school

The Essay I Should Have Written

UnknownA cold, miserable mist greeted me when I walked out into the evening after my last semester final. The kind of mist that doesn’t quite call for an umbrella and yet leaves you damp by the time you get where you are going no matter the distance traveled. It fit my mood perfectly and summed up the semester quite well: all wet.

It really bothers me that I have not performed well, especially in this anthropology course on identity, despite knowing that there have been some extenuating circumstances involved – work issues, home issues, health issues – and as only my closest of closest’s know, identity can be a challenging subject for me. But I also know that I made some poor choices in the past fifteen weeks. All came back to haunt me this afternoon.

Given the choice of two out of five or six questions, we were to write complete essays integrating the information we gleaned from the course and our supposed intellectual interpretation of said information. I say supposed because, at least in my instance, my intellect fled from my brain as soon as I began to read the questions.

The questions weren’t difficult, really just slight variations on things we had discussed in class. What was lacking was my ability to form a single cohesive unit of thought. We had two hours to give back any indication we understood the course work. It took me an hour and a half to write the first piece of drivel and the remaining half hour to slather my paper with the second piece of nonsense. I cried on the way home, whether in frustration, relief or shame I cannot say.

Bashert, bless her non-cooking soul, had made matzah ball soup while I was off torturing myself. It was a welcome balm to my aching ego, as was the time spent relaxing on the couch with her and Yoda just watching a mystery show together. It gave me space to breathe and mull over what had occurred during the final. It gave me a chance to get my thoughts in order and think about what I would have written had my brain been in working order.

One of the choices in the questions given was to state three things you have learned about your identity through this course. This is the essay that I should have written.

Identity is a nebulous thing. It tends to defy definition because there are so many ways to define it. When researching information about my term paper, I found that Toon van Meijl attempted to define identity as “a kind of nexus at which different constructions of self coincide, and sometimes also collide”. Identity is who you are, but also who you are taught to be and who you are ascribed to be. Identity is fluid and changeable, yet fixed and determined. That is what I have learned this semester.

In my parents’ home I am the third child and youngest daughter, sister to my siblings; immutable non-choices, determined by my parents’ genetics and timing. In my own home, I am Mom; I am now daughter and mother. Two of my identities have coincided and collided. I exist in the context of both constructs.

In my spousal relationship, I am wife and not-wife, to corrupt a phrase used by Serena Nanda in her article, “Men and Not-Men”. The hegemony in which I reside still does not fully accept the identity marker of wife for my partnership in life. Since I live in a domestic partnership and have the sex designation of female, it is customary to identify my role as “wife”, but in my domestic partnership, the other is not male. Here a different construction collides. Because of my sexuality, I am not wife, but I am not husband.

Along the same lines is my gender identity; gender, as we have been taught, being the cultural interpretation of physical appearance. Because of agreements to societal changes over the years in the Western cultural structure in which I reside, I am able to utilize my own agency and choose to not wear clothing typically interpreted for people who have a feminine gender. But because those societal changes did not necessarily encompass a change in the central meaning of the generalized concepts of what masculine and feminine connote in our society, my choice of attire and even hairstyle creates yet another identity when seen from another social worldview.

In my place of work, I occupy multiple spaces. I am employee, boss, trainer, acquaintance and friend. In school, I am student, but designated as other since I do not fit the cultural profile of the typical college student. In my religious sphere, I am Jewish to the outside faiths, but may not be considered as such by those Jews whose worldview is much more orthodox than mine.

At my own nexus of self, I am all of the above and more. I identify as artist, writer, political agnostic, curmudgeon and nice person. How I see myself may not be the way another will or can view me. If I have learned anything in the time spent through this course is that identity is a process, a state of being that is always fixed and always in flux, determined not only by the institution in which we reside, but also by the resistance and agency we as individuals choose to apply.

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Dreams may come, dreams may go

In the spring, I received notice that my university financial aid would not be processed unless I declared a major, met with an advisor and laid out a course schedule hurtling me toward graduation. I was informed that financial aid would no longer pay for any courses not directly involved with obtaining the degree I sought. Such is the penalty for going back for a second undergraduate degree and having no money. I have to know what I want to be when I grow up.

Some time back, I grew weary of the corporate grind, the machinations, the end of the world scenarios every time something goes wrong, the obvious greed and lack of empathy from those who have scaled the corporate mountain. I kept telling Bashert I needed to get back in school and find something else to do with my life. She finally told me to “shit or get off the pot”. In other words, do something about it or shut up. I chose to return to school.

I returned with the full intention of moving on to a graduate program here at our state Medical University. I didn’t want to become a physician, but gain a doctorate and do research. Neuroscience and psychopharmacology were the two beacons lighting my way. I am fascinated with the way the brain works. I had a dream.

I volunteered to work the night shift so that I could have my days to attend classes and study. I worked it out with my nightside partners whereby I would be the one to “close” every night except Wednesdays, the night before I had a lab class scheduled. Working the later night shift would also give me more time to spend with Yoda, picking him up from school and having supper together with Bashert.

When I got to school, it was if I had entered a magic kingdom. I’d forgotten how much I love to learn. Having a lifetime of experiences behind me, I felt much surer of myself. No longer the first time attending, scared teenager or that voiceless woman coming out of a horrible divorce situation, I was there for a purpose and with a self authority I lacked before.

My resolve of purpose faltered a year into my studies with the introduction of Evolutionary Biology and PreCalculus.

Now let me pause here just one moment and let you know something about myself. I am bitter. You see, I graduated the first time around with a GPA of 3.499 and it didn’t get rounded up. Yep, I missed cum laude by 1/1000th of a point. You know why I graduated with a 3.499?

Math.

In 1979, I took College Algebra, earned a D and it has haunted my GPA ever since.  Never mind that I returned to school, took it over and made an A, no, in college it all counts and never goes away.

What do Evolutionary Biology and PreCalculus concern? Math – lots and lots of math.

That semester was a living hell of math.

I managed to eke out a B in both classes. EvoBio was saved by my writing ability and obnoxious eagerness to have everything turned in early. PreCalculus was saved only by my four day marathon study session for the final and the good graces of the adjunct professor, who dropped three tests grades.

I looked at the remaining classes I would be required to take to earn my B.S. and move on. Chemistry I&II & Organic – math; Physics I&II- math; Calculus – math; Genetics – math.

It was then I realized that I was not going to be able to realize my dreams of moving on to any PhD. program in science. Perhaps if I was younger with more time and energy to devote myself strictly to the programs, I could do it, at least that’s what I would like to think. But with a family to care for, health issues and a job that costs me 45-60 hours a week, excluding travel time, it just wasn’t going to happen. I simply don’t bounce back like I used to and there are sacrifices I’m not ready to make. So, I had to release that dream.

It hasn’t been easy giving up.  I practically gave up writing and I my camera still lies unused. I grudgingly declared an English major and met with the English vice-chair for advisement. Corporate drudgery stared me down hard. I felt defeated, weary and wasteful. At this point in my life, what use was studying 19th century British literature going to do? I sulked most of my way through last spring and the summer.

It has taken until now to climb my way back out of that hole of disappointment.

Glimmers of light are beginning to shine through. I have partners that I work with in my business life that I enjoy and trust now. And while Family Bedlam is well, still bedlam, we are a family doing the best we can with love and hope. This semester I am taking classes I really enjoy and I have an appointment to speak with someone in the Communications department about switching to an area of study that might just help me in my present career. If I cannot move on to a different world outside then perhaps I can make the world I exist in now a little bit better.

I guess that’s the good thing about dreams. One can always build another.

Photo Credit: Photo by Vail. Undated. mtholyoke.edu

Derailed

 

 The rhythm of life can be disrupted by many things. My arrhythmia came about by lack of sleep.

 

The first or second week of May, in a sleep deprived stupor, I nearly hit a train. This was no metaphorical iron horse breathing the hot breath of mortal visions, but a real locomotive. I wasn’t stuck on the tracks or trying to beat the guard arms, no I just nearly rammed into the side of a moving CSX freight car because my brain was running on the memory of my Serta.

June found me working three straight weeks of 7pm to 5am shifts and attending an accelerated five week semester, studying Intro to Literary Theory (I never again want to read Heart of Darkness or see “Apocalypse Now”.), and doing a massive overhaul of my home. On more than one occasion, I woke to sunlight streaming through my car window either in the work parking lot or in front of my home. Very disconcerting to say the least.

 

Life was moving in pudding. Something had to give and, like our so wise government always seems to choose, the first thing to go was the Arts. Writing, outside of horribly constructed critical papers for school, was out. Photography reduced to glossed over gazing at Bashert’s beautiful shots. The summer reading books remained hostage in the bottom of my book bag.

 

Things began to flow again when one of my fellow gatekeepers returned to the office a couple of weeks ago giving me time relief and Maymester closed giving me brain relief (I earned a B in my lit class – always makes me wonder if an A would be in the works if the only thing on my list was school). My family has been gracious enough to allow me to sleep in even though on occasion Yoda was busting at the seams to get me up and going. I’ve only passed out in the driveway once in the last two weeks.

 

So, hopefully my sinus rhythm is returning to normal. I took a quick opportunity to step outside and snaps some photos today and if I can keep this up I will finish this little article. I’ve started it many times in the last few days. I’m going to catch up on all the Weekly Photo Challenges that I can. “Today” sort of loses its freshness when taken several weeks after the “today” of the assignment, but philosophically speaking it’s always today, so…

 

For those of you who so nicely signed up to follow the blog, I thank you for hanging in and not deleting my link while I was MIA. For those of you who have stopped by and left comments, I thank you also; I will answer and acknowledge the time you took to visit. I have one day planned to catch up on all the wonderful blog writings and photography I have missed these weeks.

 

Blogosphere, here I come, cross my heart.

 

Passion Doesn’t Pay the Bills

What do I want to be when I grow up?

Unless you are five years old or were born to just know your destiny, this can be quite an enormous question.  And since I am no longer five and long ago gave up my dream of being Tarzan, I find myself asking this question almost daily.

The trade I ply presently came by way of accident, really.  It was an opportunity that presented itself when needed.  A steady income, with insurance benefits for my entire “alternative” family, not something easy to find.  The job came with great bonuses, an energetic atmosphere and interesting people to work with.  OWL used to say it was like going to work at that place with the cheery mouse.

Work really was fun. But the tide has turned with the economy. What was once joy has turned to stress inducing drudgery. I find myself mired the muck of corporate offal, my feet stuck by the very things that once offered succor.

The clouds were on the horizon three years ago, so I decided to go back to school.  Actually, I spoke about going back for so long, Bashert told me I need to shit or get off the pot.

I have a degree already; a Bachelor of Fine Arts.  My About page kids around a bit, but the part about being an artist is true.  I didn’t take a whole lot of advanced sciences and maths the first go around.

My idea was to go back, shore up my maths and sciences and then apply to the Medical University, get into a PhD program and into research, preferably in the neurosciences.  I would leave the corporate world behind and submerge myself in the world of discovery.

My plan isn’t going so well.  What started as a couple of biology and math classes blossomed into, “I might as well go ahead and get the second bachelor’s degree since I’ve already done all the core work.”  So I declared as a Biology major.

Turns out though, I’m not that crazy about Biology and Math still hates me.  I take part of that back – I’m not crazy about my lab classes or some of the Biology professors or the fact that our Biology department concentrates primarily on environmental studies.  I’m not big on reptiles or plant reproduction.  The other part about Math remains.

My next thought was to look into data mining or Biostatistics.  Either would still be research, but not in the lab.  Turns out that you need a boat load of mathematics to do either.  Advanced math, such as the likes of Linear Algebra and Calculus.  You recall I mentioned Math hates me?

So, I’m back to square one.

I could slip quietly back into this good night, return to the day shift and make myself more visible to the powers that be and claw my way up the next ring of the spiderweb.

I could turn to a more stodgy major such as business (sorry Dad) and use it to advance toward the next life- sucking level of management.  Doesn’t the joy of that idea just ooze out?

All the classes I’m taking are getting farther and farther from what I originally intended.  I mean,  come on: Creative Writing?  I’m thinking someone’s trying to tell me something, but what I’m not quite sure.

Guess I have more pondering to do.  It will keep me occupied while I’m digging my next hole for archaeology.

Finals Week – Waiting will have to wait

It’s time to put the fall semester to bed, but first I have to tuck in the edges with an Anthropology final and delivery of my final portfolio for Creative Writing.  Translation: Weekly Photo Challenge will be late coming.

So pardon me for a little while longer, as I go gas up on another cup of coffee and a quick dance around the dining room, so that I can wake up enough to finish review of three more chapters.  And I thought I took the night off to be rested for tomorrow.  Silly me.

Off the Grid and Out of Luck

I have several writings in the works – all one fourth to half done.  They are pretty cool subjects, too.  But, school and work demands have derailed me for a moment or two.

One issue in particular has my goat.

Right now I am cursing the wind, well really the US Post Office.  They are holding my Creative Writing textbook hostage.  Delivery date is reported as today.  Is my textbook in my hot little hand, open and forthcoming of information for my homework that is due tomorrow? No.

It is languishing on the back dock of the main post office.

I am a proponent of letter writing.  I believe it is a lovely art and cherish the letters some of my family members have written over the years. There’s nothing like the feeling of seeing that envelope with my name on it and the excitement of wondering what it holds inside.

Now that being said, I can understand why we don’t do it anymore.  Outside of the psychological developments over the past 10 years or so concerning the widespread infection of instant gratification disorder, there is the frustration with dealing with an outdated system of logistics. I tend to forget that the Post Office is a Government Office.

In order to retrieve your packages, you have to have a yellow slip of paper.  On this yellow slip of paper is the same tracking number that I wrote down from the USPS very own tracking website that told me my package had arrived at 6am this very morning.  But I guess it didn’t count because my paper was green (the back of the notice that tells me my water is going to be off tomorrow morning for about 4 hours for maintenance work).

So until I can cough up an official, yellow piece of paper, the USPS is going to hold my textbook hostage. And I’m out of luck on my homework assignment.

I wonder how creative I can get with my Creative Writing excuse.