Monday, September 01, 2014

A quiet morning in Lafayette. Labor day, and the cars that usually start coming down Main at seven still aren't coming and its ten now as I sit down to write. I imagine all the people who don't have to be anywhere, work or church or school or wherever there is to go when they wake up, and I'm laying with my chin on the pillow watching the wind push the curtain away from the window, and the dim light of the overcast sky floods the dim room where I sleep. The voice of narration, this one, begins without an effort, and instead of moving towards the day or continuing to look out the window or calling for Jinx, I start speaking to you, as if you are here. Describing not just the morning, the perfect quiet that occasionally descends on this small town in Indiana, but the past month and all that's happened. I don't do this every morning, or hardly at all these days, but today it began before I woke up so I figure I may as well.

Last week school began and the Sunday before I returned from my post-prelim travels. It was an easy week since I don't have to start teaching until this Wednesday, and school was just classes. Three classes in the Second Language Studies department so I can finish both my secondary area in Rhet/Comp as well as get an ESL certificate to officially prove that I'm international student competent. I'm looking forward to these classes as a seasoned graduate school student, and am not worried about the work load or the work itself. My days of performance are over for the most part, and I don't feel the need to prove myself in class, such as the vibe was in many of the Rhet/Comp classes: a thick lair of performance anxiety obscuring every discussion. I'm most excited about the qualitative research class, a class that I've wanted to take for the last two years but haven't had time. We do ethnography, actual ethnography, in the form of observations and interviews, rather than spending the bulk of our time reading theories about ethnography. Three linked assignments across the course of the semester and I was thinking about doing an ethnography of the veterinary clinic's waiting room or if that gets nixed, of the bus. People with their animals and public transportation, both things I love mixed with observation, i.e. the work of writing.

Prelims got done by mid-August and now for the next three years my time here is what I make of it. Though I haven't found out if I passed prelims, I figure I did. Not because I believe what I wrote is totally awesome, but because I wrote thesis statements, topic sentences, made coherent arguments for the most part, cited other people's work, and generally answered the questions that were asked of me. If they were good answers or "right" answers I could not say, but its done and I feel an amazing sense of relief. It's hard to describe how oppressive the prospect and the actual studying for prelims was, but in retrospect it's been coloring my entire grad school experience thus far. To be done with the actual test and with the core courses required for my degree is to be free, and now the work is to rediscover an agenda with the new mind that all this work has built. At the same time all the politics of fitting in and being of this program have suddenly vanished. Halleluiah. But there's still a lot of work to do, and I should probably get on with it. My friend Christian, whose wedding I went to just before school started, wisely said the other day that the sooner you get your work done the sooner you can start in on the things you really want to do.