Wednesday, November 09, 2011

I have been scanning ephemera into efiles, and sharing them on facebook. I have a lot of cousins who are hungry for the photos and memorabilia. While looking to see what else I have that I'd already scanned in the past, pre-facebook, I discovered my old writing folder tucked away, several levels down from the desktop. I must have backed up the Iomega drive at some point! Oh happy day!

After I read the story I have copied below, it reminded me of something else from yesterday, also friend-related. I am handling the retirement party for someone at work that I have known since I was in the doctoral program, and yesterday it hit me that I need to get a card so colleagues can sign it. The clock is ticking! I went to the bookstore to buy one. There were only two choices for retirement. I laughed, shook my head, and chose the one with the most space for signatures.

I was thinking how I always fly by the seat of my pants -- get out of bed with five minutes to shower and get ready. But especially on such things as cards, gifts and gift wrap. No time or space to hit a Hallmark store. Bob is our designated gift wrapper, left to me I roll packages in crumpled funny sheets and use masking tape. I am capable of making pretty presents, but I almost never do. Reminds me too of Aunt Jean. She was always scribbling out the message on cards - changing Get Well to Happy Birthday. So when I ran across flying by the seat of my pants in this anecdote, I had to smile.

What's Missing from this Study? (1998)

This fall marks my thirty-first year of being a student.  The plan is to graduate after two more academic years and be done, having attained the ultimate terminal degree, the doctorate. 

It will not be too soon.  A good part of my identity has been defined by my student role.  It has fit, or I wouldn't have worn it so long.  It feels good to excel at something.  To have almost no peers, even among my student peers.  Feed that special trip.  It has always been this way, which is why high school wasn't any fun.  High school, where so much is defined by the social life, the cliques and clubs and teams.  That part doesn't matter so much any more.  Now it's great to be smart.

So why will it not be too soon to put aside the student role, since it fits like a glove?  The costume is too tight.  Two three hour sessions for two consecutive Saturdays writing to fulfill a requirement.  Answer eight questions out of sixteen. Spend an equal amount of time on each response.  Be sure to really answer the questions. Go.

Fifteen more three hour blocks, Monday nights from seven to ten, to prod along those (shift around nervously) dissertation proposals (pause for a moment of shared giggles and groans).  In a three hour block of time I could read a book or write a story or take a walk or stare into space.  Instead I must sit at yet another conference table and listen to one more meaningless comment. Yes, class, yes professor X, believe it or not there are stupid questions.  My special trip has made me feel superior, how awful.  Makes me long for RB's class, a sweet memory from my undergraduate days.  "Raise your hand if you are a freshman," he would say, immediately upon walking into the room on the first day of class.  (Looks around room.)  "I have signed drop forms on the table in the front.  You're out of the class."  (He's not joking.)

 Recently I read some publications from high school.  Been digging out every scrap of my old writing.  "Monday Blues" was our literary magazine. A greaser girl named Teresa wrote a story called "Where Did Freedom Go."  The premise of the essay was that it's unfair students couldn't go to the market across the street to get a soda, and they shouldn't have to go outside to smoke cigarettes.  I remember reading it at the time and thinking it was hilarious.  But Teresa didn't intend it as a humor story.  Now I feel as confined as she did.

But these are doctoral students, not teenage greasers.  Are there any former greasers in the group?  More likely jocks, maybe even the top magazine-selling booster club member.  Mostly they pass the class time by studying for the comprehensive exams, unabashed.  No RB here. I remember years ago my friend Stefan said that there are something like only twelve different facial types, and everyone has a twin.  Jeff from my class (does he have a topic?) is a triplet. (He's the grad student triplet.)  The other two are Paul from work (the accountant triplet) and Gene, a.k.a. the Corvair driving, gun toting, employed by and worshipper of the governor (the evil triplet). Jeff tells the class he has asked Professor D to be his dissertation chair (God help him) but hasn't gotten a commitment. Sitting in the back, a man I don't know asks trivial questions, things about font sizes and format.  But maybe that's actually insightful and not inane, since senior management would value such interests.

Laura and a man I don't know discuss how they didn't finish the management section and never planned to pass it. (And I thought I was flying by the seat of my pants.)  The woman next to me, a music teacher whose name I can't, but should, remember, sits frozen, on automatic pilot until the second half of the comps are over. But I know she always does her school work, so how bad can it be? No, I guess the questions weren't written as a musical score.

Debbie tells a story about parents pushing kids too much, especially in sports -- something alien to her, since she was always somewhere else smoking cigarettes when there was a high school football game.  So there is a former greaser among us!  The others, including the instructor, stare in disbelief. I find her story hilarious.  This time, it was intended to be.

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