Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Full Circle

I am sitting on the 3rd floor of the Paul Laurence Dunbar Library on the campus of Wright State University, with a copy of the school newspaper, The Guardian, on the table. It is possible that ten years ago, to the day, I was doing almost the exact same thing. Things certainly have changed since I graduated from Wright State back in 1997. [Insert old joke here]. I didn’t have a fancy laptop, that’s for sure. I only knew of one person in college who had a laptop—this older guy named Chris who used to take notes for our science classes on it. I remember thinking he was quite strange back then for not writing out notes, like the rest of us normal people did. Now students can rent out laptops to use during their time in the library.

The aesthetics of the campus have changed a great deal, but somehow being here is still very comfortable and safe. I think it’s because I really did have some of the best times of my life here. [Insert St. Elmo’s Fire theme here]. As I sit here, staring out at the students walking to and from class, and watching students scramble for parking (some things never change), I am caught in a whirlwind of nostalgia. For those of you who know me, being nostalgic is a fairly common occurrence, but now the experience is more visceral since I’m actually here, walking in the same doors I used to and trolling the same book stacks I did when I took Dr. James Guthrie’s American Romanticism class. My recent encounters with college buddies only amplify my experience.

This is where I truly learned about my love for books, and poetry and language. I used to quote Wordsworth, write in my journal obsessively, create poems in my head and walk around with the words swirling through me; and, of course, it’s where I first fell in love with the man who still preoccupies my head, and my heart, most days—Walt Whitman. I’m sure some of you were expecting another name, but no other man unrelated to me, has impacted me as much as Whitman has. I’m here today doing research for the Whitman section of my dissertation and I’m thrust back into that time my senior year when I had to write a paper about him. I believe the title was “Walt Whitman and the Ever-Inclusive You.”

My paper was due on a Thursday, sometime in November of 1996. That Wednesday, the 12th of November, I now recall, I went home to Cambridge because I had a dentist’s appointment. I was wearing my favorite black corduroy bib overalls (yes, they were actually quite stylish back in the day) and my gray ribbed turtleneck and decided that night that I would go to The Asylum for ‘80s night, a veritable tradition for me. That night would be special though. It was the first time I ever hung out with the guy who would eventually become my boyfriend my senior year of college. I had a great time dancing, as per usual, but then went back to working on the paper as soon as I got back. It was one of the few 10 page papers I had to write in undergrad and I worked very hard on it.

Imagine my disappointment when I get it back with a B- on it, after all the toil and trouble I had put into it. I was so upset to receive that grade; my belief in myself and my writing faltered after that, but thankfully only for a short time. I was still writing for The Guardian and enjoying my time with my roommate, friends, and boyfriend. Soon after that I became News Editor for The Guardian and worked those amazingly fun but tiring Tuesday nights. My path, at that point, was certainly not leading to my current lot in life. I was still pre-med and had the awful pleasure of studying for the MCAT which I took April 20, 1997.

Soon after that, but perhaps not soon enough, things finally changed for me. I embraced my passion for English and teaching, and released my desire to pursue a career path in medicine. After a Masters degree in English at the University of Toledo, and several years of work on my PhD at Stony Brook, I am back here at my baccalaureate institution writing my dissertation. I guess some things really do come full circle.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Groundhogs and misaligned ducks

Happy New Year! It’s already February and the groundhog has prophesied an early spring, but this year I think he’s wrong. He’s incorrect because of all the arctic air cascading over the mid-section of the country, but I still put a lot of faith in that pawed animal. I was having some difficulty figuring out if I should continue with a particular pursuit of mine or if I should abandon it for possibly greener pastures. I let it ride all on the national groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil. Both he and his Ohio counterpart, Buckeye Chuck, came to the conclusion that I should not waste six more weeks on this ineffable situation and just as spring abounds with newness and rejuvenation, so should I. I’m fairly content with my decision, or rather Phil’s, though it is disappointing.

My decision to rely on something as ridiculous as a groundhog came about because of a misalignment of ducks. I unwisely thought that all of my ducks were in a row, as it were, but in fact, they refused to line up as I wished for them. Each duck is its own circumstance, and apparently felt the need to exercise its own limited agency, though in some cases, weaving in and out of the line so much that I had no idea if it would remain in the linear progression I had established or if it would plot its own course, contrary to all prior arrangements. A few ducks remained in position, adhering to the configuration, but when it came to knocking them down, they would not, in fact, budge. One duck remained steadfast in its opposition to my overall plans, though perhaps not voluntarily.

I am realizing more and more that I must have control over almost everything, especially when it comes to certain circumstances in my life. And since I could no longer control these ducks and their seemingly arbitrary whims, I decided that the enterprise itself was no longer worth my time, energy and pursuit. It’s unfortunate that I had to rely on the oh-so capricious pundit of prognostication Punxsutawney Phil, but sometimes it takes an outside force to help one realize what has been bubbling at the surface for quite some time. In my case, it was my inevitable failure at an impossible undertaking.

This dissolution will truly only bring rise to a better set of circumstances for me, at least that is what I am trying to believe. And fear not, I am not referring to my dissertation.