Hm. How about that. I survived. The year is done.
I have, right now in front of me, my post-baccalaureate certificate. As promised, it is indeed suitable for framing (although what kind of hippie alterna-college prints diplomas portrait-style?) It looks just like the diplomas the seniors got. I know this, because during my year here I went a little native, and got to be friends with quite a few seniors. I'm also coming home with my worldly belongings in my car, just as I did on the way out, except this time there will be the addition of what I would estimate to be thousands of dollars' worth of art... which cost me $27 total.
It's a sad time, as we look back, as we do various things for "the last time." As we say goodbye to people. But it's also exciting, because having survived this crucible, there's a sense that we can get on with the larger plan, and pretty much rock it like a hurricane. I have a grad school to check out tomorrow, in fact. It's something like four hours away but it'll be a simple little New England day trip. Then I'll go home and pack. Then, I'll start the 22-hour drive back to the Midwest, back to my regular life, already in progress.
So, before we go, here are a few landmarks. Some little episodic things that are worth a nod now, in the post-game wrap-up.
In the Category of Always:
* I learned that I always do better if I take the time to analyze not only the question being asked, but how it's being asked.
A wise man told me, in my very first term here, that the key to academic success is to "fill in the fuckin' blank." Which is to say, be sure you know what "they" are looking for, because "they" may not recognize your possibly-correct-but-differently-slanted answer, and they certainly don't owe you any leeway. Be sure that the things you know come out looking and sounding like things you know. (This has been perhaps the hardest skill for me to develop, but I figure that's fair because it's also the most important.)
* I always think more clearly and do better academically if I specifically take the time to socialize.
Yes, at times that has meant driving home at 5AM. Or passing out in a dorm room. But one of my professors echoed a lesson I learned in the corporate world: if you're a natural procrastinator, or you have a short attention span, scheduling your work is going to be extremely difficult, and you'll wind up with a lot of work yet to do. What you do is to schedule your play; that way, you let the work assume that flexible, shapeless pattern where it falls into the many cracks in between blocks of fun, rather than the reverse. You see?
I have this amazing new ability to go to bed at 2 (or 3, or 5) and then get up a mere 4 to 5 hours later, feeling refreshed. It's a little weird. Also in that vein, on those fun nights, it's not a bad idea to drink half a liter of Gatorade before bed, and down the other half upon getting up.
* I was always grateful for the chance to have this experience. I live in a ridiculously beautiful setting, and although maybe I'm dragging my feet to go home a little, I know teslagrl understands.
Even when it was stressful, or stupidly stressful, or just so absurdly stressful that it had to be some sick existential joke, I was very aware of how lucky I am to be, if not so blessed by natural skill and brains as to say "able," at least sufficiently self-aware and tenacious as to be "willing" to come out here and do this. I'm livin' the dream, for reals.
The only other thing that cost me $40,000 that was this rewarding was my divorce. (Zinnng!)
* I always kept the hot tub clean and the pH balanced. If I learned nothing else about chemistry (and the Prof might very well believe that to be true), I learned how to do that. I even got a special award at our year-end picnic for it. Heh.
In the Category of Never
* The passing out in a dorm room thing only happened once, actually. I was never quite as much fun as I claimed to be. But that's better for all involved, really.
* I never felt old. I was the oldest student in the school not pursuing a "real" master's, I think. And I was older than at least two faculty members.
Oh, sure, once or twice I was mistaken for random campus-crashing outsiders. Or faculty. But on the whole, "the kids" were accepting and very cool. And when I found the black-wearing, #27-smoking arts crowd, I was once more among my true people. It was like undergrad, except now I was working on science, which turns out to be as meaningful and yet impenetrable as my grad student friends thought their radical theater of the 1930's stuff was. Turnabout is pretty sweet.
I just had a birthday, so now I feel old.
* I never once spoke seriously about giving up. I'm not sure if I ever joked about it, except for being mock-excited about podiatry ("the career of the future"). And I still tell the Drummer I'll come visit him when he's in school in the Caymans.
Regrets? I've had a few. But then again, too few to mention. More later, maybe from the road.