Registering for Classes 

There are about 40 people trying to get into a photography class in which there is only room for 20 students. And, I am one of the unlucky half that is not registered. The instructor spent most of this first class assuring everyone that if forty people truly want to take the class, he will be able to open up a second section. Then, he went on to explain how everyone will need to buy a new camera that will cost upwards of 300 dollars, or for the students enrolled in the visual communications program: 600 dollars. He further delineated all the tick-tacky accessories that one will need in addition to all of that. I could tell a wave of uneasiness swept through my fellow students. The consequence of his lecture on costs mean that several students will drop out, so there isn't likely to be a second class after all. And that may mean that despite the pleasant talk of everyone being able to get into the class, everyone probably won't. Personally, I think my chances of being able to get in are pretty good because I spoke with the instructor back in the beginning of December, but I won't know for sure until next week.

Once I got on campus today, which was about noon, I was expecting to stay well into the evening. The computer lab is normally open until 9:00 p.m., and I had some computer homework I needed to finish on one of the Macs. After all, even though I have been lucky in being able to afford most of these school expenses, I am still not rich enough to afford the $1500 it would take to buy an adequate Mac and the necessary software. I can get by using the computers at school. Or so I thought. After a dinner off campus, I was surprised to discover that the computer lab was closed because the work-study student who runs the labs in the evening did not show up. Disappointed, I waited around for a bit before accepting the fact that my homework is going to be late tomorrow.

It worked out in the end because, once I was home, I spent the rest of the evening cleaning out my room. Too many books, a messy cat, and a few piles of dirty clothes were starting to take over, and it was getting rather difficult to maneuver without stepping on something. The biggest accomplishment of the day, however, was not cleaning things up, but the fact that I called in a refill for my medication. It's not good to run out of the stuff because one can build up a resistance to it, or even become immune to it (so I have been told), and if that happens, it does me no good.

I also spent part of the day thinking about life back in the apartment and city back where (and when) I was attending graduate school. These beginning design courses can be so mind numbingly boring sometimes because concepts that are easily grasped are bluntly and repetitively hammered home, apparently in order to ensure that the beginning college students get it. Nothing like the free form discussions of theory in the small graduate courses I attended just a year and half ago. Yes, those classes were pretentious sometimes, and yes, some of the graduate students could be completely clueless or slightly snobbish, but the information was always interesting and challenging, and above all--the assignments were more self-directed which is something I enjoyed. That is: when I had the ability to do those assignments. My mood has been a little low lately, but I have to remember the days when it was struggle to get out of bed.

09 January 2007

Clearing of Vision 

The cord on my power supply for my laptop is internally weak, so I have to adjust the cord "just so" in order for the computer to get power. It takes a delicate hand, much like balancing a quarter on its edge. The battery I use for it is the original, at least over three years old, which means that it doesn't hold charge for very long. It is not anything that is terribly bothersome, only disappointing in that I may have to purchase yet another power supply, a power supply that will be the fourth one for this computer. Money used to come more easily, but now it seems harder to hold on to than normal.

On Monday, school begins again. I've signed up for three classes, one of which is digital photography. I'm looking forward to that class because I would like my photographs to be more artistic, more compositionally sound--if that makes sense. My mood has been somewhat below normal in that I am still grappling with the consequences of losing the previous graduate school opportunity, fighting to remember to take my pills on a regular schedule. The solution to the second part of that problem is to program my cell phone alarm to go off every day at the same time, a reminder to take my medicine.

The solution to the first part of that problem--my low mood--is quite a bit harder to resolve because everything I think about, every consideration I have, even the solutions to my mood problem, has an extra film of negativity on it, a cold and sticky layer that effortlessly coats my thoughts. Sometimes that film is slight, and sometimes heavy. And, honestly, I see it and counter it every time I can. But it all takes added effort, an extra step that is hard to take. And it must be nearly impossible for anyone to understand how sticky and cold this mood can be unless they themselves have felt it for some time and become comfortable with its presence.

In college, I often studied people and the culture of the nineteenth century, and just as often, one would read about the lives of notable people during that period--how they failed to achieve something important to them and could never come back to that, how that failure became a central part of their lives even as they lived beyond that moment of failure and established new lives afterwards. Those lives lived after failure, to some degree, have a feeling of superfluousness to them. In a sense, they are second lives, additional lives that exist side by side to the life before.

I think about these people often and compare myself to them. The classic story is about the unhappy child of an educated, well-to-do family that, try as he might, can never become the lawyer or doctor he aspires to be. Of course, the individuals one reads about manages through their special genius to succeed in other ways. They are extraordinary, so their lives are deemed worthy enough to be written down and preserved. But for every one extraordinary person who succeeds, there must be an army of the ordinary, the merely mediocre, who don't, or can achieve what they aspire to be. And these lives are not written down. They fade in history and evaporate.

I worry that I won't meet the demands of my ambitions: the ability to pay my debts, to comfortably earn a living or collect a savings ample enough to provide for friends and family, that I won't ever feel completely self-possessed, secure, and moderately happy. Perhaps these things are too much to ask for, a little too selfish or even the wrong thing altogether. But then again, perhaps not. Honestly, I don't really know, so I spend a lot of time thinking about it, going back and forth until I am tired out from my own internal questioning and just want to lose myself in a mindless television program or a handful of junk food. Tonight, that program is Star Trek. I'll be going to bed as soon as it's over, which is in about fifteen minutes.

My plans for the future seem somewhat simple: practice my art as best I can on a regular basis, try to do my best in school and finish as quickly as I can, develop better self-discipline which includes eating better foods and exercising regularly, and live life a day at time until I can develop a complicated new plan for the future that is not so deeply rooted in the previous plan of graduate school.

06 January 2007

Days of Change 

Taking an inventory of my trajectory through life, it would be accurate to say that where I am right now is precisely not what I thought I might be doing at this point. I feel like a messy closet overfilled with out-of-date clothing with a tumble of brown shoes spilling out the bottom. As an earnest and naive youth, I had been planning a little arc through the changes that I was working for and expected to occur. Really, "planned" conveys something too deliberate--it was more of my actively "supposing" where I might be because I also pessimistically and unconscious believed in fate, a type of monolithic stone golem. I accepted it as a reality, but I also tried to ally myself to it in order to lull it into going my way.

But I am not sure if pure randomness, my own mistakes, or a combination of several things, but something happened, and something did happen, to where what I thought and what occurred became like alienated lovers, intense longing between the two that cannot be realized with simple companionship. And the stupidity of this process, this living with what you want but can't have, is something that I know happens to nearly everyone. You can be warned again and again everyone goes through this process, but until it happens you can't really believe it, not really. It's an evolutionary denial rooted in the soil of self.

So, in the larger sense of "right now," I would be comleting my PhD thesis and in my third year of teaching freshman composition, if things had gone my way. I can even picture the afternoon classroom filled with nervous students, roughly half eager to learn the material, the other half already bored. In the larger building across campus is an office desk filled with drab books, "texts" in this official world of theory, books maybe only twenty people have ever read. In ratty folder or notebook are loose-leaf papers filled with half written research paragraphs filled with awkward sentences auditioning for the final work. On this detached and unreal stage of academia, I would be actively perfecting the role of professor. And, as pretentious and arrogant as that world can be, as shaped by cultural expectations as much as actual job requirements, I miss it.

Instead, I have nearly no money and am trying build up my life to a place where I can hang a wholly new, but similarly complex, set of expectations of a future life actively supposed. I am blessed to have a family and a support system left to help me start over as I know many don't. In a parallel universe, with the same circumstances but the absence of family, I would be living on the street, or a tent in the woods, perhaps near the edges of an urban shelter. And I am learning how to be healthier, a difficult process of trying build a meager but actively practiced wisdom. But it is a difficult process, a process that I hope will put me back on the rails of a stable life that is a bit more protected from the random chances and my own mistakes.

03 January 2007