Tag Archives: Graduate School

Good Friday

It almost seems sacrilegious to say that this Good Friday (a name that’s purposely paradoxical), is a particularly good Friday for me. But so it is. This is the day of my manumission, the day my chains were loosed. I uploaded my completed capstone project today. Assuming I don’t fail (which is always possible, if unlikely), I’m done with graduate school forever.

If anybody wants me to get a doctorate, they can get me an honorary one.

Now comes the uneasy transition to civilian life. Today I mostly vegged out on the sofa, still feeling the vague guilt any graduate student always feels, when they’re not doing school work.

Well, it wouldn’t do to celebrate too much, on Good Friday.

Speaking of which, Michael Card:

Hip, hip, hooray

I woke up lying on my left side this morning, which made it a good day.

Let me explain. I had my left hip replaced, as I’ve mentioned, about a month ago. One of the things they tell you when you get your upgrade is that it’s good to lie in bed with the wound side down. Helps the healing somehow. This, of course, is easier said than done. Even while you’re on the prescription pain killers (which I quit weeks ago), you’re not so numb that lying on top of your stitches is something you’d ever choose to do for fun.

But this morning I found that I’d rolled over on that side in my sleep. Which means I’m healing up. I knew that already, of course. On Saturday it occurred to me that I was in less pain than I’d been the day before the operation. So it’s all upswing from here on.

And I’m almost done with my graduate school work. My capstone project paper is essentially written; just a little buffing and padding to do. Monday’s the deadline, and I’m likely to turn it in before then.

All this makes right now a pretty good time in my life.

It’s been a strange 2¼ years. I began school way back in late 2013, and then came the first hip replacement in January, and now I’m recovering from the matching procedure just before finishing the academic work for good. A long stretch of time, bracketed by prosthetics.

This is not what I expected my life to be like when I got to middle age. But it has been interesting.

They say prisoners feel a reluctance to leave the penitentiary after an extended stay. It doesn’t matter how grim and abusive the prison is – it has become familiar and comfortable, in some way. Outside the walls anything can happen – do I remember the rules? Have the rules changed?

I feel something vaguely similar about facing life after grad school. Not that I have to wonder what I’ll do with my time. I’ve got novels to write and a regular blogging schedule to pick up again. I’ll be able to have dinner with friends in the evenings, without rearranging my study schedule. But it’s a change, and in my heart I don’t much like change.

So will I go for my doctorate now?

Not if I have anything to say about it.

Several things

When you’re a wit, you can be humble. When, like me, you’re a half-wit, you have to brag about it.

Today on F*cebook, a female friend who runs a small business announced that she’d just gotten a call from a place she hadn’t heard from before – the Yukon.

I responded, “You got the Call of the Wild.”

[Cue laugh track.]

I don’t know what I’d do for fun if I didn’t amuse myself.

Here’s where I’m at in the Long March toward my Master’s Degree. I’m formulating a theme for my capstone project.

It’s a humbling experience. Everybody seems to have a fairly clear idea what a capstone project is, except me.

Apparently it’s a research project, but a small one. Targeted, constrained. We do the research, we present the short paper, we get our sheepskins if it’s good enough, and they hold a secret ceremony in which they bestow on us the Sacred Rubber Sorter Finger.

At this point I’ve got a general direction, but not a specific topic.

I fear I’m going to have to do some actual research, to clarify my thinking.

Yes, it’s as bad as that.

Oh yes, I’m going to get my last vestigial hip replaced later this month. Expect not to expect me for a while at some point.

Free at last! Or next to last.

Today is the day. I was planning to shout “Free at last! Free at last!” Except that I’m not quite free. Last night I finished the final test for my last class in graduate school – ever (I assume). I still have to do the capstone project in the spring, though, so I’m not quite a free man. More like on parole. But the paroled man hears the prison doors clang shut behind him and surveys a frightening world of relative freedom, for which he’s not sure he’s quite ready. I’ll have to re-learn the art of spending a normal evening – or as normal as evenings get when you write novels in your spare time.

My last two classes were a little disappointing, frankly. One was taught by a venerable professor who’s been doing the same thing for years and doesn’t bother to update his material, or the links embedded in his assignments. The other was taught by a man who is, I believe, an authority in his field. Only the discipline he was teaching us (I won’t say which one) is hard – or impossible – to properly teach at a distance. So he does the best he can, grades generously, and more or less herds us through the routine without high expectations.

It was for that second class that I turned in my test last night. It was part multiple choice and part essay. I’m not sure about my answers to the multiple choice questions – the points covered were pretty fine ones. But the essay part – of which I was more frightened – actually went pretty well, I think. Sometimes it pays off to have a writer’s skills. To be able to gather a handful of scattered ideas and citations and organize them into a sort of a coherent whole. When I was done I was surprised how pleased I was with it.

All that remains is the capstone project, which is some kind of research project, subject yet to be determined. Like a thesis, but less. Later this year they’ll abolish the requirement completely, but it seems to be impossible, due to the arcane rules of registration and academic credits, to simply put off my graduation until that time.

But the bottom line is this – I’m done with the hard part. I’ve been looking forward to this day for more than two years. So consider me jubilant. Even though I’m mostly kind of tired.

The road to Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving at the home of Earle Landis, Neffsville, PA, 1942. Photo by Marjorie Collins. This was just eight years before my birth. I am that old.

My heart has greatly desired this Thanksgiving. Not because of my fitting gratefulness; heaven knows I’m as ungrateful as the next man, and a lot more ungrateful than that other guy next to him. No, this holiday season has been a benchmark for me ever since I started graduate school. By Christmas I’ll be done with classes (assuming I don’t flunk one unexpectedly), and even now the pace is slowing down. Neither of my instructors seems all that interested in cramming work into the last couple weeks. I’m essentially done with my labors for one class, and the other doesn’t have a lot left except the final test. That will be annoying, but there’s nothing I can do through anxious care to make its span a cubit less.

So here I am, on the verge of being done with the bulk of it (the question of a Capstone Project remains up in the air), breathing afar off the balmy zephyrs of liberty. For more than two years I’ve been squeezing my life into whatever spaces the academic template overlooked. Soon I’ll have evenings free again. I’ll be able to relax (a bit) on weekends. And – praise to the Almighty – I’ll be able to work on my novels again. I even sat down the other night and wrote a scene that had impressed itself on my mind. It’s an important scene, one that reveals the heart of a major character, and should guide my portrayal.

So I’m thankful. Frankly, thinking back, there were long bleak stretches when I didn’t see how I could get this far. Either I’d fail or the stress would kill me, I figured. As with so many things in life, the Lord’s iron purpose was to make me walk through it, get stronger, and learn what I was capable of. Wasn’t it Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof who asked the Lord to please not bless him so much?

Have a blessed Thanksgiving. I expect I’ll be hanging around here a bit more from now on.

Hi-yo, Hiatus!

Hiatus. A word with mixed associations for me, having undergone surgery for a hiatus hernia some years back…

TMI? Probably.

In any case, the word also has its positive meaning. I’m on a brief hiatus now, having finished my last summer course on Saturday, and having begun a week of vacation today. I plan to fritter away my time cleaning the house, and maybe watch a few shows on Netflix. Tried the first episode of “Peaky Blinders” last night, on Andrew Klavan’s recommendation. Verdict: No, not for me. Too sunny and optimistic.

My grad school course was “Back of the Book Indexing,” which I never even knew was a discipline. I knew there were indexes in the backs of nonfiction books, and that they were often very valuable. I had no idea there were different ways to organize them, and debates raging between scholars and librarians as to how they should be alphabetized. Very abstruse stuff, and in the end it tends to be kind of subjective. But I think it was probably the most fun class I’ve taken in my graduate curriculum. It didn’t hurt that the instructor was bubbly and enthusiastic and seemed to think everything I wrote was just wonderful!

In September I’ll start my final (God willing) semester of classes. I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks for bearing with me through the process.

A couple Sundays ago I went down to Kenyon, the old home town, for the semiannual (biannual? Every two years) family reunion. Attendance was down this year. Not only have we lost a couple archs (the patri- and matri- kind), but it seems to me as the old people pass on, the younger people see less reason to rally round. The old folks were the big exhibits that drew in the crowds. I’m becoming one of the old folks myself, but I think I lack the venerability of the pioneers.

Cousin Tom, from a distant city, said to me, “Don’t sneak away without saying goodbye. I’ve got something I want to give you.” Continue reading Hi-yo, Hiatus!

What I did on my summer vacation

I’m taking a week of vacation this week. So far I haven’t done much, except get started with my second summer grad school class, about which more anon.

[Isn’t “anon” a wonderful word? Evocative, useful, and likely to get you punched in the face if you ever speak it in real life.]

Anyway, the City of Robbinsdale made a point of messing with my schedule. Last week I got notice that they were going to turn the water off in my neighborhood from 9:00 to 4:00 on Monday, weather permitting, to work on infrastructure, whatever that is. So I planned for the shut-off, and then it rained all day. Thus the great California Emulation was moved to today.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m reluctant to spend seven hours in a place without a working toilet. So I determined to go somewhere where clean and sober transients are welcome, and toilets are plentiful – America’s most pointless tourist attraction, the Mall of America.

I haven’t used my cane in weeks, but I brought it with me today, knowing I’d be walking more than I have for more than a year. I hobbled around and rested at intervals, and made it through OK.

I hadn’t been to the Mall in years. I was surprised at how boring I found it. Perhaps it’s old age, and being out of touch with the times, but I saw little that didn’t look to me like fashion-driven, disposable gimcrackery. I suppose I felt some kind of Puritan snobbery, a judgmentalism that comes from a place less than virtuous. But I didn’t see the point. Continue reading What I did on my summer vacation