Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Phantom Cone

You are all now cordially invited to address me as "Master," preferably in a tone appropriate for a Sith lord or otherwise highly revered being.

Yes, I graduated from my Master's program. I haven't posted on here since February, and a few milestones have occurred since then.

Since February, I successfully completed an absolutely fantastic student teaching internship, sold my soul to Steve Jobs and succumbed to the iPhone, turned the ripe old age of 24, and began searching and interviewing for my very first teaching job for the 2011-2012 school year. Of those things, the only fun part has been the iPhone and a new, sick obsession with the Words with Friends and TapZoo apps.

Yes, I have a virtual zoo on my phone and yes, I want to be your neighbor.

So far, the only negative thing I can say about the iPhone is that my texts still often make me look like a drunken 4-year-old. I've had it since March and I still have not conquered that cursed touch screen keyboard.

Soon, keyboard. Soon.

The task of chronicling everything I've done or seen since February seems too daunting to me on this lazy Sunday. Instead, I'm just going to try to make a couple of succinct reflections about the end of my graduate program, and then discuss something I think is interesting and funny that happened to me last night.

So, what did I actually learn in my graduate program? That's a very difficult question, seeing as I considered a lot of what I did in grad school to be what I call "graduate level busy work." However, after twenty-four months of grad classes, I was bound to come away with something, right? I know my parents and their tuition money sure hope so.

This is what I think one learns in grad school:

1. If you thought you were a good procrastinator before, graduate school will push you beyond your wildest realm of imagination in this regard.

My paper-writing record was 6 pages in fifteen minutes, and I'm pretty sure I was also drunk. As the saying supposedly goes, "some papers are good, and some papers are done."

2. You will meet the greatest people of your life.

The individuals that comprised my cohort for the past two years are the most hilarious, intelligent, entertaining people I could have hoped to survive the trenches of grad school with. The great thing about a graduate program is you get a mixed bag of the most random group of people ever, and you probably would never have met each other if not for your very specific shared interest in secondary level English, or whatever your discipline may be.

In our small cohort alone, we had our resident "creepy old guy," the singer from a metal band called Right to Fall, a comic-book-loving-Black Belt asskicker girl, drunken theologists, former undergraduate party animals, and many other colorful characters. I feel lucky to have gone to school with this hodge podge of badass weirdos.

This is some of us pretending we have bat wings in our Master gowns. Who gave us graduate degrees again?

3. You will meet the most terrible people of your life.

As evidenced in my many posts on The People You Meet in Grad School, there are some really terrible, miserable people roaming the halls of higher education institutions. The people who live to hear the sound of their own voice, who have such an inflated sense of ego and self worth you wonder how they bear to sit in the same classrooms as mortals such as yourself, who play devil's advocate "just this once" every. single. class period.

Let's not!

I hope these people continue pursuing graduate degrees for the rest of their lives so I never have to encounter them out in the real world, and they probably will. Because that's what they do. Professors are not excluded from this category of people.

4. Being a nerd is cool and socially acceptable.

Now, depending on where you went to school and what kinds of activities you were involved in, this might ring true for some undergraduate programs. In grad school though, it is especially accurate. Suddenly it is perfectly acceptable to go to pint night and talk about nothing but Shakespeare or a project due in class next week. In fact, I found it was hard to talk about anything BUT school when I went out with my classmates.

School consumes your life, and that's okay. If a lively debate over whether Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi is the better Star Wars episode made it into the conversation, that was okay. And on some rare occasions, if your friends don kilts or start speaking in rudimentary Middle English accents over a bottle of "Chaucer's Mead," that was okay too.

5. Everyone develops a superiority complex, and your school's graduate department will give any idiot a Master's degree if they pick an easy enough discipline.

I'm not excluding myself from this conclusion. Once I got to grad school, I immediately thought I was better and more worthy of praise than my undergrad counterparts. I couldn't help it. I was aware of it, and I might have even tried to quell it once or twice, but I couldn't. I got infuriated at Facebook statuses from undergraduates complaining about 5 page papers and having to go to a 50-minute-long class.

Ohh really? You think 50 minutes is a long time to sit in a classroom? Go to grad school and have fun rotting away for 3 hours straight, three times a week. (It's even more fun if they've just repainted the hallways of your classroom building and done nothing to repel the noxious fumes). Go to grad school and enjoy writing 30 page papers and compiling hundred page portfolios.

Here's the other thing. At least in my program, this complex transcended the simple grad-undergrad dichotomy. I'm sorry, Physical Education majors, but we just really didn't perceive you as being on *our* level. I'm sure these were nice, intelligent people, but in our orientation for our final semester of the program, one of them seriously asked what it meant to write something in "narrative form." Really?!

I once asked a guy in one of my grad courses which class he'd just come from. His reply was "Basketball." Not "Principles of Teaching Basketball," or maybe even "Advanced Basketball Strategies." Just basketball. And they gave him a Master's degree.

Enough ranting. That's all I have. I'm sure I also learned a great deal about teaching methods, canonical literature, adolescent psychology, or strategies for struggling readers. But mostly just those things up there.

HOKAY, SO......part two! The following incident can be filed under "weird shit that happens to me and gives me the fodder for keeping this blog in existence."

My sister drove down to my apartment from our parents' house last night to keep me company because neither of us has friends. We went to see the movie Bridesmaids. It was a funny movie. A bit predictable, a bit disgusting at times, but not a waste of money.

So we saw the movie, during which I drank approximately 44 ounces of Diet Coke, and went to find my truck in the parking lot.

That's when I spotted it. From across the parking lot. I stopped short. I grabbed Stephanie's arm and she stopped, too. She looked back at me inquisitively. I was entranced, but I spoke...

"What is that on my car?"

She looked over to my car.

"Oh my god. I don't know. What is that thing?!"

We walked a little bit closer, tentatively of course. If you've spoken to me for five minutes, you know I'm nothing if not suspicious and irrationally paranoid.

When we got close enough to determine what it was, we looked at each other and shared a why-does-this-weirdass-shit-always-happen-and-only-happen-to-members-of-our-family? kind of look.

This is what was on my car.

It's a cone.

A seemingly innocent orange parking lot/traffic cone. But why was it on my car?! Who put it there? What if there was something underneath that cone?! My truck is not at a party. It does not need a party hat. What are you doing up there CONE?

For some reason, it terrified me. It was a piece of molded orange plastic, but I was terrified. I think it was the mystery behind the cone more than the cone itself. We didn't want to touch it.

I was thinking things like "maybe there is a bomb underneath my car?" or "maybe there is someone hiding in the backseat?" Two highly irrational thoughts, because if either of those things were true, I don't think the perpetrator would have warned us about his deeds with a bright orange cone sitting like a beacon atop the car.

Stephanie ended up swatting it off the roof of the truck, and I told her to toss it in the bed. I would decide this cone's fate later.

That's where the cone still sits right now. I have no plans for the cone, and I don't even why I kept it. But it taunted me and I wasn't going to let it stay in its familiar home in that sketchy movie theater parking lot. I'm open to suggestions as to what to do with it.

Welp, that's it folks. I've re-emerged from my long blog absence. My apologies if I've rambled as a result.


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