Oh, Dell, why dost thou hate me?

My laptop ship date has been pushed back another month. Grrr. Another month of needing to schedule my homework around when the computer lab is open, and trying to write stories while people chatter and walk around where I’m working. At least now I know why the laptop’s been delayed and delayed: there was a fire in Korea in the town that supplies all the processors for American computers. Korea ate my homework.

On the up-side:
1. After working my butt off all weekend, I’m almost caught up with my homework, and by next weekend I should actually be ahead of the game.
2. I’ve lost 15 pounds since I left my job and came here, which is awesome. My pants are falling down. *g*
3. I had a breakthrough with a story that just wasn’t working: the juvenile safecracker is writing his college essay, trying to explain why the incident on his permanent record is totally not his fault.

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epic!fail

Between the food poisoning, a head cold, and the training to work in the writing center, my schedule’s been way more packed than I’d like for the past week and a half. It’s really hammering home to me the difference between college and graduate school; I just haven’t had a minute to myself. Yesterday, I took an hour to ride my bike and a half an hour to talk to my best friend (whom I haven’t spoken to in two weeks!) and those two indulgences so killed my schedule that I had to skip dinner, stay in the computer lab until it closed at 9PM, and come in first thing in the morning to write a paper, and I still forgot to write an entire section in the rush and got to both my classes five minutes late! And now I have my shift at the writing center and two colloquia that are scheduled simultaneously tonight. I’m working so hard, I don’t know how I can possibly work harder, and I still feel like I’m failing to do right by my teachers and myself.

This weekend, I have to read and comment on all of Gulliver’s Travels, do the same for a 200-page story by Henry James, do 15 hours of research and revision in the library, and read all the creative efforts of my fellow students for two workshop classes. Somewhere in there, I have to find time to do writing of my own, because I’m due to turn in stories and essays. I’m beyond bailing out the canoe. I’m in the water and frantically trying to read the swim manual.

I’m just looking at this mountain of work and thinking, “I took on too much. This is crazy.”

First day of work

After a full weekend of training and role-play, I did my first shift as a consultant at the Writing Center on Monday morning. I admit, I was a bit nervous and excited, but I figured nothing gets college students out of bed before noon on Monday anyway, so my first shift was likely to be just critiquing online drafts and doing basic “housekeeping” tasks like xeroxing fliers and watering the plants.

Instead, the operating principle seemed to be that anyone who cared enough to use the writing center in the first place was the sort of conscientious student who did their homework over the weekend and came in first thing on Monday to work on it. We had a line out the door from the moment we walked in, even the two program administrators dove in to help cut down the wait time, and I went from one consultation to the next without so much as a moment to catch my breath.

I loved it. I went two hours straight without even noticing time pass, and afterwards I spent an hour with one of my new coworkers coming down from the high, talking over what we did right, puzzling over what we might do better next time.

I’d say I did most things really well; I think I helped people and left them feeling good about their writing and confident about the rewrites they were going to do. But the two skills I need to work on are questioning students Socratically and letting them figure things out themselves (working in a time crunch, it’s hard to let someone slowly puzzle through the answer when I can tell it to them in two seconds, but I have to remember that I’m teaching people to fish, not handing them a salmon fillet) and complimenting people more to build their confidence.

All in all, I think it’s going to be a lot of fun, and teach me a lot about teaching. It’s going to be a great semester.

Slowly, slowly…

Getting better bit by bit. Today I bravely attempted a banana, decided that was too adventurous, and went back to nibbling on crackers. I have literally twenty hours of homework to do for one of my classes this week, which is made more difficult for the best of all possible reasons: I have a job! Seven hours a week as a tutor in the writing center, helping undergrads with papers. Very happy about this, but I need to attend two all-day training sessions for it this weekend, which makes the homework situation that much more dire.

In other news, got critiqued for the first time last night. This story was, I think, the best story I have ever written, but boy, that didn’t save me. People pointed out grievous errors that I hadn’t even seen, but that I now agree I absolutely need to deal with. And the comments were well-thought out and gently delivered; people had really read the story carefully and wanted to help me make it better, not just prove their own skill by pointing out my errors. I think it was one of the most fruitful critiques I’ve ever had, and I’m taking it both as a good harbinger for the year and as a comment on how I should approach their writing in return.

Sick

I got a bad case of food poisoning this weekend, and when I say bad, I mean the least painful part was vomiting eight times in two hours. My next door neighbor, Shane, was amazing; she took me to the hospital at midnight, joking to keep me calm, and stayed the whole time while I got IV fluids and meds and heated blankets (I was wearing two shirts, two pairs of pants, fluffy socks and sneakers and I was still shivering violently).

Spent today in bed, too dizzy even to read, slept a lot, drank a little water but didn’t even attempt food. I’m scarily behind on my work, and worried about whether there’s going to be a problem with insurance, but mostly I’m just so glad to be slowly getting better and so grateful to Shane for helping me.

Bailing out the canoe (and loving every minute)

First two weeks of classes are over, and boy, do they ride you hard in grad school! There are the days I have class for ten hours straight, and the days I spend curled up in Starbucks, diligently working my way through Henry James or the MLA Literary Research Guide, or trying to compose a story or essay in longhand (I still don’t have a laptop, and the computer center is too noisy for me to concentrate). The moment I finish one assignment, I get handed another, and I’m running from one thing to the next without a real chance to sit down and catch my breath. But it’s exciting, being pushed to think and write and speak on a level I didn’t think I was capable of. I’ve never been challenged like this before.

I’m supposed to be taking three classes, but managed to finagle my way into taking four, two workshops and two lit courses. The non-fiction course is amazing; the teacher had us eating out of the palm of his hand, and gave me great feedback on my first assignment. I’ve never written non-fiction before, and I was amazed at how many different types there are, and how many different writing styles you can use, from hybrid poetry to narrative to thesis. I’m reserving judgement on my fiction workshop, on the other hand; the teacher’s style is not what I’m used to, and I’m waiting to see what effect it has on my writing and on the class dynamic. I adore my 18th Century & Restoration lit professor; we’re reading a mixture of poetry, plays, and novels for the class, and I think she’s chosen a wonderful, wide range of authors for the period. And my research and methods class is taught by the head of the department, a very sweet man whose goal, as he says, is to help us transition from the passive learning style necessary at lower levels of education and get us to the point where we can seek out our own information and join the larger conversation of literary criticism in our own right. Even at Bard, I never had to work this hard, but I’m already seeing the results in my writing; my papers are clearer and stronger than they were at the college level, and while the first story I submitted for workshop was far from perfect, I’m pushing the limits of what I know how to do, and I think it’s either the best or the second-best story I’ve ever written.

Meanwhile, the temperature plummetted 30 degrees this week and hasn’t recovered; I’ve gone from wearing tee shirts to pulling on flannel and a jacket in the mornings. This weekend is something called the Tour de Fat, a sort of costumed pubcrawl through all the microbreweries in town, which should be a lot of fun. And somewhere in there, I’ve got a million tons of homework to get through, preferably sober, grrr.

On the home front, a few days ago my dad was cutting some wood with a power saw and the safety cover flew off the machine at him while he was using it. Thankfully, he managed to escape with only a cut on his forehead; it could have been a lot worse if he hadn’t been wearing his glasses. He’s fine. But this is the first time something’s happened to my family since I moved out here, and it’s upsetting not to be able to give him a hug and reassure myself that he’s really okay.