Monday, February 5, 2007

A Pause before Battle

I'm staring another week down across the battlefield. The air's frigid. Trampled weeds under my feet are hoary with frost. I can see my own breath and really, I'm ready to let the enemy take me. Loot, pillage. . .just let me go back to sleep. But I made it to the battlefield -- and now I just have to screw up enough courage to go meet the fray.

Working in the tutoring center means that I'm on campus every day, working with poor unsuspecting students who want help. Why did I think that this was going to be less draining than teaching a class? (Insanity!) Really, it does have its great moments -- and I'm getting a view of the university (mostly bad) that I only got in blink-and-it's-gone glimpses before. Last week, there was a flurry of applications for a program on campus that is underfunded and understaffed, though considering the mission of the university, it should be one of those departments that money is regularly just poured into. (I imagine Pirates of the Carribean-style coffers of doubloons being poured into the program's angry mouth.) It makes no sense. The application process was similarly unreasonable, with the longest ever letter of intent to be graded against a rubric. On the one hand, the rubric provided a great deal of information for the applicant and me as a tutor; on the other hand, they were grading things that only obscurely apply to the program and a student's success in it. I don't know. This world makes no sense to me.

Here are the things I immediately face:
  1. Tutoring meeting.
  2. Emailing students from last semester about picking up their portfolios so that I can get rid of all the bad karma that is keeping POP Me U administrator from emailing me. (Here's one thing: I'm never in my office. I have no office hours because I'm tutoring. Here's another thing: the minute the class is over, the knot in my head that keeps students' names, faces, and work together in my head begins to loosen, completely untying itself by the time they waltz into my office and wait for their portfolio expectantly, while I bumble and ask them what their portfolio looks like to buy time. I just suck with names. I just do. I'm the person who will second- and third-guess someone's name until their real true name seems hopelessly improbable, like when you repeat a word so many times that its meaning, pronunciation, and spelling all unstick together and they all hover above the word, and you just can't remember what it's supposed to sound like, look like, or mean. Okay, tell me this sometimes happens to you. Oh god, maybe I am crazy. I'd go back to bed, but the cat scratched me when I started to doze off. He tore around the house trying to wake me up at 7. He's sleeping it off now. It's tiring being an alarm clock for such an ungrateful wretch.)
  3. Tutoring a new regular. Poor guy.
  4. Writing group. When I melted down in Senior Scholar's office dramatizing my feelings about my dissertation by throwing my head back and staring at the ceiling (you, smart reader, would never ever do this), SS suggested a writing group. Last week, this seemed like an excellent idea, a way to avoid the feeling of writing into a void. A way to make my ideas seem pertinent in the world, worth talking about, engaging with others. That was last week. I called up a friend-colleague who is working on comp essays, and we set it up. Then yesterday when I was actually working (it was a red letter day, yesterday -- of course, I started at a civilized hour - 11AM), I was tootling around the internet and found a dissertation help blog that suggested writing the whole thing. And I thought -- YES! -- I should just write the whole damn thing. No working with comments. No revision plans. No Chapter 1 unraveling under me as I try to knit Chapter 2. (Today, it seems totally reasonable to blame the fact that I worked hard on Chapter 1, then got comments back as to its being hard to read as a core reason why Chapter 2 has just sat on the other side of the room from me, fixing me with a steely stare. Dissertation resistance. It just didn't want to be born only to be immediately critiqued. You can't blame it. You wouldn't look at a baby and say it's messy and ugly and needs to go back into the cooker! Okay, maybe that analogy doesn't hold up. But I just wonder what would happen if someone cooed at my dissertation. Can you imagine that defense, everyone around the stack of pages, cooing and playing peek-a-boo?)
  5. And, of course, the inevitable: wait.
It doesn't seem like much, but really I have to squeeze in a bunch of other things, when I really want to be eat bon-bons, flip through magazines, and talk on the telephone for hours with a pound and a half of cream upon my face. (Points for anyone who recognizes that reference.)

Okay, I'll quit procrastinating. You know you're in trouble when you're putting off showering and eating breakfast because that means you'll have to get on with your day.

Number of cups of coffee to fuel this post: 2
Number of times I went to because I had forgotten how to spell: 3
Number of times I wanted to grumble or sigh but didn't have the energy: oh, thousands

Happy Manic Monday!

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