in which grad school is a paradox

A few things you should know about my life before we continue:

  1. It is November. While for many of you this means turkey and no shaving, for me it means NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month1. This means that on top of my usual avalanche of work, I am also writing 1600-2000 words a day on a novel that I know has no commercial potential or likeliness to go anywhere2, I’m just writing it for fun. And guys – I love it. It’s liberating. And awesome. But also sucks the life right out of my blog writing time.
  2. It took me twenty minutes to get to work today – TWENTY MINUTES! I AM ECSTATIC ABOUT THIS! I love my new apartment!3
  3. Yesterday, the sequel to one of my all-time favorite books4 came out – Days of Blood and Starlight. In trying to acquire it, I felt for the first time the true impact of last week’s hurricane, because as it turns out, most bookstores here have warehouses in New Jersey, and those warehouses and shipping schedules were still in chaos in the wake of Sandy. Meaning that nowhere had this book in stock. I called twelve bookstores and about had a meltdown on the corner of Harvard Square before I finally found one. Children’s Bookshop of Brookline to the rescue!
  4. Allow me to speak for one moment to election that happened last night5. Since I have a lot of Mormon friends, my social media this morning was flooded with people mourning the downfall of Mitt Romney, and vowing to move to Canada in protest. Allow me to say two things to this – one, they have socialized health care and gay marriage in Canada. So if you’re searching to relocate to a capitalist paradise where you can throw rocks at gays and you don’t have to share your hospitals with poor people, you’re going to have run further. May I suggest the Congo? That seems more your style. Two – here is the realization I came to last night while hitting refresh on the NPR homepage – we can sum up the entire future of our country in three words: It goes on. No matter who won last night, it wouldn’t matter, because the country is going to keep moving forward. In the end, no matter how outraged you are about the election results, if you voted, that’s all you can do. And really, your world probably isn’t going to change that drastically either way. We all go back to our jobs, back to our families, back to our homes, and move on with your lives. More importantly – our facebook newsfeeds return to their normal state as cesspools of vapidity! I never thought I’d be homesick for the days of LOLcats and baby pictures.

Now. Moving on to what I’ve really called you all for today.

I would like to talk about the trouble with grad school.

On Sunday night, I found myself in the kitchen, staring at my literary theory textbook with a glazed expression. I had one hundred odd pages to read about reader response theory, and I just…couldn’t make myself do it.

Which gave me pause.

Self, I said to myself. You spent countless years of school reading hundreds of pages on topics that did not interest you in the slightest, longing for the day you would have textbooks full of children’s literature. Now that day has finally arrived – you have readings about the one thing in this world you feel passionately dedicated to –and you cannot make it more than a few sentences before your train of thought derails. What is the matter with you?

The matter with me is grad school.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love my program. It is fantastic and awesome and there are so many great people with awesome ideas and I’m ecstatically happy to be a part of it. I think I’m going to come out of it infinitely better equipped to work in publishing and as a writer.

That being said, the very nature of grad school is to take the thing you love and make them work. Not work like “Eureka, this works!” Work like, “Ohmygosh I have to read five young adult novels by tomorrow this is so much work!” And it’s not that I don’t enjoy those young adult novels. It’s just the nature of how they have been forced upon me that makes me resistant to them. Because work is just that: work. If it wasn’t, they’d call it homefun instead of homework. And the nature of work, even work you enjoy, is that it can wear you down and make you weary of something you love.

This is the paradox of grad school: trying to find the motivation to do something that you passionately love. Reading it there, it doesn’t make sense, even to me, who is in the middle of experiencing the so-called grad school paradox. But none the less, it is true.

Grad school has by no means destroyed my enjoyment of the subject that I am studying, but it has changed it. But that’s okay – I guess it’s boring if things always stay the same. You can’t move forward if you’re standing still6.

  1. NaNoWriMo is a national event for crazy people who band together through the interwebs and try to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. The goal is not to write a good novel – it is just to write a novel. I love this, because it gives me permission to suck.
  2. My novel is about zombies, Mormons, and a hook-handed man. Guys, it’s rocking.
  3. Even though I am sleeping on a mattress on the floor and kind of feel like a squatter.
  4. Daughter of Smoke and Bone – you remember, that book I DO NOT SHUT UP ABOUT.
  5. In case you live in a hole, allow me to be the first to tell you that there was an election last night. Nothing too important. Spoiler alert: the black guy won.
  6. If Gandhi didn’t say that, I’m claiming it.
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2 thoughts on “in which grad school is a paradox

  1. Carson says:

    I feel like this should be “the paradox of life.” I mean, isn’t that how life is? Something that you’ve always wanted to do and love, and now is the time for it, and about 75% of it wears you down. But it’s that 25% of utter joy that keeps us going. Or maybe it’s more like 90%-10%. Whatever. But that’s why we have so many different experiences at different times–to keep us moving forward, as you say. Good luck with all the reading/writing!

  2. Benjamin Tomak says:

    It’s a rite of passage in which we will be inundated with the things our advisors find useful. We will utilize very few of these things, but we will have played the game, which is all anyone will care about. In the meantime, we will sharpen the skills that apply to our passions, which is all that will ultimately matter. It is the tedious path to doing what it is we want to do.

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