Tag Archives: Grad school

Last time I Checked…

I was a first year grad student. Then I blinked. All of a sudden, I’ve got a Master’s in English. I’m also divorced, have a third and first grader, and my daughter started Kindergarten. Oh, yes, and I’ve just finished my first semester of my PhD while teaching 50 undergrads Children’s Lit. My, my, when did all of this happen?

It’s funny how we learn to adapt. Two years ago, I couldn’t imagine my life the way it is now. Twenty years ago? I’d have told you I didn’t expect to live this long, let alone be enrolled in a prestigious University teaching kids who look up to me like I’ve got all the answers. And you know what? I don’t have one answer. I’ve got several:

Fight for it. Want it. Don’t quit it. Dream it. Live it. Reach for it. Love with all you are, feel with all of your heart, and don’t ever lose sight of who you are.

For those of you who are reading me for the first time, read my past posts to understand my old fear of changing who I was. For those of you who know me, I’ve come to terms with who I am, where I’m from, and where I’m meant to be. Don’t fight it. Roll with the changes.

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Posted by on December 16, 2014 in Life


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Stranger in a Foreign Land

Have you ever felt like you’re speaking an entirely different language than those around you?  Have you ever read a book and didn’t quite get it, heard something explained and still didn’t quite understand it?   Have you ever felt like a stranger in a foreign country, desperately clinging to your traveler’s dictionary? 

A month ago, I started graduate classes in the English department at Binghamton University.  It was a big fucking deal to my friends, family, and me.  I’m the first one in my family with an undergrad degree, let alone to attend graduate school.  I’ve had my name in print a few times, another BFD.  I was just named a semi-finalist in the Mailer College Poetry competition.  How’s that for a BFD?

So with all of these accomplishments behind me, I was excited to mingle with students who actually wanted to study English and Writing, instead of being forced to take them as core requirements.  I was excited to share ideas, and dive right into my studies.  Until I hit the concrete floor my first day.  Yeah, someone drained all the damn water right out of the pool.  Could have been when I was changing diapers, potty training, doing laundry or maybe it was dishes.  Hell, I’m lucky if I know what day of the week it is, let alone what Derrida said on page one million of his long-winded essay on removing the center of the subject.  Even with no water in the pool, I’m still drowning in Modern Theory.

I don’t have time to learn to swim; I’ve been thrown into the deep end and I’m dog-paddling for my life in a pool with no water and a concrete bottom. How’s that for a paradox? (Maybe I could be a theorist! Sarcastic humor there.)  So I’m sitting there in my first class thinking, Shit, what the hell just happened?  Suddenly, I realized that I don’t speak the language. I need a book to understand the book.  The Penguin Anthology of Literary Terms and Criticism has become a permanent attachment to my right hand. It’s got just enough dumb-it-down strategies to qualify for a life raft. In classes, my hands are shoved under the desk, and I furtively look up words my professor and fellow students use in the dictionary I downloaded on my phone. I’m a literary tourist, the one the natives point at and laugh, cruelly telling me to go back to my own country. The temporality of my situation is tenuous… (Again, sarcasm here.)

Graduate school has forced me to yet again reevaluate myself and my capabilities.  One thing I’ve always known about myself is that I’m a concrete person who does not grasp the abstract.  I never did. Show me the practicality of a subject, or a real life application and I’m all about it.  I’m also an extremely busy person who doesn’t have time to dwell in thought for hours at a time.  I couldn’t attend famous universities with killer English programs, and spent so much time trying to read all of the authors on the reading list a kind professor gave me in undergrad to prepare me, that I’ve never read Melville, Murakami, Fante, or Freud.  I’ve never studied Surrealism, Semiotics, Absurdism, or Realism. The only way I recognize a great book is by the way it makes me feel when I’m done reading it.  I’m also a genre fiction junkie, and somehow I’m ashamed to admit that.

Again, I’m the odd man out.  I expected that in undergrad classes, maybe even liked it, despite the constant desire to tell the kids I attended school with to suck it up when they whined about homework and no sleep.  Before one graduate class, I heard my fellow students complaining about getting carded at the bar: “I’m 23 for God’s sake!”  I wanted to slink into a corner and die.  I’m certainly not the oldest person in any of my classes by any means.  There are a few that rival me for that title.  However, I am the only one with little kids.  I’m not the only blue-collar person straight off the farm; I’ve admired several pairs of boots from my fellow farm countrymen (women too!), but somehow my expectations of graduate school get skewed when these same people looked at me like I’ve got three heads when I admitted that I don’t have an English degree.  My Comm degree somehow offends them, as does my plain and simple language and my penchant for needing concrete examples.

There’s no question that I love literature and writing, and there is no way that I am giving up on something that I want so badly, no matter how out-of-place I feel. But what to do?  Do I learn the foreign language, embrace it whole-heartedly?  Do I adapt my entire way of thinking until I am no longer Trish, holey jeans, genre fiction, heavy metal loving, curse when you’re angry Trish, but Patricia, khaki pants wearing, five hundred-dollar word using, classic book loving, Patricia?  Do I lose the core of me to gain the key to some other element of me?  Do I stick it out, gut my way through without changing who I am?

Maybe I should marry the two worlds together in my life until I become bi-lingual.  Yes, maybe that’s the way to do this.  It could possibly be the only way to do this.  I have to relax my prejudice against the natives, adopt a few of their customs without giving up my own core values. I can be true to myself while learning something else, something different but not exactly distasteful. Still, I don’t think I’ll be giving up my dictionary or my tourist visa anytime soon!

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Posted by on October 6, 2012 in Life


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Some Random Things

First of all, may I say that it is wonderful to be able to use the computer again!  For about a week, the only thing I’ve been able to look at is the back of my eyelid.  I punctured my cornea by jabbing myself in the eye with a pair of scissors.  How did I manage that, you ask?  Well, try cutting your bangs with three kids and a hyper puppy running in and out of the bathroom… That’s beside the point.  For a week, I couldn’t drive, read, watch TV, and even the light from my cell phone pierced my eye like a dagger.  It was pure hell; not so much the pain, but the boredom.  Anyway, it’s almost healed.  I can drive now, and walk out in the early light without my sunglasses.  The afternoon sun is a different story, but this is a start. 

I have to say this whole experience made me appreciate my sight that much more!  I am also grateful for my independence!  I couldn’t imagine spending the rest of my life waiting for rides, or depending on someone else to tend to my responsibilities.  I learned a valuable lesson, (besides: leave the haircutting to licensed professionals) and that is appreciate the little things I normally take for granted.  I’m stepping off of my soapbox to say that I’m one of those people that needs a constant reminder of this.  I’m a spoiled brat, and freely admit it.  I think we all are in some way.  I’m sure I’ll need to be reminded again in the future!  Moving on…

I am loving Night Ranger’s new album, Somewhere in California.  They’ve still got their classic sound, though it’s a bit softer than their late 80’s tone.  I see that they will be in PA, within driving distance for me, twice in late August.  I hope to be able to see them, as they have produced some amazing songs that have stuck with me over the years. 

I started back to school last week.  Let me say that I am one of those geeks that loves school.  I love books, notebooks, the smell of the classroom, and feeling of excitement over learning new things.  Unfortunately, Math gives me little to no excitement. In fact, it gives me the biggest case of anxiety.  I HATE math.  I cry when I try to do the homework, and at the end of the semester, my GPA is going to be in the toilet.  All because I need this stupid class to graduate.  I’ve tried outside sources, asking questions, looking up examples, but nothing clicks.  I do not understand math, and I never will.  However, I will gut through it.  I will get through this class, I will suffer through the homework, five hour classes of torture, and the tests.  And when it is over, I will never look back! 

I am, however, looking forward to the fall semester with increasing joy.  I look forward to being on a schedule again, and I’m also looking forward to Capstone, which is my two semester graduation project.  I’ll also be taking the GRE’s in October, and applying to graduate school in January.  I expect great things from myself this semester, and hope to be able to share my process with all of you.

Keep on pushing through!

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Posted by on July 18, 2011 in Life


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