How the Hell Did We Get Here?

In keeping with yesterday’s Rent-related theme: how did we get here, how the hell? Or, if you’d prefer, I can’t believe a year went by so fast. And while it hasn’t quite been a year since I started into my MA program, the official end is in sight: I’m supposed to submit my 2000 papear no later than June 30. Given the drama involving my supervisor, I’ve been given a significant reprieve…but still, I thought it would be interesting to read back over some of the choice school-related rants I’ve written since September 13, when I first stumbled into Jennifer Jenkins’ historiography class. With that, and with virtually no editing whatsoever…

  • From “Back in School” (September 14): “In nine months I’ll have an MA, which is better, I guess, than just having a BAH. And after that, who knows? I guess I’m envisioning this program as a sort of holding pattern; if I stick around long enough, maybe I’ll figure out what it is I really want to do. In the meantime, however, I’ve got a staggering amount of reading to do…like, a book per course per week, plus assignments, plus a marking job (I’m doing marking for a couple classes over at Ryerson University), plus researching my 2000 paper (or master’s thesis). With all that on my plate, you probably won’t hear from me until December…I’ve been in the game for two days and can already understand why so many academics are the way they are.” [Editor’s Note: what’s the expression? “Pot calling the kettle black”? Think about it.]
  • From “Dazed and Confused, Part I” (September 15): “Welcome to the life of a grad student: one book per course per week. Plus assignments. Plus marking. Plus research. Plus writing. Somewhere in there I hear I’m supposed to eat and sleep, although I have yet to confirm this rumour. I’ve becomed hardened and cynical already, and it’s freaking September 15. I have nine more months of this self-induced abuse to go. Just unbelievable what you’ll do to yourself when you have no real direction.”
  • From “Got the Life?” (October 11): “…I’m starting to understand why so many academics are insane–or at least incapable of carrying on conversation that doesn’t involve their topic of interest. This isn’t a lifestyle that encourages balance: it basically demands that you spend all your time in one of three places–in a classroom, at a library or in front of a computer–and that you do almost all of your work by yourself; throw in the wanton self-neglect you put yourself through in undergrad, and…well, it’s a ticking timebomb, isn’t it?” [Editor’s Note: yes, yes it is.]
  • From “Dazed and Confused, Part IV” (October 12): “This morning, I did my first-ever grad school assignment: I led a two-hour classroom discussion (are you sitting down?) on the paradigm shift from chattel slavery to contract freedom in antebellum United States. If that doesn’t quicken the pulse, add in 328 pages’ worth of readings, a four-to-six page literature review and a half-hour prep meeting with the professor…and we’re talking unfathomable depths of pleasure here, aren’t we? To prepare for this bonanza, I pulled a quasi all-nigher…which explains why, at 5:30 this afternoon, I’m so exhausted I can hardly sit up. Y’know when you’re so tired you feel you have to lie down for fear of fainting? That was me earlier today; a two-hour nap later and I still feel like falling down, but can’t go back to bed since a, I’m about to eat; b, after that, I’m going to Ikea to get a desk (that’s right, it’s October 12 and I still don’t have one–I’m writing this blog entry like I’ve written all the other ones, sitting on my floor with the computer in my lap); c, coming home and assembling said desk; d, starting to write the literature review; and e, watching the Yankees/Red Sox game. It’s week five of classes and I’m already firmly entrenched in the destructive cycle of wanton self-neglect…God bless academia.” [Editor’s Note: five months later, and I still am.]
  • From “Ramble On, Again” (February 25): “The fact that the NFL Network is broadcasting continuously from the scouting combine in Indianapolis says a lot about the lack of meaningful football-related news; the fact that I’m sitting here watching it says a lot about my general attitude where graduate studies is concerned.” [Editor’s Note: true ‘dat!]
  • From “I’m Still Alive, Addendum to the Addendum” (March 18): “It is now 12:16 in the morning, and I have a day of academic prison sex before me.” [Editor’s Note: lovely, Steve.]
  • From “The End” (April 5): “When the second presentation ended and our professor let us out ten minutes early, I was officially done with the classroom component of my MA. Later at dinner, a bunch of us were almost in awe at how quickly the year has gone…I mean, I still feel like I’m getting used to this whole University of Toronto/grad school thing, and here I am on the brink of writing final papers and starting on my thesis.” [Editor’s Note: I’m still amazed at how quickly this year went by.]
  • From “Dazed and Confused? Not True!” (Aprli 29): “Today, at 4:56pm, I handed in the last of my course assignment. Just like that, my M.A., which back in the fall seemed like it would never end, is almost finished.” [Editor’s Note: to reiterate, “I can’t believe a year went by so fast.”]

I probably shouldn’t get too caught up in waxing philosophical about a program I openly despised…yet I’m finding it hard not to. As much as I didn’t enjoy myself, I’m starting to see the benefit in what I’ve done; when I get around to submitting my thesis (which is about the late, great concert promoter Bill Graham and his role in shaping 1960s youth culture), I feel as though I’ll be filled with a huge sense of satisfaction. In the meantime, I’m currently feeling pangs of regret for not having taken better advantage of graduate studies; I guess it’s yet another sign I’m not at all cut out for academia, but I still feel as though I could have done a better job of getting involved in the academic community (I wish I could be inside Paul Hatcher’s head right about now). I’m also slightly awed at how quickly the last ten months have gone by. Back in early September, my friend Katie left on a nine month-long voyage of self-discovery to South East Asia, and when we said our goodbyes I remember thinking to myself, “June will never, ever, ever be here.” But here we are, and Katie gets back to Canada in a week-and-a-half. Me, I’ve survived five graduate level courses, a pointless French language exam, a marking job, presentations, papers, the presence of aspiring academics, an hour-and-a-half long commute between my house and the University of Toronto…and in twenty days I’m supposed to submit a thesis. It won’t happen–I’m in the process of applying for an extension, which Allan Greer has assured me I’ll get–but the symbolism of June 30 is utterly impossible to deny. I can’t believe a year went by so fast.


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