Thursday, September 27, 2007
Next week is going to be hell, pure and simple. I have a 15 minute presentation in my Milton class on Debora Shuger's article "Gums glutinous heat." It has something to do with Puritanism and chastity in the masque, Comus. My professor promised me the article gets a bit kinky. I told him to bring it on.
I also have to prepare for my midterm in that class, due Oct. 8th. I'm scared, because I just haven't been pulling together all the reading so that it makes a statement I can write an essay about. Maybe a review of my notes will enlighten me.
I also have plays to read, critical articles to summarize, poems to read and write, and a meeting with the director of graduate studies to plan my schedule for next semester. Then, I have to fight with financial aid (I know it will be a fight) to get my promissory note signed so I'll get my loan money in a timely fashion and pay off my New York trip. (I'm going to New York over xmas break, by the way. 7 days, 7 plays, 3 hours of graduate credit. I can't wait!)
Grad school is wonderful; I really feel like I'm learning a lot. But it really is hazardous to my health. Wanna know how many hours of sleep I got last night? 4. Wanna know what I ate for dinner tonight? Mac and cheese I whipped up in the short break I have between my Renaissance class, which is over at 5 and my Poetry class, which starts at 6:30. I feel like I'll self-destruct in 30 seconds.
This weekend, I'm going to the farmer's market, whipping up some vegetarian dishes (from my new vegetarian cookbook!), and maybe going for a hike on Saturday with some English grad students. I'm definitely going to the Greek Fest (www.greekfesttn.com) tomorrow night with a bunch of my colleagues, and I plan to gorge myself on spinach pie, lamb, and baklava. Interestingly, one of the MAs is the priest at the Greek Orthodox Church in town, where the festival is being held.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
But, now I understand what he was going through, at least on a basic level. I've never been so busy or had so much responsibility in my life. All of a sudden, I'm responsible for not only taking but also teaching classes, paying bills on time, keeping house, cooking every night, and keeping on top of a near insurmountable amount of reading. Now, I'm not complaining about my life. I chose this path, and I'm doing just fine. I could probably study more, but I'm on top of things. I love having my own apartment, and I always pay my bills on time. I'm doing this adult thing pretty well for someone who is just starting out.
But the point I'm trying to make is this: My friendships have changed, and I think it's because I've changed. The people I loved more than anything just two months ago have stopped calling me. I assume they are out making the most of the freedom they have as undergraduates without much responsibility. I don't blame them. I think they should waste weekends drinking and dancing and spend late nights during the week going for long walks and having long talks with friends and lovers. God knows I did it, and were I there again, I'd still do it.
I don't blame them for not having time for me, because honestly, I don't have time for them. And that's something that hurts me to say. Because while my life has changed, my responsibilities have changed, they still mean a lot to me. But they no longer hold such a big place in my heart, and I don't know if that makes me a bad friend or just a person whose priorities have broadened. I want them to call me, but I don't know what to say to them. We have different lives now, and we'll grow apart. I don't like growing apart, but I know it happens.
Coincidentally, I've reconnected with Dustin and other friends who are in similar situations as me now. Anne's in her first semester of law school, and we email back and forth to give each other support. Robin, my best friend from high school, has come back into my life in a more active role because she's experiencing her first semester of graduate school in full force, just like me. I've found myself longing to talk to these shadows from my past because we can offer each other so much now. We're all struggling and learning and growing up simultaneously. It helps to have a support system.
I've made plans to go to Oxford, MS, over fall break to see Robin. She's stressed about graduate school, and I think taking a day to talk over lunch and forget about research projects and daunting exams will be helpful for both of us. Plus, I miss her.
What I struggle with now is deciding with what intensity I miss my old life. I long for my undergrad freedom and friends from time to time, but as I explore this avenue of life, my longing for who I was grows less intense. I need to be an adult, and I think I'm doing it right. But I still feel guilty for not longing for those I've recently left behind as much as I think I should. I still love them, and I'm learning now how to love without longing.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
I'm a reader for Grist, the UT national literary journal, and let me tell you, I'm not sure I know how to read poetry. I think some of the stuff we've gotten is just awful, but when I read the bios of the authors and realize they have MFAs and extensive publishing credentials, I worry that maybe their work is brilliant and I'm just not nuanced reader.
But then maybe it's just not that good. I'm going to talk to the poetry editor about it. She is wonderful, and she'll give me some advice on what kinds of things to look for.
I had a great career-affirming moment the other day. I was leaving my evening poetry workshop and encountered a student from my 101 class. Or, rather, he encountered me. He was walking on the other side of the street and yelled out "hey, I finished my paper!" (The students' first papers were due yesterday). I smiled and told him I looked forward to reading it, and he kept on talking about how he was shocked he got it done so early the night before and it wasn't as bad as he thought it would be. Maybe he was just brown nosing, but I like to think my mentor and I have really taught him something about writing and viewing the texts of the world (we've been teaching rhetorical analysis). If I can have moments like every now and again, I can handle a lifetime of this teaching thing.
In other news, I wrote a lyric poem about homoerotic lust in a Laundromat. I'll post it here so you can read it, Laura. I'm actually happy with the poem. It's the first one I've turned in all semester that I think has the intended effect of knocking down the reader's expectations by the end. Of course, with revision it will be better.
I'm about to run to the grocery and dollar stores, then back home for an afternoon of cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. My apartment looks like the aftermath of a wind storm in a library--books and papers strewn about everywhere. And then, I also have to do laundry.
*Side note: There are two chores I hate more than any others: shaving and laundry. I'm considering sporting a long, ragged beard and perpetually dirty clothes. End note.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
While I recognize how fortunate I am to be in the hub of such specialized scholarly activity, I can't shake the fact that I hate reading this stuff. What's giving me trouble right now are the great essayists from the Age of Reason, Francis Bacon, Sir Thomas Brown, Michel de Montaigne. I toil over these blasted writings, reading and re-reading them, then reading scholarly criticisms on the works, then sometimes (unfortunately) resorting to Sparknotes for some help on getting an idea about what argument they are making. I just don't get the language, or even the reason. When we talked about Bacon in class, none of the murk was cleared up for me. I still don't get why he uses lots of aphorisms and speaks so authoritatively (and often contradictorily) about Unity of Religion, Studying, or Marriage and Single Life.
Maybe I can solace myself with this: education, at least to some degree, has to be a labor of love. One has to love what she is studying to really learn. So, though I hate the 15th century, perhaps later in the semester I'll find something I really love and want to read and become engaged with and write critically about. But I do hope that after this semester, I never have to go back to the Early Modern Period ever again.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Knoxville is feeling more like home to me, and I'm grateful for it. I miss my UCA friends, but I'm glad that I'm making friends and creating a life for myself here. I think I can do this grad school thing. Hell, I even made a B+ on my first grad school assignment. That's not too bad, right?
I hope everyone had a wonderful Saturday!
P.S.--I'm seeing Rilo Kiley in Asheville, NC in two weeks!!
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
So, Josh, and anyone else, your comments, criticisms, and suggestions are gratefully welcomed.
And I ask you, Walt Whitman,
though I call not from a Supermarket in
but from an Apartment in
Where is my self-defining lyric, my song of self?
Over past the nature trails and river bends
Shirtless young men ride skinny pink bicycles
with whizzing tires and clinking chains.
They have music each moment they journey.
Can you locate my tune?
You promised me, Walt,
That you’d be my poet when no one else would come near,
Because of my deeds and my dances, delights, loose.
I’m here, and I’m low, be my dearest friend.
Your song will be more to me than any of the rest.
Post Script: What I'm trying to do is weave in some images from Ginsberg at the beginning (though I'm not sure how I like that) and by the end, images from "Native Moments," one of my favorite Whitman poems. I'm not sure the third stanza grooves with the first two, and I'm not sure of this poem's lyric quality, but I like the Whitman influence, and I would much like to keep him in my poem, but I'm excited to hear ideas to make him less commandeering of my work.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
I'm growing out my facial hair (and it looks yucky, just like it did a year ago when I grew it out) in an attempt to make myself feel older, and thus be tricked into thinking I'm grown up enough for this graduate school thing. It's so reddish, though, not dark brown like my hair. It makes me think of peach fuzz, and I might have to break down and dye it. But I have a bad history with hair dye, and I'd rather not take that route if I can avoid it.
I think I'm going to break down and read a few chapters of _Song of Solomon_ tonight. Though it's not assigned reading, the novel is on the Master's Reading List (and I love Toni Morrison), so I think I can convince myself it's okay to take a reading jaunt in another century (GOD, how I miss the 20th Century!). After all, it's not really pleasure reading, right?
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Now, I'm not complaining that my mother feels like she can talk to me. I want her to be able to, and I like being able to talk to her about most things (I still avoid discussing my sex life and religious beliefs with her). However, I feel like our roles have been reversed too soon for my comfort. I'm 22. I still need to go to her for advice about life, but instead she's coming to me, not necessarily for advice, but to vent. She hates her coworkers. She is planning to leave my step father (she has been for 10 years and still hasn't managed to). She thinks she would have been happier had she never divorced my father. It's kind of weird to hear my mom say these things. They show that she's a human being who makes and lives with mistakes. While I don't deify my mother, I realize she's a person and she messes up, I'm still bothered by her calls 3-4 times a week to inform me her husband got drunk and they fought again last night or my older brother is having a rough time at work.
I think these calls upset me because there's nothing I can do to make any of it better. I can't make my stepfather stop drinking, I can't make my mom's co-workers give her the respect she deserves, I can't find my brother a job closer to home, a girlfriend, a constructive hobby. Hell, I have a hard time making myself believe my life is headed in the direction I want it to be. And that's tough for me to deal with. I feel a strong sense of piety toward my family, and I'd sacrifice what I could for them. It's just the Southerner in me. I'm a fixer, I know this. But I'm up here, she's down there, and I can't fix anything. Granted, I wouldn't be able to fix anything if I was right beside her. I feel badly for her. She's stuck in a marriage she doesn't like but will never get out of, for whatever reasons--guilt, familiarity, financial dependence. She hasn't got many friends, and the ones she does have are in no better situations than she is. So, she comes to me, because she knows she can, that I will love her regardless, and that I'll listen, even if only because I'll feel guilty if I don't. And that's the trouble with being the gay son.
I really hope that I can be like my mother in a lot of ways. I'm proud of her work ethic and her nurturing ability. I value her wisdom and integrity, and one day I hope I have just as much of both. But I really hope I don't find myself in the same relationship strifes that seem to plague her life.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
I have a confession. I went back to Conway over the long weekend. I had fun drinking and dancing and being silly with the friends I left behind. I had fun masquerading as a Tim I used to relish being, but I realize now that I'm not that Tim, and that is probably not my place, at least not now. My trip put some things in perspective for me, but more negatively made moving on more difficult for me. So, I have decided (at least for now) that I can't go back for a good while.
In other news, I felt an over whelming sense of support in my poetry class tonight when my poem came up for critique. I received some great feedback and spent the night revising (Oh how I love revising!)
Here's a second draft:
A green glass star
etched with regal bars
and fleurs de lis
holds a votive that
shines by wick
through a glass sparsely casting
a sickish glow on the white wall
in this new room--
the fifth home in four years.
It is stable amid the clutter
of growing and moving and not knowing why
longing burns deep in the heart valve,
a vigil to something that is forever finished.
It becomes a monster with memories of homes
left in a hurry.
(a Southern dithyramb)
Kids grow up in the usual ways,
driving cars too fast, buying packs of cigarettes.
going off and not coming home at Thanksgiving.
This is normal.
I wonder why their parents, always running yellow lights and flicking ashes in beer cans,
disapprove when their daughters leave in tight jeans
to visit Grandma June's house,
where Daddy ain't been since three years back.
Monday, September 3, 2007
When I go to class, I sometimes get lost. Well, physically, yes, I get lost because the campus is so big. But what I mean is lost intellectually. I listen to my teachers, I take notes, I do my assigned reading. But then sometimes, no matter how much I prepared, I don't have a clue what is being discussed. For instance, a discussion of Aristotle's _Poetics_ in my Renaissance Tragedy class last week turned into a rumination on the symbology of causality in the anti-theatrics of Platonic royalists who struggled with predestination, or something equally as mind boggling. While the other students in class nod their heads, feverishly scratch in their notebooks, and seem to really understand what's going on, I begin hyperventilating, my eyes roll back in my sockets, and my underarms pour sweat. I have no clue what's being discussed, and I usually have very few context clues to guide me in forming some kind of working understanding.
So, I'm sure those of you more experienced in graduate education than me would tell me to just go look these things up, and I agree with you. However, my schedule doesn't. I can barely stay on top of the assigned reading, plus work and prepare for the composition class I assist in and still have time to sleep and eat. I don't know this language of academia, and I'm afraid it's going to show when the time comes for paper-writing.
Here's the catch, though. I'm not so sure I really want to know the language. Okay, for practicality's sake, it'd be nice to have a working understanding of what's being discussed in class. But that's as far as I'm willing to take this beast. I don't want to get so wrapped up in intellectual superiority that I miss the big picture: why this novel/poem/play has stood the test of time, why it is important for high school students to read it, why I am here to begin with (been questioning that last one a lot recently).
This is why I am in graduate school, for better or for worse:
1. It's free, basically. There are living expenses, but I'd have to pay those anywhere I lived.
2. I might will have more career opportunities with an MA in English than I will with a BA.
3. As a high school teacher, I'll better serve my students if I know more about literature (again, questionable at this point).
4. I can make more money teaching public school with a master's.
I don't want to be an academic. I don't want to lose myself into a world of struggling to publish and get tenure and blah. (I'd much rather wrestle with public school frameworks, rude teenagers, and No Child Left Behind. I'm being honest).
Most importantly, I don't want to forget who I am or where I came from. I'm a first-generation college graduate. In fact, I'm the only one in my family to have graduated from college. I don't ever want to think because I have more education I'm better than they are or lose the ability to communicate with them on a genuine, albeit blue collar, level. Those types of people--my people--the hairdresser and police officers and truck drivers, are what make this world go round, and I am proud to come from such an honest, hardworking heritage.
A heritage that doesn't require me to speak fluently in the language of academic-psycho-analytic-mumbo jumbo.
There, I've ranted. If you've stayed with me throughout this episode, god bless you.
Now, please tell me what I need to do to negotiate this situation while maintaining my integrity and cultural heritage.