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.


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