Monday, August 22, 2005

One more week of freedom

Sure, but freedom to do what? Spend more and more time by myself in the city, becoming more and more weird in the process? Yesterday ,coming down from my CBGB high, I spent the day in my apartment. Jane was gone all day, so I had run of the place. I didn't prance around naked or anything, but I did mill around throughout the apartment more than usual. I even spent a little time in front of the television, which has become quite the rare occurance as of late. Besides that, I did nothing of import. I worked on some music, returned a few emails, tormented the cats... otherwise, I was worthless all day. And it felt good. Really good.

The end of my respite is fast approaching. In one week, I'll be at graduate orientation. I really do hate these events, necessary though they may be. Meeting a bunch of new people who are all just about as jittery as you are, everybody trying to look smart and professional and scholarly and all of that nonsense. Some people there will already have their masters degrees and be starting on their doctoral work, like me; others (the majority, I'm inclined to assume) will be fresh out of undergrad, doe-eyed and newly born into a world of even higher learning than the higher learning of undergraduate study. Each time I start at a new school, it's much of the same... the previous scholastic experience feels like nothing more than a rudimentary preparation for what's to come. Walking into college for the first time made high school feel like a complete joke. Begining graduate school made my undergraduate experience feel like extended high school. Now, moving into my PhD work, my masters studies seem... okay, no, they were pretty damn hard. Harder than most, I'd wager. Which is why this new experience feels so remarkably strange to me.

Whenever you move on to the next level in schooling, you always feel as though you're not prepared, even unworthy. The higher you go, the worse it gets. By the time you enter graduate school, you feel like some sort of academic frawd who somehow snuck in under the radar. Of course, once the first semester rolls by and you haven't died, you realize it might actually be possible to continue the ruse of being smart enough to get through the program, so that the institution which was duped into accepting you in the first place will be none the wiser by graduation time. The best part is that everyone in this boat feels as though he or she is the only one in all the world who feels this way. Meanwhile, you look around at your academic colleagues and find them all to be very together people, brilliant and qualified, grounded and goal-oriented... people who deserve to be there, unlike you. Of course, none of that is true... everyone's in that same rickety boat, thinking that of everyone else, but there'll never be any convincing you.

So then there's my situation. I've smehow become convinced, after years of thinking the contrary, that I'm actually capable of doing this. My problem, however, is that I really am underqualified for this racket. My masters is in psychology, true, but in a very different sort than I'll be doing here. I know I'll pick it up as I go, just as I do everything else. Still, I won't be able to make many of the knowledge claims most of the others will... my empirical work is certainly below the level of most grad students. Besides which, I'm a little older than most people coming into a program like this. Okay, maybe just four or five years older, in most cases, but it makes a difference, believe me.

Come orientation day, people will likely be glad-handing one another, sizing up the competition,as it were. Many will try to be as impressive as possible. Knowing I don't stand a chance is actually to my advantage, especially since I think I'm completely over the initial grad school jitters; I'm done with feeling like a frawd. I can take comfort in knowing that, when I talk about the things I've done in my graduate work, most of the other students won't know what the hell I'm talking about, which will at least make me look a little cool for a second. So no, I'm not published, and no, I haven't presented at any big conventions. I haven't taken part in writing any major empirical papers, nor have I been under the tutleage of anyone notable that any of them are likely to have heard of in the field. I am, however, smart enough to have gotten this far, or at least lucky enough to have flown under whatever proverbial radar plucks the unworthy from the hopefuls. And, given my track record, I think I have just enough of that same luck to get me through the wringer at least one more time.


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