Monday, July 14, 2008

Fret's Awesome Weekend o' Sleep Deprivation

Back from a three-day trip to see Grad School Trivia Buddy married off. It was quite awesome and fabulous and resulted in my teaching Dante this afternoon on next to no sleep (the class, fortunately, went better than it really had a right to do).

The Beloved Alma Mater is roughly on the way to GSTB's home town, so I spent a couple of hours wandering around campus. The last time I was there was in February, about a year and a half ago; I remember wandering around the English building, getting all sentimental about the chipping paint on the stair railings and feeling like nothing had changed, until I happened to glance into a classroom. Five rows of students, all tap-tap-tapping on their laptops. You can't go home again.

The classrooms are empty in the summer. I stood, for a moment, at the front of Room 215, scene of a conversation with Freshman Shakespeare Prof (by then Sophomore Epic & Romance Prof) that may have changed my life. He wandered into class five minutes late, explaining that he'd just been teaching American Lit, and asked (rhetorically, I'm sure) how you could get from The Scarlet Letter to the Odyssey in ten minutes. And since I was the sort of irritating student who answered rhetorical questions, I thought of a way, and shyly sidled up after class to tell him about it. We talked. He asked if I'd ever considered grad school. Click.

I glanced at FSP's old office, empty now that he's in phased retirement. No books on the shelves; no ancient Doonesbury cartoons about grade inflation on the door. It seemed drained of personality.

The Medievalist wasn't around either, although his office -- in one of the outbuildings on the oldest part of the campus -- looked reassuringly occupied. For a long glorious autumn in my senior year, his Early Celtic Literature class met on a patch of grass in front of the office; I think of him whenever I hold class outdoors. I left a note. We haven't talked since MLA 2005, and I'm feeling like that's too long.

And so, back on the road.

Grad School Trivia Buddy gave terrific and exhausting parties even when we were impoverished grad students, so it didn't surprise me that she and her family pulled out all the stops for her wedding. I count five parties in slightly over forty-eight hours, not counting the wedding itself. Whew. (How AWESOME is it that they had a pig-pickin' for the reception? I have been jonesing for good barbecue since I don't know when. Mmm, pig.) Somewhere in between all that we even got in a wee-hours-of-the-morning trivia game, which I won, although it was hard-fought indeed.

I miss grad school. I didn't think I was going to miss it that much, because it took me way too long to finish, and by then I was a little sick of feeling like I was waiting for my life to start, and besides, most of my friends had scattered across the country. I guess what I really miss is having a steady group of friends who were up for late nights of drinking and intensely competitive board gaming, which just doesn't seem to happen as much in the world of Grown-Up Faculty. Or maybe it does, and I just haven't met the right people yet. But anyway, it was great to see these people, even if they keep doing crazy things like getting married, and having babies. (The other thing I discovered over the weekend is that while babies and toddlers are very cute, I'm really rather glad that all of them belong to somebody else. It generally takes me about thirty minutes in their presence to go from "ooh, I want a baby" to "ick, that is a lot of spit.")

How was everyone else's weekend?


Sisyphus said...

I hear ya on the baby stuff. Though the little jaunt down memory lane sounds really nice.

Anonymous said...

I, too, have been reminiscing about grad school. Now that I've been on the tenure track for three years, I'm beginning to understand what life will be like for me as a professor. And truthfully, I'm a little horrified.

I realize that I loved grad school for its infinite possibilities. Even though I was broke and exhausted, I knew that everything would eventually change after I graduated. I lived in perpetual hope during grad school, and I didn't realize until now how much I loved that.

On the tenure track, the perpetual hope of infinite possibilities is significantly smaller. Being on the tenure track is about working to stay in the same place rather than working for the possibility of different places.

I hope your transition from lecturer to tenure track assistant prof goes smoother than mine.

Fretful Porpentine said...

RG -- Thanks (though I don't know about the perpetual hope; actually, I think I went through grad school believing that I didn't have a future in the profession, so I might as well take my time finishing and figuring out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life). What I really miss, I think, is having a cohort of people who were in the same place as I was.