively. Because here's the thing. This professor has a reputation in the department for being difficult to get along with (s/he clashes with both colleagues and students), for being a mental case, for being unfair, etc. But the little interaction I've had with hir has been fine, and if anyone ever asks my opinion, I can say truthfully that I thought s/he was doing a good job of presenting the material and that I was enjoying the class and learning a lot. I'm sure there are some major problems with hir, but I hadn't seen them yet. So I'm going to be bummed if the person that takes over leaves me feeling like I haven't mastered the material. I am going to have to know this material for comps eventually, after all. And yes, I know that studying for comps is my responsibility and if I screw up it's nobody's fault but my own. But the entire reason I'm taking this class is that I thought it would be good comp prep!

For right now, though, it's kind of nice to once again be able to waste a Wednesday night.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Overall, the culture shock of moving east hasn't been as intense as I thought it would be. I know, I know, it's not like I moved to India or something like that. I just moved a couple thousand miles within the same country. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn't that big of a deal. But I still figured there would be things that would be different and take some getting used to.
And even though I think I've adapted to life up here really quickly, there are definitely some differences. A brief list, then, of things that have made me go, "Hmmm, that's different," over the past couple of months
-The traffic. Sweet Jesus, the traffic. I swear I'm not some sort of backwoods hick, I have spent my life driving in cities with at least half a million residents. It's not like I came up here from a one-light town. But for the first two weeks that I lived here, I was convinced that I was going to get in a wreck every single time I pulled out of my parking lot. Frankly, I still think everyone here drives like a maniac, but I'm getting better at being a more aggressive driver and I actually know where I'm going half the time now, so that helps a lot.
-I don't know how to phrase this, exactly...I guess I'll just say that the racial make-up of my new community is very different than any other place I have ever lived. And at first, I was very attuned to this, not because it's bad in any way but just because it was different for me. It's kind of like when I was living in England and couldn't stop my brain from fixating on accents, to the point that sometimes I wasn't even comprehending what people were actually saying so much as just listening to their voices. But it's amazing how easily your mind adapts to create a new "normal," because I no longer find myself paying attention to the ethnicity of every person I see.
-Safety. I don't feel unsafe here at all. I hope that I'm not being lulled into a false sense of security, but I do feel safe here. Which just goes to show that you shouldn't believe 90% of what you read on the internet, because most sources would have you believe I'm living in like, the biggest hotbed of crime in the nation. Yes, we get more crime alerts from the campus police on a weekly basis than I got in the entire four years at my undergrad institution, but even knowing that I still don't feel unsafe here. With that said, things ARE different for me in this regard. I realize that I'm taking precautions here that I never have in the past. I purposely check my gas gauge each time I get in the car now to make sure that I'm not going to run out of gas and be stuck filling up after dark. I take the stereo out of my car every time I park it now, I never leave any sort of bag in my car anymore (I was very cavalier about this before), I lock the doors when I'm in the car in case someone decides they want to carjack me. I research neighborhoods as much as possible before deciding I want to go somewhere at night. I call for an escort if I'm leaving the building after dark. In short, I'm a bit more safety-conscious now, but I'm not paranoid. I'm of the opinion that yes, you need to use common sense, but if bad things are gonna happen to me, they're going to happen regardless what I do. I worry about a lot of things, but there are also some things that just aren't worth worrying about, you know?
-Seasons! So far, this has brought me nothing but happiness. Being able to actually wear a sweatshirt in October makes me incredibly happy. I'm not sure how I'll feel about winter, but in theory I'm excited about it. Kind of. I'll get back to you on that one in February.
-The fact that I could take easy weekend roadtrips to so many different states is blowing my mind. You can't do that in the southwest!*
-Personalized license plates. This is a really bizarre phenomenon that I've witnessed here in University Land. Back in Homestate, I came across a personalized license plate once in a while, but it was rare. Here, I see several every single day. I'm not sure why this would be. Either it's much cheaper to get personalized license plates here than it is to get them in Homestate, or it has something to do with a culture up here that leads people to care a lot about their cars. At any rate, I see personalized plates constantly. Today I discovered a new one here in my apartment complex: CRZYNLV. I'm assuming that means "Crazy in Love," which is pretty much the stupidest license plate ever. I hate to be bitter, but I'm pretty sure that "Crazy in Love," and "Real Love" are two different things, and my bet is that a couple of months after getting the license plate, CRZYNLV wasn't so crazy in love anymore. Unless maybe the license plate is supposed to imply that s/he is CRZYNLV with the car, and I don't even know what to say about that.

Anyway, I could think of other things to put on this list I'm sure, but that's enough. I should be reading anyway.

*Speaking of roadtrips, my birthday is in a few weeks and I have pretty much decided that I want to spend it in New York City. I'm turning 25 and that feels pretty huge to me, so I feel like I need to do something at least a little special. My aunt (who lives about 45 minutes from there) has agreed to watch my dog for the weekend, and Kiki said I can stay with her so I think this will actually happen. I have no real plans for what I want to do there, but I think forcing myself to take a weekend off for a trip will be good for me. I think I should be able to keep up with my workload even if I take a couple of days off, and I'm feeling a little of that mid-semester fatigue so a break might bump me out of it. We'll see!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Waiting for Motivation

Does the fact that Full House is on Nick at Nite now make anyone else feel terribly old? Remember back in the day when it was part of the TGIF line up? I was going to add "Remember when you were young enough not to think it sucked horribly?" except that I think even as an eight year old there was a part of me that realized that Full House sucked horribly.

I'm having a weird night tonight because I keep thinking it's Sunday. It's nice every time I remember, "Oh yeah, I still have all day tomorrow to finish this, too," but it's throwing me off. I think that having Wednesday evening off was sort of a bad thing, because I've been having a hard time inspiring myself to do school work ever since then.
I'm getting other stuff done. I've worked out every day, I did a big grocery store run today and stocked up for the rest of the month, I cleaned the apartment, I went to an event I had to attend because I have to teach my students about it next week. But I haven't done any school work other than grading my students' tests from last week. And while that needed to get done this weekend, it took up all of the energy that I felt like devoting to schoolwork tonight and I still haven't done any of my own work or reading. So I guess I know what I'll be doing all day long (and probably all night long) tomorrow.

I had a good weekend, though. On Thursday I went to the event I had to go to, an event that was hosted by my department. The event was enjoyable, and then afterwards as I was walking upstairs to get my stuff from my office a friend of mine called me from down the hall and said, "Come down here to my office! We're having a party!"
It turns out that all of the grad students who had worked on this particular event were throwing themselves a big party (mostly because all of the planning for the event is over) and even though I did nothing for this event at all whatsoever, Nicole and my friend Emily and I were all invited over to the party anyway because we happened to be standing in the hallway. It was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time, and I'm glad things worked out that way because it was so much fun.
The guys had toilet-papered their office to make it look festive (don't ask) and had all of the lights off except the desk lamps so there was mood lighting, and there was an entire desk with food and then another desk covered with at least a dozen bottles of liquor and a bucket of punch. At first I was like, "Wow, we're drinking here? In the building?" but apparently the faculty doesn't really care, considering that a few of them stopped by at various points in the evening. Which makes me like this school even more, because I don't think that would have flown on either of my previous campuses. At least, not all in the open like that with Justin Timberlake blaring and dance-offs happening in the middle of the hallway and a giant bucket in the middle of the table that said RESPECT THE VODKA. Anyway, I ended up staying there until almost midnight. And I decided that I need to spend more time with the kids in the other corridor, because clearly their grad wing is much more exciting than the PhD wing. Not that the PhDs aren't cool, too, but so far my officemates haven't thrown any keggers.
Last night some of the girls and I watched movies and ate pizza and drank at Nicole's place, which was also fun but in a different way.
It was a good night to huddle up on the couch with pizza and beer, because it's finally starting to get really chilly. Luckily I have my toasty little hound dog and my favorite wool socks from Alaska (they have crabs on them!) so I'm good to go.

I guess I should try to at least do some reading, huh?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I Should Be In Class Right Now

But I'm not in class right now! Because my professor has the stomach flu and cancelled this evening's class! I always feel kind of bad about being gleeful when a prof has a personal problem that ends up working out better for me. I mean, I'm not exactly happy that my prof is home throwing up, but am I happy that I have two and a half extra hours to waste tonight? You'd better believe it! Especially since I have hundreds of pages to read for class tomorrow and I haven't really started yet. And I have sixty tests to grade this week, so I can really use the extra time tonight.
Usually I like to believe in karma and the power of thought. However, as a potential future professor, I'm kind of hoping that the power of thought is actually NOT that powerful, because can you imagine how many students go to bed every night hoping that their professor will have some trauma the next day and class will magically be cancelled? Probably a lot.

Speaking of professing, I have a confession to make: I definitely have favorite students. I have a feeling that this is true of all teachers, no matter how much they try to hide it. And I do try to hide it, of course, or at least I am very conscious of it so that it doesn't affect my grading (hopefully). But I'm also going to admit that yes, I have favorites.
The interesting thing to me, though, is that my favoritism actually has nothing to do with the students' grades or abilities. This surprised me, since as a student I always assumed that teachers prefered their "A" students. I'm finding that--for myself, at least--that's not necessarily the case. Oh, sure, I like the students who willingly participate in discussion without having to be prompted, and I like the students who show a good amount of dedication and enthusiasm and who turn in neat, high-quality work. Who wouldn't like those kinds of students? In general, I prefer these students to the ones that stroll in ten minutes late, turn in crumpled, half-finished assignments (if they turn in anything at all), and constantly send me e-mails that begin with, "Sorry I wasn't in class on Monday but..." and then expect me to help them because apparently life is Out to Get Them and I should be sympathetic.
But in general, the students I like the best surprise me.
My favorite kid in one class is a devoutly religious guy who rides a motorcycle and is always the first to point out when I might be wrong about something. But it doesn't feel like he's out to get me, he is just honestly concerned that he's seeing the full picture from every possible angle, and I love that. My favorite kid in the other class is an Asian guy who always wears a suit (maybe he's graduating soon and has been going on a lot of job interviews?) and majors in a subject that is the complete opposite of the one I teach, which means that he is often baffled by what I would consider the most basic things and yet he has a great sense of humor and is making an "A" because he works really hard.
I also like the shy girl who never speaks in class but is clearly interested and turns in great work, two frat-tastic guys that sit together in both discussion and lecture and appear to be inseparable, the guy who slept through his alarm and missed the first test and has now figured out exactly how many extra credit points he needs to earn to still get a "B", the girl who always smiles encouragingly when I'm lecturing and seems to need similar reassurance that she's doing okay each week, the guy from a foreign country who will only call me "Professor LastName" even though I've told him half a dozen times that he can call me by my first name, and the list goes on. In most cases, these are not my best students. But for whatever reason, they are the ones that stood out to me, the ones whose names I learned first, and the ones that I feel most invested in. When I grade their papers, I'm excited for them when they do well and I'm bummed for them when they miss an easy question or forget something that I know they understood last week. I care about all of my students' success, to a certain extent (maybe too much, to be honest), but these are the students that make me realize that if I wasn't very conscious of it, it would be all too easy to give the 2 or 3 point benefit of the doubt.
Fair grading and fair treatment is very important to me, and this job has definitely taught me that fair grading practices are not as cut-and-dry as I feel like they should be, and I wonder in retrospect how many of my professors and teachers saw the gray area that obviously exists in grading and just let themselves dally in it instead of acknowledging that no, everyone really must be treated the same whether you like them or not.
I have a feeling that as the years go by, this issue will always be there for me. And I wish more people were willing to talk about it, because I know that I'm not the only one playing favorites in my head and having to make sure I don't do it on paper or in the classroom.

What else should I tell you about while I'm wasting time?
Did you know that yesterday was my two-month anniversary? I've been living here for two months now. Which is weird, because I feel like I have already been living here for years. And it's not like I normally feel, where I simultaneously feel like I have been living somewhere for years but was just moving in yesterday. No. I feel like I have been living here for YEARS. Oh, except when I have to look up directions to the post office on Google maps. Then I remember that I more or less just moved here. But generally, I feel completely comfortable and like everything that his happening right now has always been my routine. Which is bizarre. But good, I think.

I have been watching Dancing With the Stars this season (my mom talked me into it because apparently she needs yet another cheesy reality TV gameshow to watch because American Idol and The Bachelor are not enough for one year) and I don't get it. Why does the results show have to last an hour? Why do we have to watch Seal and Billy Ray Cyrus perform? What happens once there are only a few couples left? Is the show still an hour long each day? What sorts of crazy segments do they start putting on to fill time as the season progresses? I realize that this show has already existed for years so most people already know the answers to these questions, but I find the whole show baffling. And yet I'm still watching it. It could be weirder, though. One time I was at Maddi's house and her mom was watching a Mexican version of Dancing With the Stars (actually, maybe there weren't any C-list celebrities, it was kind of hard for me to figure out what exactly was going on) and on that version, couples dance against each other and whoever wins gets a fancy wedding as a prize. I think. My Spanish is pretty rusty right now. That seemed to be the point, anyway. And Maddi's mom told me the show is on for like, three or four hours at a time. Awesome.

Know what else is awesome? My dog's Halloween costumes came in the mail today! Yes, I dress my dog up for Halloween. He also wears Christmas sweaters when it gets cold and he has a shirt and visor featuring my new university's mascot and he has a bandana collection and shut up, he likes outfits, okay?! I found two really goofy costumes but couldn't decide which one to get, so I ordered both figuring that he can wear one this year and the other one next year. So he's either going to be Dogzilla or a lobster, depending on what the weather is like. The Dogzilla costume is really cute, but he also has to put all four of his legs into it and it wraps him up completely so I think he'd pass out if it was even remotely warm outside. But he'd make a hilarious lobster, too, so we'll see what the weather is like on the day of his costume party. Yes, we're going to a dog Halloween party with his "girlfriend." And yes, he has a girlfriend. Or at leat a friend who is a girl. Here's a really cute picture of them drinking water together at the dog park on Sunday. I figure this is the dog version of a milkshake with two straws:

On that note, I'm out of here. I have to walk that fool dog before it gets dark.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

State of my Single Union

[So there's another long entry below this one, too. Two extra long entries, just for you! Which means if I don't get back here for a week or so, you'll be okay, right?]

I'm working on a project for one of my classes that involves reviewing how-to books on writing a dissertation. I'm finding that a lot of these books are rather depressing. They're all about how hard it is, and how time consuming, and how half the people that start never finish and how that's okay, and several of them have entire chapters on how to dig yourself out of "dissertation depression."

Does this scare me? A little, I suppose. But not as much as you might think. First of all, nothing in these books is coming as a total surprise to me. For the past year or so one of my hobbies has been reading blogs written by various people in the academic world. You know how it goes: find one, click a link, find another, click a link...before long I was up to half a dozen academics' blogs that I read regularly and at least another dozen that I check up on periodically. I don't usually comment, but I take in other people's journeys and so I realize from reading the stories of those that have gone before me that the entire Ph.D. process is hard, particulary the ABD part of it. And the job search is hard. And it's hard if you don't find a tenure track job. And if you do luck into a tenure track job, working against the tenure track clock is still hard. It's all really, really hard.

In other words, by the time I officially committed to a Ph.D. program back in April, I was as well aware as I could possibly be of what I was getting myself into. I know that there are going to be times when I absolutely hate this path I have chosen. I know that it's only going to get harder, especially four years from now when most of my friends will be well settled into their post-college careers, making real money and getting raises and establishing 401Ks while (if I'm lucky and haven't been thrown out of the program entirely or lost my funding yet) I'll still be plodding away on my dissertation and living on less than twenty grand a year. This whole thing is going to get much, much tougher before it gets easier.

But like I said, I knew that going into it. And in my heart of hearts, I believe I am here for the right reasons. I am here because I have a specific goal: I want to teach college students. I want to teach college students, and I can't do that to the best of my ability or in the way I imagine doing it until I have this degree. I have a goal. And I also think I have the tenacity to make it through the program. At this moment, anyway, I feel pretty confident that I will in fact stick this out and earn my Ph.D. And it's because I really want it, because I need it to do what I want to do, and not just because I have nothing better to do.

But sometimes I wonder...what if I DID have something better to do? What, at this point, would count as something better to do? I ask this because one of the books I read very clearly said that you will absolutely never finish the dissertation unless it is your first or second priority in life. And that's where I have an advantage, because not only is this program and my eventual dissertation the number one priority in my life right now, it's pretty much the only priority in my life right now.

Yes, okay, in theory my family takes precedence over school. If someone in my family got sick right now and needed me, I would do whatever I could to be there at home for as long as they needed me there. But on a practical day-to-day basis, my family of origin is not really much of a commitment. My immediate family lives thousands of miles away now, they're doing fine without me, and while I love them all and enjoy talking to them, a phone call once or twice a week is pretty much the only time my family takes away from my schoolwork. When the dissertation books talk about family commitments, they're not talking commitment to your family of origin, they're talking commitment to your husband/wife and children. And I don't have those relationships.
I'm going to go ahead and count my pets as family, too, although I'm not even going to try to pretend that that's any sort of serious drain on schoolwork time.
Other than family, nothing takes precedence over my school work. In theory I would like to believe my friends do, although in practice I am highly unlikely to skip an assignment or cut back on my writing time unless a friend is having a dire emergency or emotional breakdown. I'll always talk when a friend needs to talk, but the fact is that I don't particulary enjoy high-drama people so my friends are pretty low maintenance (thanks, guys!) and as much as I like to pretend I'm an easygoing girl, I'm actually highly unlikely to blow off schoolwork in favor or a social event. These days I can and do try to fit in one or two social events a week around my schoolwork (because I think it's good to stay well rounded) but I don't go out with friends if it means I'm not going to have time to finish an assignment.

I'm sort of beginning to lose my original train of thought here, but I guess what I'm wondering is if I'm really as devoted to the Ph.D. as I think I am, or if I would give all this up for the right reason. Oh, hell, let me be brutally honest with myself: the right guy.

I make no secret of the fact that when I started my MA program, it was mostly because I knew that I didn't want to teach high school for the rest of my life but I also didn't know what I wanted to do. I also make no secret of the fact that I never worried much about deciding what I wanted to do with my life when I was in high school or early college. I pretended to be deciding what I wanted to do, sure, because that's what everyone else was doing. But secretly, I wasn't too worried about it because I honestly thought by the time I was 24 I'd be married and just doing a job to kill time for a few years until I got pregnant. And then twelve years later when I was tired of being a stay-at-home mom, I'd finally worry about figuring out what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Yes, I was a feminist's nightmare. And now, I look at myself and go, "What the fuck were you thinking?" I was basically taking the only model I knew well (my own mother's life) and assuming that mine would probably take a similar track. I was making a lot of assumptions, the most major one being that my husband (at the time I thought it would be Phil, I guess) would earn enough money to allow me the leisure of making the decision to be a stay-at-home mom in the first place.

But then things changed. I fell in love with the academic lifestyle in college. I realized that teaching high school was more frustrating than rewarding and that I definitely wanted some other options as far as teaching goes. I realized that I was not, in fact, going to get engaged and married straight out of college. I realized, much to my surprise, that I didn't really want that after all.
In my MA program, I realized how much I really like theory and research. I realized that I'm good at it. Basically, I realized that I can earn a Ph.D. and once I realized that I realized that I really, really want it.

Now, the life I envision for myself is utterly different than what I was envisioning four years ago. I have learned a lot, and it has changed me in profound ways. Now I feel absolutely driven to get my terminal degree. I can see myself in a college classroom and presenting at conferences and sitting through faculty meetings much more clearly than I can see myself doing anything else. While I know I am suited to other jobs and if this doesn't work out I'll find something else I am passionate about eventually, nothing immediately comes to mind right now.
Yes, I still see myself parenting a child. I can see that almost as clearly as I can see myself in the classroom. Tell me I'm buying into the hegemonic ideals of our society if you want to, but the fact of the matter is I eventually want to be a mother as much as I want to be a doctor. Some women are positive that they never want children. Others waiver for years before finally making a decision one way or the other. I happen to fall into the camp where I have never once doubted that I am supposed to be someone's mother. I don't want it to happen right now, but someday, some way, I know that will happen for me. [All three camps are great, by the way. I feel like people are always surprised when I am so adamant about expressing that I want to be a mother someday. I don't know why, since I'm never surprised to hear a woman say that she absolutely will never have kids of her own. I think in a weird twist of culture that it's actually more subversive now for a young woman--at least a young woman in the sorts of circles I run in--to proudly proclaim that she wants children rather than proclaiming that she doesn't.]
But anyway, this is how my life has fundamentally changed over the past four years or so. Now, the idea of an academic career and the idea of motherhood are equally clear in my mind. Before, all I could imagine was the family and the baby/child/teenager. Now, I can clearly see my academic life, I can fuzzily see a future child, but I can't see a boyfriend or husband. At all.

And I don't know what this means. Part of me wonders how great my resolve actually is. After all, I have clearly changed my mind before. I say I can't see a boyfriend or a husband at all, but is it just because I haven't met the right person? If I were to meet a great guy tomorrow, would things suddenly begin to flip-flop again? If I suddenly had the option of doing something (someone, ha) other than the dissertation, would I do it?

Right now, I feel more satisfied with my single state than I have at any time since Phil ended everything with me a year and a half ago. Part of it is maybe just that my life is exciting right now because everything is still new and so busy. To be honest, I rarely have time to even think about being single.
Part of it is that I have come to terms with a ton of things about the whole Phil situation. I could type for hours about the things I have figured out, but the most important things are
a) I no longer feel any guilt about the break up. Not the first break up (when I supposedly left him for my College Ex) and not the second break up (when he left me for J). For a long time, I felt guilty for a lot of reasons. For not handling the first break up well in how it actually all played out. For screwing things up by not making it clear to Phil that I still loved him and fundamentally wanted to be with him even though I needed to sow my wild oats for a while (what a dumb expression). For being such an over-emotional wreck during the second break up. And mostly, I felt guilty because when I would get very down and lonely in the months just after Phil left me for J, Phil would always tell me that it was my own fault, that I was sad and doomed to a life of being alone because I had chosen my career over him. He would always say, "This is what you wanted. You are the one that wanted to go away to school," the implication being that if I had stayed in hometown, he and I would still be together and I wouldn't be sad and lonely and heartbroken.
And for a long time I worried that I had made the wrong choice. I thought that it was terribly stupid of me to choose a career over love. Who does that?! I'm much more of a brain than a heart person, but even I would never tell someone to choose a career over love.
But now I know better. Now I know that I did not, in fact, make a choice at all. My choice was to go away to school AND stay with the guy I loved. The choice I would have made, had it actually been my choice, would have been to take a year or so off from our committed relationship to do all the wild things you're supposed to do in college and start to establish my career, but then go back to Phil, positive that I was with the right guy for me. But Phil didn't let me make that choice. He made his own choices, choices that involved holding grudges against me and falling in love with someone else (okay, maybe that wasn't fully his choice, sometimes that just happens). I didn't make any choices, not really. I am sure Phil would disagree with me completely on that, but ultimately, it's how I feel. He made the choices. He always made the choices. I just went with the flow because I was unable to have the things I would have actually chosen for myself.
So now I no longer feel like a bad person. I am not a cold-hearted bitch who chose her career over love. I'm just a girl who tried to have it all with a guy who wouldn't let her do that. Which means that he isn't the right guy for me. Because the right guy for me would have taken me back when I was ready to get back together. He would have forgiven me for needing the reassurance that I was with the right person, and I would have been able to forgive him (as I did, actually) when he needed to do some experimenting of his own. In the end, our love wasn't unconditional. And that wasn't a CHOICE that either of us made, it was just a fact that we can't really control.
So I don't feel guilty anymore. I didn't realize how much guilt I was carrying around until I realized it was gone. It's liberating.
b) When I miss Phil, I'm not missing the person he is now. Oh, I still like the person he is now. We have been getting along well ever since we started talking again back in July. But on the rare occasion these days when I'm tired of being alone and I think I'm missing Phil, I'm actually missing a person that doesn't exist anymore.
Like I said, I still like the way he is now. But the guy he is now is not the person I was in love with. Nowadays I realize that I don't know Phil like I used to know him. He doesn't let me into his life all the way anymore. And that's okay, maybe it's even for the best. My point is, the person I miss when I'm missing someone is the Phil that doesn't exist anymore. Or maybe I'm missing a person I haven't even met yet.
Oddly enough, this is a liberating thing, too.

This does tie back into the whole dissertation thing, I promise. Because the other part of why I am satisfied with being single these days is that for the first time in my life I am truly grateful to be single.
I read the scary bits in the dissertation books about how dissertating can ruin your relationship, or vice versa, and I can't help but go, "Well, that's one hurdle I don't have to worry about!" And I never thought I would actually get to this point, but a lot of times these days I'm actually truly happy to be single because for once it's making my life easier, not harder.

But you know me. I always have to worry. And I worry that by the time I finally finish this whole dissertation business I'm just going to want to find someone to relax with for a while but I'm going to be 30 and it's going to be too late. Isn't that stupid? But that's what I worry about.
This whole process is already so solitary, and it's only going to get worse. I don't know how I would even meet a guy these days, to be honest. All of my friends here are already coupled up, so there's not the old fallback of going out with a group of single girls and flirting with single guys at the bars. Nobody can do that with me. And I'm definitely not going to date someone from the department (even if I were attracted to someone in the department, that seems dangerous). So unless I have one of those serendipitous "meet cute" moments, I don't know how I'd end up dating someone in the first place.
And then there's that. I honestly don't feel like I have time for the early stages of a relationship. The early stages of a good relationship can be fun, but it's exhausting. That giddy feeling of infatuation is wonderful, but I seriously don't have time for the beginning of a relationship, the part where you're wanting to go out with each other four times a week and have marathon sex until eight in the morning. Just thinking about trying to do that plus everything I'm already doing right now stresses me out. Pathetic, but true. When I think back to college, I very fondly remember the all-nighters (of the sexual variety) but I also remember that my body felt completely physically wrecked most of the time. I remember that heavy-lidded, headachy, completely worn down feeling. The only thing that kept me going was the stupid infatuated hormones, I guess, and those hormones convinced me that I was giddily happy. And I suppose I was. But now I feel both content and really healthy, and I have no real desire to mess with that.
So if I did somehow manage to stumble into a relationship, I'd want to stumble into the second year of it. The part where I can sit on the couch with my computer and he can lie on the couch with the remote and we can grunt at each other once in a while and then we can go to bed and probably fool around for a bit but then sleep 6 to 8 hours like normal people before getting up for work. And we're not trying to impress each other at all so we only go out once or twice a week but mostly we just sit at home in our workout clothes. That's the sort of relationship I would want to be in.
But I don't think you can fully skip the early stage, can you?

So yes. I suppose I am a bit still conflicted about all of this. I'm not saying that all of these convictions wouldn't fly right out the window if I met a fascinating guy tomorrow. I really don't know what would happen. I have no idea.

But primarily I'm feeling happy these days. I'm in a really good place. And if this is all it is for a long time, just me and the hound dog chillin' on the couch on a Friday night while I procrastinate instead of finishing my book review, well, I am actually okay with that.

Two Posts in One!

Did I mention here that I got a new computer? Well, I did! It was actually delivered last weekend, and so far after a week of using it I'm really liking it. I ended up just getting another Dell. I kicked around the idea of getting a Mac for a long time, I really did. But in the end, it seemed that everyone's opinions on Mac vs. PC were pretty equally divided. That, and I've been a PC user for over 10 years now and as much as everyone keeps telling me that Macs are more intuitive, apparently I'm too left-brained for Macs (and too addicted to the ability to right-click) because when I would play around on other people's Macs I wasn't finding them intuitive at all. You all know that I get extremely set in my ways and routines, and since I'm already trying to figure out so many new things, I decided this wasn't the time to try to start figuring out a new computer system. Plus all of my peripheral hardware is already compatible with PCs and might not have been with Macs, and my office computer at school is a Dell so why make things more complicated than necessary? And do you know what I really liked most about Macs? The built-in camera and the nifty design, which probably isn't reason enough to switch brands. But then I saw that for a little bit of extra money I could get a cute little colorful Dell laptop (mine is cherry red!) and personalize it to have pretty much whatever the heck I want, so Dell it was. Is. The computer was a gift from my parents for finishing my MA, so I'm excited to have a nice new computer that I didn't have to pay for myself, and I'm happy that my old Dell is still working just fine. I'm hoping to keep it working as a backup system in case this one ever has issues.

Moving on to Part II, let me finally fill you in on what was going on in my Tuesday afternoon class with Crazy Girl since the issue has finally been resolved. The whole thing escalated for several weeks, beginning with the first day of class.
On the first day of class, this girl walked in, sat down, looked around the circle at the other eight of us in the class (keep in mind throughout that this is a small, discussion-based class) and said, "Why am I always the only one?" So Dr. Hyper (Dr. H. for short...I don't think I've nicknamed this prof yet) said, "The only what?" and she replied, "Oh, nothing, I'm just thinking out loud." The thing is, the obvious conclusion that I jumped to was that she was the only African American student in the class, but she could have been thinking something else, like "Why am I the only non-major in this classroom?" (although frankly even though she was the only person not majoring in my subject, she wouldn't have been able to tell that right off the bat). The rest of that particular class was fairly uneventful, other than the fact that Crazy Girl muttered to herself several times and each time she was asked to clarify, she responded with some variation of, "I'm just thinking out loud."
The second week of class, it became quite clear that she did, in fact, have a pretty major chip on her shoulder when it came to race (or, as Kiki put it when I told her this story, "That's not a chip, that's a whole plate of nachos!"). I'm wary of treading into this topic, so keep in mind as you're reading this that
a) Yes, I am a WASP who feels some amount of..."guilt" is not quite the right word, but something akin to that...for being born white and by most of the world's standards relatively wealthy.
b) I was raised in a place where as an Anglo I was very much in the minority. I do think this gives me a different perspective than an Anglo raised in, say, Idaho (Idaho is pretty white, right?), but I don't pretend that this means I truly understand what it's like to be part of a racial/cultural minority group in this country.
c) I realize that race is still a touchy/problematic issue and anyone that tries to pretend it's not an issue at all has his head pretty far up his ass.
d) I am not trying to discount this girl's feelings, despite how the rest of this entry may come across. I am trying to be as sensitive as possible.
With all of that said, let me continue. The second day of class, several things happened. First of all, this girl arrived fifteen minutes late (to an hour-long class) and then had the audacity to state a few minutes later, "I just want to make sure I'm getting the most out of my time in this class." She interrupted the class countless times. She interrupted other students when they were talking to make her own comments. She mumbled to herself and once again made many more commments about, "Sorry, these are just thoughts in my head," [so keep them in your freakin' head!]. She kept dragging the class terribly off topic. The most awkward thing she did was snap at the professor--for no reason at all whatsoever--"Well, do you REALLY want to hear my opinion? Because most of the time professors ask for opinions but then don't actually care about what the student thinks." I wish I could express her tone in writing, because it doesn't look like much here, but the way she said it in class made the rest of us all kind of suck our breath in and look at each other like, "Whoa, why is she attacking Dr. Hyper?!" Actually, wait, that wasn't the most awkward thing she did. The most awkward thing she did was state, "Well, I'm going to do my project on [Topic Related to Africa], but it's not because of who I am. I could do my project on [Dead White Guy] or [England], or ANYTHING. I didn't choose my topic just because I'm Black."
Needless to say, the rest of us in the class didn't even respond because we were all caught off guard. I know I for one was thinking, "First of all, who even remotely implied that you can only talk about certain things because of your race? Of course you can talk about anything you want. Nobody said otherwise! Nobody in this room even THOUGHT otherwise! And second of all, we're not even supposed to be talking about our projects right now!!"
So Dr. H. broke the awkward silence that followed that statement and talked about how of course nobody thinks that she can only write about certain topics because of her race and race/gender/sexual orientation shouldn't prevent anyone from researching whatever they want, in fact. Dr. H. is currently doing a lot of Hindu studies but she's not Hindu or even religious at all, blah, blah, blah. Basically, Dr. H. deflected the weirdness, but not before Crazy Girl implied that Dr. H. was racist which, trust me, is not at all true.
The whole thing was way more awkward than it is appearing in this text box, and there are so many things that the rest of us thought about and talked about in the grad offices over the next week. Personally, my biggest issue with the whole situation was that Crazy Girl was making a huge issue out of a problem that only existed in her head. I should point out that first of all, this school is actually very diverse. And while this school is certainly not perfect, I also think she should check out some of the schools like the extremely white one where I did my undergrad (and probably the majority of smaller colleges in this country) and get some freakin' perspective. And second of all, the Tuesday afternoon class itself may not appear to be very diverse outwardly, but it includes a gay man, a lesbian, a Chilean citizen, a Jewish if you feel like playing that game, more than half of the class is part of a marginalized group, and if you consider the fact that the rest of us are women, with just a bit of a stretch you can say that we are ALL prosecuted people to a certain extent. So Crazy Girl really needed to chill.
Basically, it just drove me crazy that she walked in on the first day and automatically assumed that people were going to be judgmental. I tried to put myself in her shoes, I really did, but no matter how I look at it I just keep coming back to the fact that none of us are judgmental people and I was frustrated that she was projecting her own paranoia onto us. [As a side note, this is a character trait that some people have that just makes me crazy in general. It's one of the things that Phil and I were always most likely to fight about back when we were dating, actually. He had some insecurity about the fact that he stayed in our hometown to go to college while most of our circle of friends went away to shool, and because this was something that bothered him, we could never really talk about my college experience because so much of what I said got misconstrued in his mind as me judging him for not being able to have the same going-away experience that I did. Which was just in his head and not my feelings AT ALL. I was (and still am) proud of him for going to school, period, and as long as he was happy, I was happy for him. But he projected his feelings onto me, and it caused some pretty big fights over the years. I understand why such projection happens, and I try to be sympathetic, but that doesn't mean I like it. And that's just one example of many I have encountered. So yeah, I really hate when people play the victim and automatically assume that everyone else is judging them when in fact no one is.]
Anyway, Stacy started feeling like Crazy Girl was causing her grades on assignments to be negatively affected because Crazy Girl's pushing of her own agenda left Dr. H. with very little time to explain the assignments each week. Personally, I think this was a bit of a stretch on Stacy's part, but whatever. Stacy was upset, the rest of us felt uncomfortable around Crazy Girl because you never knew when she was going to lash out at you in class, and that brings us to last week.
Last week Anna had to bring her child to class. Now, I'm not saying that this should be condoned, but in this case it really was an unavoidable situation. Anna's officemate is supposed to watch the baby for an hour on Tuesdays and last Tuesday he didn't show up. Anna couldn't very well leave a toddler alone in her office, and the only other person in our office wing at the time was my officemate, Straight Mate, and to say that Straight Mate isn't exactly a kid person is the understatement of the year. So Anna came to class with her kiddo and explained the situation to Dr. H. and offered to miss class if Dr. H. didn't want the baby there. It's Dr. H's class, and she was well within her rights to say, "Sorry, Anna, but you're just going to have to miss class and suffer the consequences, your childcare issues aren't my problem." She could have said that, but instead she cheerfully said, "Bring him in!" She seriously didn't mind him being there at all.
But Crazy Girl threw a fit about the whole thing. She started with the passive aggressive under-the-breath-comments about how "Isn't this a lawsuit waiting to happen? What if he cracks his head on a desk, I have taught at many universities and we've never allowed a child in the classroom,etc." Finally Dr. H. said, "Actually, we're not breaking any school mandates by allowing him to be here, and yes, he could get injured here but he could also get injured at my house or Anna's or anywhere, so we're just going to continue with class." But the under-the-breath comments from Crazy continued, and she was being a real bitch. At one point she even said that the baby smelled bad. WHO DOES THAT?! (And for the record, he's a very clean kid, I carry him around all the time because I think he's awesome and he doesn't smell bad at all and even if he did he's a year old, for god's sake! He can't use a toilet!)
Eventually Anna left the room in tears. She was stressed enough to begin with. When there's still a fight to have total gender equality in academia, no woman wants her child to be seen as a problem or a burden. It's definitely not an early impression she wanted to be making. So she already felt horrible, and then Crazy Girl made it a million times worse with her comments. So Anna did in fact beg Straight Mate to watch the baby (when she went to get him after class, Straight Mate had covered him in Post-It notes that said "Money is my God") and she came back in time for Crazy Girl's ten minute tirade on education, full of comments so patently absurd that I'm not even going to attempt to write about them here.
Suffice it to say, it was one of the most uncomfortable hours of my life, and I wasn't even directly affected by her comments. After class Dr. H. stayed to talk to Crazy Girl, and apparently following the conversation Dr. H. came to her next class half an hour late looking visibly flustered and upset. None of us know what happened in their conversation, but it obviously wasn't anything positive.
And here's the kicker: she was dominating the class, making the rest of us feel uncomfortable, accusing the professor of things that you don't just throw around lightly, and she was just supposed to be AUDITING the class.
Anyway, I'm not sure exactly what happened last week, other than the fact that Anna, Stacy, Nicole and I wrote a letter (at Dr. H.'s request) explaining the situation to a person that handles student discipline and this Tuesday when we got to class and began setting up, Dr. H. said, "We only need nine desks," and Anna said, "No, don't we need ten? There are nine of us, plus you," and Dr. H. very pointedly said, "No, NINE. We'll only need nine from now on."
So she's gone!

The whole thing was really bizarre, but I suppose in a way it was a good learning experience for how to deal with a problem student. I'm definitely happy that she's gone, but I also have to admit that there's a part of me that will miss the drama. But only a very tiny part.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

This is a Test of the Emergency Broadcast System

On the first Wednesday of every month, my university tests its emergency alert systems. Mainly, this means that if you have signed up your e-mail and phone to get messaged alerts, at noon you get an e-mail and a text message saying, "This is a test of the emergency alert system." I'm signed up to get emergency alerts mostly because I'm hoping that with any luck we'll get at least one snow day this year, and there's nothing I hate more than having to get up early on a potential snow day just to check the internet to see if classes are in fact cancelled. Now I'll just get a text message if classes are cancelled and I never have to get out of bed on snow days at all! This is a nifty system, my friends.
The other part of the emergency alert system is a siren that blares across campus. It sounds like a tornado siren. Today was my second time hearing it, and it dawned on me as the siren went off when I was in the middle of taking role for one of my discussion sections that I have no idea what we're actually supposed to DO if the siren goes off for real. Does the siren mean that we should all leave our buildings and congregate somewhere on campus? Does it mean we stay where we are? Lock the doors? Duck under the desks? Run to a basement in case a tornado is coming? Find the nearest nuclear fallout shelter?
I have absolutely no idea. I asked my students and none of them seem to know either, although one of my favorite students helpfully suggested, "Panic!!"
So I ask you, what exactly is the point of a warning siren if nobody seems to have any clue what it is supposed to be warning us about? I guess if the siren ever goes off for real I'll just wait for an explanatory text message. Because I'm sure that in a real emergency, there will be plenty of time for composing and sending such text messages.

That's all I have for today, America's Next Top Model is on and I have once again procrastinated on my work for my Thursday night class but I really need to finish it tonight because Mari, Stacy and I are going on a taco truck hunt tomorrow afternoon. Sweet.