Today a coworker of mine had a brief breakdown at school. Hers had to do with husband-trouble, which stemmed, in part, from the lack of time they have together now that she is taking, not three, but FOUR graduate classes, while teaching a class or two at the college, and teaching at a community college as well. She was quiet all through class, while we discussed the three articles we'd read for homework. Usually my friend always talks, says something, smiles brightly. But today she did not say a word. I kept looking over at her, thinking does she hate these articles we read? When class ended, my other friends, Zoey & Bonny came over and they said to her, "Lou, what are you thinking?"
Her face turned pink and we saw her eyes go wet behind her glasses. She kept
asking: "When are we allowed to break down? When do we get time for that?
It is week three of our second semester of graduate school. All of us are in
a nonfiction program. And we struggle daily. I think it easier for me,
sometimes, because I am alone. I think it is harder for me, sometimes, because
I am alone.
Graduate School seems synonymous with expectations. You apply, hoping, but
not really believing, that maybe you will be accepted. And when you are, cross
your fingers for that teaching assistantship that will pay your way through,
because gods know YOU are not going to pay for it. And when it comes through,
and you're in, then you realize it is time to grow up, to develop yourself, to
become a Professional. Suddenly you are afraid to go out dancing, lest a
coworker or future student sees you; you are afraid to climb trees because what
if someone sees and thinks you are not a serious student? You are afraid of
failure. You need to study hard, read everything, write everything. That is
what you are here to do, after all: to read and write and learn. But you are
also here to teach. And network.
If you read the Right books, meet the Right people, get the Right grades,
then you will move on and get the Right life. You will have found the key to
But is it worth the stomach aches? The heartburn? The night terrors? Is it
worth the lack of sleep? Or awful teaching moments that creep into your
Maybe, by the time we've graduated, we will look back on grad school and
say, those were the days, but I think that some of us will settle into
ordinary jobs (that maybe don't even require a degree, or have anything to do
with what we majored in) and we will be satisfied. With an ordinary job, your
life is centered on job performance, and maybe the next job. But in grad
school, if you want to move up the ladder, then it's all got to be perfect.
There is no room for error. It is not a journey, but a destination. Is living
grad school with such expectations even living at all?
In that same class, while we were analyzing an essay that appeared to
discuss feminism and so on, Zoey said, We're so caught up in critically
analyzing everything that we can't enjoy anything anymore. I can't even watch
the shows I used to like, because I keep thinking about them.
Our instructor responded with, Isn't
that fun though?