03 February 2006

falling with style.
this round of grad school has been an exercise in sheer determination in the face of what always seem like utterly insurmountable odds. i find myself fighting constantly for breath; trying to scrape together enough thoughts on a similar topic to call it a paper or a presentation. fighting my conviction that i don't have what it takes. battling all the cognitive dissonance i experience with some regularity as a result of my bizarre mental-emotional constellation of feminism, mormonism, intellectualism, and the never-absent need for marriage. i invariably end up a crying mess at more than one moment each quarter. and then i think that i just can't do it and i don't know why i ever tried and i should quit. but i keep coming back. either i am a masochist or i am really driven. when i'm enjoying my studies as much as i have been recently, i know i'm doing it because i love the thinking and the teaching and the exploring ideas. i love seeing my students work through ideas and i love thinking new things because of what they said. but when i'm stressed to the breaking point and i'm lonely and i realize that there is no way humanly possible to complete all my work, i collapse into a weepy mess--something that happens unfortunately often in front of other people.

regardless of my mental state, school seems like an exercise in survival. i've begun to reach a point where i realize that this is just the way it is and that it means nothing about my own abilities. grad school just kind of stinks, to put it oh-so-eloquently. today as i walked home from teaching a lesson which mercifully went well, given the fact that i hadn't really thought about it until immediately before teaching it, i called my little sister to say hi. and as i was explaining to her how my week has been (and it's been hellish), i thought of that scene in toy story where buzz "flies" and woody responds, "that's not flying ... that's falling with style!" it occurred to me that grad school is exactly that. it's not flying. it's falling--with style. taking the jump off some high point and hoping that as you fall you find ideas and thoughts and works and projects that give you enough bounce to make it look like you're flying, even though in reality all you're doing is plummeting down, drawn by the inexorable pull of gravity.

maybe, if i fall with enough style, i'll make it through and even end up with a job some day. here's to being stylish.

02 February 2006

i've been meaning to do this for a while. a running series of posts on books that i'm reading or books that i love and think that you (meaning everyone) should read. no time like the present.

A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
i had to read this for a seminar i'm in right now and was pleasantly surprised. it's incredibly engaging from the beginning. and presents a fascinating look at the french revolution. in addition to telling a moving story, it does really interesting things by doubling france and england, paris and london, and two of the male characters. the use of the doubles allows for an interesting commentary on not only the nature of france, but also of england. well worth reading--both for entertainment and for scholarship.

An Unquiet Mind, Kay Redfield Jamison
this is a beautiful book that functions as both a memoir and a scholarly treatment of manic-depressive disorder. Jamison herself suffers from manic-depressive disorder and is a trained psychiatrist, so her perspective is unique. it's a compelling look at mental illness.

Black Zodiac, Charles Wright
a lovely collection of poetry by one of my favorite poets. wright manages to capture stories in his poetry without ever presenting narratives. his representations of place are pristine and striking. he also does interesting things with the form of his poetry. he's a poet i return to often.