end-of-semester thoughts and stress
When discussing my future with profs I'm working with, or with other academics not at my school, I always get "the chat." It goes something like this: "do you know what your future holds, your current income slashed by 75% and the problem students and the lack of jobs and the presence of departmental politics [etc]?" To which I always say, "yes, I really do" and they say, "ok, as long as you know..." and we all move on. I appreciate "the chat" and I hope they have "the chat" with those idealistic folks ten years my junior who are still a little sketchy on what consititutes scholarly (or even scholarish) work but are convinced they're going to move on to a top-notch school and that the world of academia is filled with lots of jobs that pay lots of money for MAs or PhDs in English. I tried to explain the concept of "adjunct" and "piecing together work from multiple schools" and even "seven years of indentured servitude" and "no, you're not going to get into Stanford with your San Jose State MA and your 40 percentile on the GRE subject test and oh by the way George Eliot is a woman" but can you believe it? They didn't want to listen to me.
Anyway, my first semester will be over in a few weeks (December 13th to be exact) and I must say that for me, I'm at the right place at the right time. Although a large school (total enrollment something like 30K), I don't think even 1% of the undergrads are English majors, and the combined enrollment of the MA and MFA programs is probably less than a hundred. So, when someone shows a little promise and desire to move on to the next level, profs are there for mentoring and just general q&a (even if they're not your actual profs)—and there's no real sense of competition among the students because everyone pretty much goes their own way. So basically what I'm saying is that you get out of this program what you put into it, and if you want to put a lot into it then profs are glad to help. So I am thankful for that.
I've done well this semester, nothing less than an A- on anything. Of course I was appropriately outraged at myself when receiving such a grade and took all the comments to heart and made the necessary modifications for the next assignment so I would get the A. I kept up with all the reading for three classes, and then some. I gave four presentations—something I hate doing—but didn't hate doing these for some reason. I made some pals at school, and somehow managed to accumulate graduate assistant positions for three different profs, so next semester will be even more interesting.
But I still have a full-time job, and I will continue to have this job until I leave here in two years and move on to the next level. Assuming, of course, that some school at the next level wants me, and even then I'm sure I'll have some part-time connection to this job, as long as the company is still around. Because I have this full-time job, and the current Enterprise Application Taking Over Our Lives project, it means I have very little spare time to do pesky things like research papers. I have two such papers due in a few weeks, plus one other short essay rolled into a larger paper. I have theses and outlines for each, and a stack of books sitting next to me at all times, but it's slow going.
I am not terribly stressed out about it. They'll get done, and they won't suck, and it'll all be fine. Don't know how it will happen, exactly, but it will—just like in my job. We get stuff dumped on us all the time, of indeterminate length but with hard deadlines, and we always get it done. It's the silicon valley/high-tech startup work ethic. I am thankful for that sort of training, because it's definitely been helpful in my schoolwork, but I do long for the day when weekdays have readingtime built into them and every single weekend can be devoted to scholarly endeavors, not just a few here and there.