Monday, January 7, 2008

one piece of paper and $45,000 in debt later

If everything goes according to plan (dear whomever the hell is up there, please let me get it the hell over with), I will be expelled from school clutching an embossed, overpriced piece of paper this fall. I have hated a good two-thirds of the graduate school experience, so I'm thrilled senseless to get the fuck out of there, but as soon as I gtfo, I have a problem.

What am I going to do with myself?

Obviously, get a real job. With some kind of suit. I hear, to the limited extent I discuss this with people, that the feeling of utter inadequacy is common to graduates.

I am not entirely sure I am grown-up enough to feel comfy in a monkey suit, behaving myself and otherwise acting the normie. *hyperventilates into paper sack* Actually, I shouldn't sweat the normie bits; there is no monkey suit on the planet capable of fooling a selection committee into thinking that I would make a bland member of a working team. I'm doing good to tone it down enough to hold a conversation and only minimally make the person I'm talking to uncomfortable. I've been joking with people for years that what I really need to do for a living is clear rooms. Seriously, I can clear a room in thirty seconds. With a joke. It has been hell not bursting into dead baby jokes when I'm nervous on campus. And not aiming random innuendo at people has been murder. I tend to default to innuendo when I'm feeling paranoid, since it does such an excellent job of deflecting attention.

The professional jobs available to me tend to fall into the 'enforcing the standardization of creativity' or 'enabling bad writing' categories, both of which I can do but am uncomfortable with some of the ramifications of. There is a difference between helping hone the writing and passing really bad writing because you are not authorized to change anything but the grammar, constrained by the author's need to RanDomlY cApitAliZe or italicize for emotional effect and your own need to get paid for your work, or ending up telling people what to write. I would like to think that I can fix most of those concerns with diligence, but my experiences thus far in both the world of publishing and teaching have been troublesome. As an editor, I dislike being authorized to only address things like capitalization (I'd prefer global editing, but you have to do an awful lot of copy editing first), and I cannot work the newspaper hours anymore (I have done both editing and production, which tended to be late night/early morning until it is finished. I miss the clear short-term deadlines, though.) Workshops are good, if nothing else, for learning to tolerate all kinds of different writing, so I can tolerate much in terms of subject matter (though there are a few subjects I am short as hell on, whether I mean to be or not.)

My dissertation director will tactfully tell me, when the subject comes up, that I do not suffer fools lightly, nor well. I spend a lot of time biting the inside of my cheeks and I still manage to have something to say, even if just in tone.

In terms of regulating creativity, I think there is a fine line between helping and treating your students like idiots if they disagree with you. I wonder about that, about my ability to be more graceful. I have tutored everything from kids in elementary reading at least two grade levels under their own to some of the immigrants I've worked with who could not afford English courses. Up until the last year of teaching single lessons in graduate school, I would have said I did alright. At least the feedback I've had from the people I've tutored/creative writing workshops I've put together suggests that I do well.

My fellow students do not think so.

I am split on the subject. On the one hand, I am less concerned with students who can afford to go to grad school than I am students who are struggling to go to compulsory school or are too poor to afford an education. Because of this, I don't do the things I would for a community class, where I assume that anyone I'm helping has limited access to the information I have or no access. I assume that graduate students both have access to the same kinds of information and are willing to think about it, and it angers me when they refuse to think about it or to do the reading. I have left classes shaking with rage because I bothered to do all the readings and write the papers and came eager to discuss the subject and sat in a class where no one talked but the professor, who begged the silent students to respond. (I did not get into school because it was easy or even expected of me. Quite the opposite, in my case.)

rant/ It's a fucking privilege to get to go to grad school and one that's costing me, at least, out the fucking nose. There are any number of people who cannot afford to go, whom no one expects to succeed at anything or who have been habitually instructed that they are not the right type for that education. Anyone (and there are many such anyones) who drifts into grad school should go get a life, instead. /rant

On the other hand, and I think this is true anywhere, you have to wonder, when you have chronic problems, what you've been doing wrong. I've concluded that I have an attitude problem.

Bet you're not surprised, if you've read more than one post.

I would like to teach, specifically high risk populations, because the level of education offered in poor urban or rural neighborhoods, or to severely abused children is demonstrably deficient. I'm not going to bother to cite. This is easy to verify with Google. I think I am uniquely situated to understand the everyday needs of those populations. The question, as I am currently able to articulate it, is whether or not my... strong personality will allow me to take jobs with that kind of structure. I have to figure something out. I have people to support.

The jury is still out.

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