Struggles with Humility 

Last night, I dreamt that I was back in my previous college town. I was talking to the last professor I had in graduate school explaining--in detail--the reason why I left and why I had not done well. It was a humbling experience, a little sad too, to recount the litany of failure I felt I had accumulated there, but it was also somewhat cathartic to know that the professor understood on a whole new level than before. (In real life, I had felt she was a bit mean and stubbornly obtuse. To my view, she seemed personally offended I was having problems keeping up, as other professors had not.) The reasons why my performance had been so poor, as I explained it, were not because I did not take the class seriously or was somehow not intelligent enough to do the work. No. Instead, it was an overwhelming amount of personal problems that were constantly pulling me under an invisible tide, one that nearly drowned me. She appeared sympathetic. On her own accord, she looked on the computer to see if I was somehow still "in the system," but perhaps under a slightly different name; maybe there was a paper that she could return to me. She found a name on an e-mail list that might have been a bureaucratic fouled-up version of my own last name resembling something like "shakey." Then, she called over to the Student Association across campus and asked if they could check for any of my unreturned papers. I left her office for the student building where my office used to be. I found my old office on the fourth floor, smaller than before, but more closely packed with current graduate students. Each was asking about where I had gone. They managed to find a couple of my papers, which had been placed in plastic sleeves, and gave them to me. I returned to the lobby before leaving without any fanfare.

I think the dream accurately portrays my struggles lately in trying to place the graduate school experience in perspective. I suppose I am not entirely happy with how things stand. And the classic old behavior, a habit that reflects on my desires for acceptance--the damned need to explain myself--is still deeply felt. I think there is a fair amount of nostalgia in there as well, as my current motivation to excel in the school I am currently enrolled has been significantly dampened. While I'd like to excel in my current classes, the feeling of having done all of this once before prevents me from putting in that extra effort to impress instructors. To have reached graduate school as an English scholar, only to start over again as a freshman Graphic Design student can be a little surreal. Every once in a while, I see the students struggling with what I struggled with, and then overcame, years ago.

In my current art class, I have a paper to write. The last paper I wrote for one of my art classes, I wrote in the twenty minutes before class in one straight sitting: with hardly any revision, absolutely no planning, and a not really a careful analysis of the subject. I got an A-plus with the instructor commenting that he would have liked to have heard more of my interesting analysis of the art I was critiquing. Most instructors grade papers the same way, which more often than not is partly based on their biases about writing (which are often wrong) and an off-hand general opinion of the student and not the paper. Despite the effort I put into the work for this art class, I do not usually get anything more than a B." I have a strong suspicion that no matter how well I may do on the paper, I am going to be stuck with a "B." Not really a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but also not an accurate assessment in my opinion. And, if I were more like my fellow design freshman, I would be happy with a "B." But, in a manner of speaking, I have seen behind the curtain: I've graded numerous freshman papers, took several classes on teaching and pedagogy, and even taught a few college classes myself. It makes accepting these types of circumstances just a bit more difficult.

This morning, the challenge will be to write the paper anyway and catch up on all of my other assignments as best I can. I've been feeling tired much of the time as of late, and that makes putting in the effort just that much harder. I see a nap in my future.

15 February 2007
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