J. Awkward Prufrock Goes Back to School

Well, the good news is I’m 1/10 of the way through my master’s program! Gotta take what I can get.

But for the other 9/10, you can probably expect less frequent blog posts. I’m aiming for once a month. Turns out grad school is a lot of work. Who knew?

It’s weird to go back to school after a five-year hiatus. When I was in undergrad, I had all this energy, fueled by my starry-eyed dreams and desire to make memories. I didn’t only pull all-nighters to get work done; I pulled all-nighters just because. What?! And then I could simply brush my teeth, go to class, and be fine. Did I do the reading for class that day? Hell no! Who does the reading for class?

You know what you have to do in grad school? The reading for class. The professors acknowledge doing all of the reading is impossible, yet expected. How does that make any sense? Guys, I’m so tired.

Having been 27-years-old for nearly a week now, I can say…it’s an awful lot like being 26: if I don’t get at least 7 hours of sleep and eat some vegetables, I turn into the garbage that Oscar the Grouch sat on. A few people in my program are straight out of undergrad, and I look at the emails they send out at 1am and think, I was like you once. Ah, youth. I wonder where you disappeared to. Probably somewhere in all that time I was wishing it was the weekend. I accidentally made my life go 5 times faster.

I don’t want to complain too much. Philly is wonderful. Living with Marc is wonderful. The campus is wonderful. All of my classes are wonderful…and interesting and provocative and thoughtful…I think. I do take comfort in the fact that everyone around me looks just as confused as I feel. We’re all just trying to make it to May, merely cloaking ourselves in the scent of intellectualism (by Calvin Klein).

But the academics, I can handle. It’s tough, but I can (well…we’ll see what I say when I get my first paper back). What I’ve been the most worried about is making friends. It’s been a long time since I made a new friend. I’m a bit out of practice. And it’s so much easier when you live on campus and know you’re going to be spending the next four years with these people. This is a nine-month program and I live 30 minutes away and I don’t like to do things: all of these factors may work against me.

In these trying times, I find myself so much more aware of the things I say. Guys, that’s extremely aware. That’s beyond hyper-aware. That is a degree of awareness theoretical physicists haven’t dreamt of. Lately, after I say anything to anybody, I immediately say to myself, Everyone hates you now. Just last night, I found a potential friend in the ladies’ room. She was exiting while I was entering. Her look said that she was really chill, but not so chill that it made her superior. She had that friendly smell; of potato chips and freshly-soaped hands.

She looked at me and said, “Oh my God, I had to go to the bathroom so bad, but the professor wouldn’t stop talking.” She was paving the road for a friendship, slowly, with a small smile and open eyes.

I responded, “Yes, I know exactly what you mean.” She looked taken aback, hurt; she giggled unsurely, and darted out of the bathroom. And it dawned on me that, while my line was supposed to establish the common ground on which kinship wallows, she may have interpreted it as my telling her that her reaching out to me was preventing me from my own peeing. Everyone hates you now. 

My other friendship attempt happened in the university bookstore, where arguably the best friendships can happen. Books are sacred like that. I was at a table full of organizer journals, thinking about possibly buying one but then realizing that would prevent me from being able to tell myself that I don’t get anything done because I’m disorganized, when a girl walked over to browse. She clearly had no fear of organization and I thought maybe she could be the kind of person who would push me to be better throughout my master’s journey.

So I turned to her and cleverly said, “In the market for an organizer?”

She laughed and nodded, which I took as an affirmation that I totally should keep this act of an organizer salesperson going.

“Well you got your big ones, you small ones, your sparkly ones, your motivational sayings, animals doing animal things. Which do you find most appealing?”

At this point, I could tell that I had made it awkward. She looked confused. But for some reason, I thought that stopping at that point would make it more awkward, so I kept rambling on about the sales handles of various organizers until she walked off with one. I feel kind of bad. I’m not sure if it was the one she wanted or if she just wanted to get away from the weird girl who hangs out at the organizer table trying to make lifelong friends, or at least Facebook “happy birthday” acquaintances. We’ll never know!

It’s so hard, but I think the fact that I’ve only had a handful of disastrous social instances is rather encouraging! And I’m on smile-and-hi level with lots of people. So who knows? Maybe there is hope for this life chapter yet. Onward and awkward.

Now, back to reading about jurisprudential challenges in private university governance. Whatever that is.

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