28 May 2009

Forty Days, Beginning With Graduation

Forty days. That's how much time stands between me and my surgery.

Forty days and forty nights. A rather fine, if chilly, mist wrapped itself around this day as if to keep it from following the sun into the new season. Now that mist has turned into rain. It seems that we've already had forty days of rain; I hope we won't have forty more. Otherwise, some guy with a long beard might start to build a big wooden boat in Socrates Sculpture Park. And it won't be art for art's sake.

Forty days...I'll be spending fifteen of them in a class I'm teaching in June. It ends on the 24th; I'll have a few days left before I go to Trinidad. Dominick says I should take a trip somewhere, preferably to some Caribbean resort. The idea of taking a trip tempting, but my finances may not permit it. Besides, I just may have more to do during those last few days than I now realize. And, quite honestly, I've never had any interest in going to some tropical island so I can fry myself on a beach full of tourists: the kinds of people I could meet in a Long Island or New Jersey mall. There's plenty of ocean here and in other places, thank you. And I need only to take a bus ride, not a plane trip, to a mall.

Tomorrow some of my students will graduate. So will a few hundred other students at the college. Some of them have jobs; some are already working. The rest, I don't envy.

The year I graduated--1980--also featured a tight labor market. Actually, the labor market had been so for about a decade: almost half of my life up to that point. Some of us were scared out of doing things we actually wanted to do. In my case, they were writing and teaching--and going to graduate school. Jobs for high-school English teachers were scarce; college faculty positions were all but non-existent and no one knew when or if the situation would change. For me--and, I'm sure, other students--it provided a good rationale for "taking time off from" school. Like most of my peers, I was tired of being a student: It's what I'd been doing since I was four years old. And I knew that at some time in the future (Is that just a nice way of saying "Not now! Not now!"?), I would become a student again. How or why, I didn't know.

More than a decade later, I did indeed return to school, for a master's degree. In a way, it was easier than my undergraduate schooling: I didn't have to take courses in subjects like math. I graduated with honors; a few people urged me to continue my schooling and earn a Ph.D. I told them, "Maybe later." Once again, I was tired of being a student, even though the master's degree took only two years to complete.

This semester I took a PhD level course and realized that it wasn't for me. Actually, I knew that even before I took the course, but my department chair and a couple of other people egged me into taking it. At least now I can better explain why I'm not interested in pursuing further study. I guess that counts for something.

For now, I have to prepare for the next steps in my life. As far as I know, I can't learn that in any classroom.

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