GRE

Dear Friends,

GRE tomorrow.  Everybody pray.

Sincerely,

The Girl Who Needs Good Scores in Order for the Graduate School Avenue to Remain Open

My Room is a Pigsty: An Analysis

My room usually acts as a gauge for the pace of my life.  When I’m relaxed, with little on my plate, my room is clean, save the never-shrinking pile of books on my nightstand.  When I’m busy however, with no time to pick up after myself, my room looks the way it does presently:

Nightstand littered not only with books, but with knickknacks: a miniature fan from last week’s heat wave, two empty plastic cups that once held water, a plastic jewel I saved from Cherry’s mouth and then took home in my pocket by mistake, lotion that doesn’t seem to work on mosquito bites, a compass from physics class, duct tape I accidentally stole from the theatre (I’m noticing a trend here), half a dozen bobby pins, and a watch that still sports the crusty remains of Ponyboy’s “Mud Monster” afternoon.

Clothes on floor, movies on floor, empty oatmeal canisters on floor (who am I kidding?  I will never use them for a craft project), several shoes on floor, sheaf of pages from my Word of the Day calendar on floor.

As I sit on the bed, typing to you in the semi-darkness (so I can’t see the pigsty that is my room, of course), I am surrounded by physics notebook, folder, and textbook, three of my research books, Anna Karenina (current ‘for fun’ read), plus camera, iPod, brush, and (goodness knows why) checkbook.

I’m ignoring everything, however, until after the GRE.  That happens Wednesday.  I took a practice test today, and found out that while I score in the 95th percentile for Verbal Reasoning, my Quantitative Reasoning is dismal.  The thing about the GRE is that if you get an answer wrong, they give you an easier question next (and if you get one right, they give you a harder question next).  Knowing this, the entire time I tested I was distracted trying to decide whether a question was harder or easier than the last.  I probably shouldn’t let myself think about that on Wednesday.

No matter how it goes, however, I’ll have a phenomenal evening in store.  My aunt and I are going to see this beautiful man:

Please tell me you appreciate the classic feel-good sound that is Neil Diamond.  And please don’t ask me if I’m actually a 65 year-old woman in disguise.  I get that enough from my mom and my sister.

A Moment of Clarity

Large life decisions are funny things.  You can brood over something for a week straight.  You can pray, meditate, try not to think about, try to think about it more, make pro/con lists, consult various mentors, whine to various friends, and generally sulk, but in the end, sometimes all it takes is a small moment of clarity.

I was lying in bed with Ponyboy and Cherry this evening, waiting for them fall asleep, when suddenly I realized what my problem has been.  Grad school doesn’t feel right to me.  Spending several years shut up with literature doesn’t feel right to me.  Deciding at twenty-one to devote my life to academia doesn’t feel right to me.

And in my experience, when things don’t feel right, and I ignore them, I regret that decision later on.

All I know, I thought as I listened to the kids’ breaths slow and even out, is that I want to see what the world has to offer me.  I want to travel, be independent, work interesting jobs, and meet interesting people, I want to write for me, and not necessarily for a class.  I want to do the kinds of things you can only do when you’re young and solo.

I’m still taking the GRE.  I’m not ruling graduate school out entirely.  But I do want to give myself a fair chance to explore before I make a long-term commitment.

The undecided English major is back, friends.  Let the stereotype continue, and let the good times roll.

Introspection

I was going to post much earlier this afternoon, while riding one of the many lulls that invades the division office during the summer.  I decided on a whim, however, that I would wait to write until tonight, by which time I would hopefully have something interesting to say.

Lo and behold, I was invited by a housemate to go to dinner at a friend of hers’ house.  I had never met the friend before, and was thus a little wary, as I tend to be when I sense a possibly awkward situation is on the horizon, but it turned out to be a really nice evening.

We had caramelized pineapple, roasted asparagus, strawberry and almond spinach salad, good bread, and cake for dessert.  It was ten times more delicious than anything I’ve cooked for myself lately (think pasta and tuna salad on toast).

It was lovely just to sit on the porch and chat, and to hug everyone goodbye at the end of the night.  I’ve been needing such a distraction; the grad school decision has been looming darker every day.

I met with my advisor (an English professor) today to talk about the decision, and he told me that when people come to him about grad school, he usually starts by giving it to them straight; telling them the bleak facts of the matter.  Then, if they come back after that, he knows they’re serious about attending.

The bleak facts were bleak indeed.  My twenties will likely be spend alone, poring over research and writing papers in a basement corner of a library.  The odds that I will actually get a teaching job after I graduate are slim.  In fact, he said that if one attends graduate school for English, one can’t do it for the job at the end.  One has to attend for the sake of attaining a Master’s or PhD.  Everything else is up in the air.

And I don’t know, folks.  I love English, but what I want to be is a professor, not a PhD-holding-hobo.

So I’ve been walking around Morris rather introspectively as of late.  This is the next eight years of my life, and if I throw myself into something that I don’t believe fully is the right thing for me, I will be miserable.  On the other hand, what have I ever been more passionate about than this?  I’ve loved to read my entire life, and I’ve loved to write for almost as long.  If given the chance, I could analyze a piece of literature until the cows come home.  I adore research; it makes me feel like Nancy Drew in the best possible I’m-now-going-to-ride-off-into-the-sunset-in-my-baby-blue-convertable kind of way.

But still; is this what I’m meant to do?  Is this the life’s work I’ve been dreaming about for twenty-one years?  Is this going to be my mark on the world: writing articles discussing the Freudian undertones in Scott Fitzgerald’s novels?

I have absolutely no idea.  I hope I will soon.

 

Grad School

After a few days of sore throat, I woke up this morning with a fever, and a desire to never leave bed again.

I called in sick for work, and then I slept for five more hours.

Then I felt better.

Better enough, in fact, to pick a GRE testing site, register for a date and time, and continue my grad school research.

It’s frightening, this search for a grad school.  More so than my undergraduate search was.     Probably because the programs are tougher, they’re specific, they require huge personal statements and the submission of huge academic essays, and the one I choose will likely be my home for the next several years, assuming I chug straight through both the masters and Ph.D programs in one go.

Luckily, I seem to become surer every day that this is what I want to do with my life.  I’ve always loved school, and since I entered college, I’ve become fascinated with the academic world.  The prospect of spending my life researching, writing books and papers, and discussing literature and writing, is glorious to me.

But first-there is more cat sitting to be done.

Summer Plan

It’s 11:47 and I’ve only just realized that it’s 11:47.  Sorry about that.  I spent this afternoon in Stillwater with my elementary/middle school/probably forever friend Mara, and I spent this evening packing for my return to campus.

I’m looking forward to spending the summer at school.  As much as I like being home, and working at Target, I’m ready for a change this year.

This summer will consist of:

1.  A few hours a week working in an office on campus.

2.  Helping an English professor of mine finish his book (I’ll be editing, fact-checking, indexing, and bibliographing).

3.  Volunteering at a local movie theater.

4.  Studying for the GRE.  Got the massive study books today.  Let’s see if they can help me remember 3rd grade fractions.  (Good luck to them)

5.  Writing a novel.  Yes, for the first time in my life, I’m saying it.  I’m writing a novel.  I finally have an idea that’s big enough and interesting enough, and I’m going for it.

6.  Reading endlessly.

7.  Running.  Man, I hate running.  But I’m going to try and pick up where I left off when elections began back in March.

8.  Spending as much time outside as I possibly can.  Running fits in here, as does reading (depending on the mosquito situation).

9.  Looking into grad school.  Not just where I want to go, but what I want to go for, and for how long.  I’m thinking Masters first, then job, then PhD, but I’ll have to ask around and see what the best route is for an English person.

10.  There should always be a number ten.  So I’m going to say SNL.  Every week.  No more papers to get in my way.

P.S. I know the header photo is blurry, and I’m sorry.  But I took it (illegally) inside Shakespeare and Company in Paris, and I thought crooked shelves of eclectic books represented my summer plan well.