Now What?

So yesterday was the big day. Talk about Antique Antics!

Convocation. Cap ‘n gown. The ceremony. The walk. It was a day of pride and satisfaction, and reflection, and even as I was seated in the auditorium enjoying the speeches and the parade of talent crossing the dais, I was thinking about the journey. 

And what a journey! From orientation to classes, from research, methodology and the finer points of my assignments I cannot overstate the personal importance of this journey. My trip through the minefields of communications and culture has brought me to a far greater understanding of the benefits and pitfalls of modern technology. We all know what we like about it, but do we really understand the price that we pay for our freedoms? Anyway, that’s a subject for another time.

The ceremony went off without a hitch – I managed to get across the dais without tripping and falling flat on my face. It was nice. I was never nervous. I felt good in my cap and gown. I have to say that a strange sort of calm settled over me during the ceremony which I identify as pride, at being there, and getting it right. I missed distinction by a hair’s-breadth in my GPA, but that doesn’t really bother me. I still got it done, and with room to spare.

As I climbed up on the dais my favourite prof was there, giving students instructions. She smiled wide when she saw me, said “hey, look who’s here!” and actually gave me a hug. Later she told me there were only two students she hugged – me and a PhD student she’s also rather fond of. She hunted me down after the ceremony too, and just about the first thing she told me – in the presence of my loving friends and family – was that she really thinks I should carry on with my Masters and a PhD.

Well, let me tell you: when I went out the door yesterday morning I was not thinking about further education. I was trying to figure out my work future – how to get a job with my eminent but quirky combination of degrees and experience. I was thinking about what I would need to do to either negotiate with the system and find employment, or blow right past it and create something for myself. 

But now the idea of a Masters is oddly intriguing to me. Hearing that I can do it from a distance (technology makes this possible) means my family’s plans to move don’t have to change. Understanding how willing my Prof is to supervise me makes me feel really, really appreciated – frankly, more so than I’ve felt in years. Believe me, it’s a recognition far beyond what I expected to enjoy yesterday, and it is causing me to revisit some of my other, less positive relationships.

We’re going to have coffee sometime soon to discuss it a little more. Meantime I’m researching the cost and the availability of grants, and even without them I’m trying to figure out how it would look for me, financially and logistically.

So maybe this blog isn’t winding down after all. Perhaps there’s a whole new process about to unfold. Having secured the Bachelor’s, maybe there’s something a little more in-depth coming. If I do it, it will be thesis-based and I’ll start sooner rather than later – I don’t want to forget everything I learned chasing down the Bachelor’s. But there’s information to gather and I need a lot of answers before I make that commitment. 

Here’s the Old Fart on Convocation Day. Not too bad for forty-nine. I’m twice as old as the students I graduated with, but my mind is still young. 

Thanks for joining me on this exhilarating journey. If we all hold our tongues just right, there might just be more.

 

Silence

 

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The Last Paper

What can I say? It’s all done, now, but the crying. I always said I’d get it done, and I did. Here’s the final paper:

I actually had trouble whittling my way down to a thesis statement on this one. I had so much material on my desk and in my mind that I just couldn’t narrow it down sufficiently to the kind of paper it was supposed to be. So I spoke to Dr. L and in about fifteen minutes all my stuff was lined up in my mind and my ideas were focused. 

At least, I think they were. 

At that point it took shape quickly. Two solid days for extra reading, two for a rough first draft, then concerted hacking, slashing, groaning, picking, head-shaking, corner-rounding and tightening, until I thought it was fit for ink. 

I emailed the prof – huzzah! – and went in to the university to drop it off in the office – four days early – and ever since then I’ve been cleaning house.

Now I wait to find out my final grades, await my convocation details (June 10th, 930am) and go and do what I skipped out on the first time around – trip on my gown going up the stairs to the dais to accept my prize flat on my face.

Things have felt different since I handed the paper in. At first I thought that was the old “oh my gosh, I’m on holiday now” thing, but that’s not it. I’ve been pondering, and I think I know what it is now. 

Once I graduate, I won’t be young anymore. 

The kids I worked with were overwhelmingly good and patient and welcoming, and appreciative of the old fart back in school – they made me feel like I belonged. Sharing in the pressures of the work, it seldom occurred to me that I was nearly thirty years older than them. I was always just one of the kids. 

But now, with the completion of this paper, with this passage, I have to return to my own time of life. Sure, there’s hope in my outlook, and excitement, and ambition, but let’s face it: the world is not my oyster. The decisions I make are not setting the course for an entire life, only for what I have left. The stakes are lower for me, and yet because retirement looms they might actually be higher.

One thing is for sure: with graduation and convocation this little journey is winding down, and so is this blog. It’s never been the busiest of blogs, but I think it said what needed to be said – when it needed to be said. 

So what’s next? We’re moving. The idea was born about a year ago and has been growing ever since, and frankly I can’t think of a better way to celebrate a graduation than with a truly fresh start. The process and the result will be the subject of my next blog.

I do hope you’ll tag along. 

Convocation

Lo, but the big day fast approacheth. 

Convocation. 

Of course, I applied for graduation in December as required, and got myself into the system. Since then I’ve been getting little reminders on this and that and I’ve been quietly paying attention. But schoolwork first, and my primary focus has certainly been there. 

But today, even as I was starting to finalize my last ever paper, my mind started to bend toward graduation. 

I’ve finally made up my mind to take part in the ceremony. This is big. After my first degree in 1990 I was so tired, so utterly, wretchedly, tired in so many different areas of my life that I did not take part – I just picked up my silly piece of paper, handed my silly photos to my Mom with an injunction never to show them to me again, and rode off into the sunset. 

This time though, I think I owe it to myself to attend, and I’m going for it. 

So I’ve ordered and paid for my cap and gown, I’ve gone over the checklist, and on Monday before class I’ll stop by the Faculty office to make sure I’m still on target.

I don’t know who’s going to join me since for my family attendance does involve some sacrifices, but let’s face it I’m not some dewey-eyed 23 year old just setting out in the world. Still, I’m going to invest in it for my own sake at least.

It’s been a tough slog for many different reasons, but now the end is most definitely in sight. 

I can’t deny it, it’s exciting.

History

I just finished my history paper. It was only ten pages in length, but I think it was the most difficult paper I’ve ever had to write. Why is this, you ask? Let me tell you, I answer.

They scare the bejeebers out of you about plagiarism. I’ve never plagiarized or cheated in my life, and the thought wouldn’t even occur to me, but the literature basically says you have to reference every idea that is not your own, or face the wrath of the judiciary! Well, kick me and call me a cowboy, but is there any such thing as a unique idea in a history paper? Surely everything we learn came from someone else!

Sigh. 

Not. Allowed. To. Use. The. Textbooks. 

For some reason the $60 text books are not good enough to be used as sources for this paper. I have no objection to doing research, but the text book should at least be a starting point. The reason given is that they are not peer-reviewed and footnoted, but does that make them inaccurate?

Sigh. 

I had a really hard time organizing my thoughts on this one, and not repeating myself. This is a big deal. Usually I can set paragraphs and talk up a storm, but this time it was hard to organize. Even as I’m writing this I’m trying to figure out why this is and I think because it’s history, and the salient points are relevant in all different directions. Something like this… ‘The decree of 1832 was an influencing factor in the dictum of 1874, and caused Sir Bolt to react as a total loonie against the Foofar tribe of Borneo whose primary modus operandum was the feeding of their families and the pursuit of the Decree of 1832.” You get the picture – it works in all different directions and my poor brain had a hard time, this time, compartmentalizing it. Believe me, I can’t wait for the next paper – it’s a simple, supported opinion piece. 

Sigh.

Chicago style citations. Citations in general drive me crazy, although I do understand their purpose, but most of my degree program has required APA style, so to suddenly throw Chicago at me now I consider a definite hardship. I don’t mind using footnotes – in fact I think they’re pretty cool – but the other stuff is just meshuga. 

Sigh.

Oh, and I had a nasty cold.

Speaking of the next papers – there are two of them due next Tuesday. Each has its challenges, but I’m sure that neither one will vex me like the history paper did. 

It occurred to me today that it’s November the 13th. That means that as of tomorrow there are precisely three weeks left in this semester. Man, how the time flies!

Here’s a picture. Sorry, I couldn’t afford a proper frame. I’m just a struggling student. 

Quiet Study Area

 

 

Fascination

Alright, it’s a beautiful day, so here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to get a coffee, pull the patio table out, haul my books outside with me and park my ass under the sun. I’m going to get some of my reading done. 

I’m bright and alert, vibrant and keen, so why not? I’m focused – sharp and adept. I’m thinking diligently only of my schoolwork and future successes, of the grades I need to be able to go to an ice cream store and buy one of those sweet, delicious peanut treats with all that wonderful caramel sauce and – 

I’m focused and keen, deliberate and firm of purpose. I think only of my books and my processes, never of those really weird-looking clouds floating by, or of the people talking really quite noisily (rudely so!) while walking along the sidewalk in front of the house. What business is it of mine if the neighbourhood crows want to fight with the magpies? Why should I care if the ants on the ground are making their way closer to me with every passing minute, or if that really attentive bee wants for some reason to settle on my head? Why should it upset me that that stupid helicopter keeps flying overhead – over and over and over again!

I’m keen and determined. The words on my page are clear and concise – the grammar perfect and beautiful. There are no distractions, like wondering what on earth I’m going to be cooking for supper later today. There is nothing whatsoever to prevent me from enjoying perfect, productive, scholarly, retentive, laser-like focus in my reading.

Yes, I’m determined and alert. I’m not in the least tired. Not at all dozy or droopy. No, I’m really not right on the point of falling asleep at all. Not at all. Not in the least. Nope. No way.

Fading

 

One of my favourite photo blogs: click here.

Ah, books!

It’s the middle of August and after a long summer of drudgery, of sleeping in, of chores and odd jobs and photographic odysseys to the countryside, I find my mind stretching schoolward once again. 

The courses I picked back in July – so that’s all done and good. Now, dear professors, I’d like to get my books. 

Going into my sixth semester, there are a couple of things I wonder about. Perhaps you can help:

Why, if I can (nay, must) book my courses in late June or early July, can I not pick up my books at the same time? Why are book lists never out until one week before term starts? I have to believe that I am not the only keener who would do summer pre-reading were the list available. Is it a matter of professorial organization that the lists are not complete? I could see that if it were a first time putting the course together, but since so many of these courses are offered time and again, I find this a little puzzling.

Also, why does the book store insist on allowing a mere two-weeks return policy on books – and then only if unopened? This, to me, discriminates against those who are enthusiastic enough to dedicate some R & R time to future studies. I mean, picture the poor student who books a course, then gradually reviews the text book, only to learn that the material isn’t exactly what he thought, and then finds out that because he opened the book and took 15 days to do it  he’s – what’s the phrase? – out of luck. He can drop the course I believe up to three weeks into the semester, so why does he get stuck with the books? To me, this just doesn’t make a lot of sense. 

The Book Repository


Anyway, I’m watching for the book lists for my courses, and in my mind I’m starting to get fired up for the new school year. I have an advantageous schedule this year – in the fall all my classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and in the winter semester they’re all on Mondays. This will be very good for designating study time, and will reduce the amount of bus travel significantly.

I have to admit, I’m looking forward to getting this final year going. 
 

Fire it up

I’m pretty sure you don’t want me to fire this up again with schoolboy tales of what I did this summer, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least touch on the subject. After all, from April to now is four months, and my plan at least was for four months of quiet, peace and joy and plenty, hibernation, recreation, relaxation, recharging, and whatever other R words you might be inclined to conjure up.

Sadly though, the bare truth is a little darker. Truth is, related to a lifetime of baggage which I would gladly and gratefully shed at the drop of the proverbial hat, I had a – what shall I call it? – an episode at the end of May from which it has taken most of the summer to recover.

Since the episode I’ve been thinking a lot, naturally. You know, how does school play into this? Was school responsible? Was it a factor, even, or was it merely incidental? Was school the bad guy, or did it just happen to pass by the scene of an already-unfolding disaster? As comforting as it can be to lay blame, if I’m honest I will aver that school was only a bit-player in my little melodrama. That’s all, and nothing more. It added a little tension, but my problems had the vice-grip bought and paid for years ago. It’s a long, long story of which Tolkien would be proud.

School will play a role in my recovery, however. It’s an incredibly optimistic thing to do.

I’ve already chosen my classes and bought my books, and I’ve started sending my mind into expansion mode, following a long, hot summer of retraction – yes, another R word. I’m looking forward to it, truly, but I already know that this semester will be a walk in the park – at least organizationally – compared to my last two. Why? First, I’m taking three courses, not four. This will allow me to keep up with reading and assignments and still have a semblance of a life away from school; less bullshit, less blather, less guilt, less tired. Second, I have carefully crafted my schedule this time around to ensure that I have no early classes – in fact, my earliest classes this time are at 1230pm, leaving me plenty of time to enjoy all my R words, and perhaps develop a few more. Recall that last year, all year, I had to be on campus for 8am three days a week! I didn’t skip a class, but this will be a definite improvement.

Anyway, I’m lucky. I have a very nice office at home where I can work without the distractions of the student body – chatter, Facebook, Twitter and so on – where my outcomes will depend on nothing but my own level of concentration, so why wouldn’t I want to use it? Last time it didn’t seem like an option because of all the early starts, but this time it’s an absolute must.

Anyway, it’s firing up again. I hope I haven’t lost anyone over the summer. Not to deliberately mix my metaphors, but the kids at school are able to shine on their youth alone – an old fart requires a lot of polishing. Stick with me, and let’s see where this thing goes.

J.