tehuti: (Squee Kaylee)
Last week, I posted about a potential snag with my Master's Degree. Seems the class I took that I thought was in place of my language exam was not on the pre-approved list, so the graduate registrar held up my degree.

I got an email to me student address yesterday saying I've been cleared to graduate, and my diploma will arrive in the mail shortly.

I am genuinely shocked. The UMass administration did something quickly, in my favor, and I didn't have to kill kiss ass kick ass do anything?

What a nice change of pace!

You may all call me Master. ;-)
tehuti: (Crit Fail)
About a week ago, I got a phone call from the UMass History Department. The grad school registrar was processing my degree paperwork, and did not have any record for me passing the foreign language exam. Patty, the department assistant, called to ask me about this.

The registrar had no record because I didn't take one. The department (meaning the current program director) approved a course I took in lieu of an exam. The class in question was my GIS course from last spring. According to what I was told, it had been used as a substitute for the foreign language requirement in the past, and since all of my foreign language classwork is more than twenty years stale, taking a class in "an alternative tool of research" (to quote the grad handbook) instead.

According to the registrar, they have no record of this class being approved in place of the language exam. They have a list of pre-approved classes, and mine ain't one of them. So my graduation is on hold.

AGAIN.

For those of you keeping score, this is the second time in two years (technically, 27 months) that I've been this close to earning a degree at UMass Amherst only to find out at the last gorram minute that, actually, I might not be done. So sorry about that.

And true to form, there'd be precious little I could do about it. I'm not ready for an actual language exam, if I could even take one. Which would require special permission, since they've already been given for this semester. And the add-drop period is over, so I couldn't enroll in a class to try to fix it. Even if I could afford one. Which I can't.

The grad registrar is not in his office today, so there's no one I can talk to. The office people were sympathetic, and both thought I'd probably be fine, but they don't know for sure. You can bet your sweet ass I'll be calling to talk to him Monday. And it should go without mention that I'll be talking to my department.

This shit cannot be happening to me AGAIN. But doesn't it just make sense that, if it were going to happen to someone, it would be me? The guy that has NEVER had anything happen in the academic world according to plan? That has dealt with more roadblocks than I can count or even remember?

Dammit...this cannot be happening again...

And I'm starting to hate this place...
tehuti: (Tehuti)
Ten years ago, I started taking classes at Springfield Technical Community College. I'd been interested in going back to school for a long time, but the timing was never right. Finally, I realized that would always be true unless I specifically made it a priority. At about the same time, I quit the job I had in a dispute with an employer over my wages. The dispute ended up in court, which doesn't matter much now. But it mattered then, because said dispute made me eligible for unemployment. So instead of just going out and getting any old job, I went to STCC, and my second life as a college student began. Two weeks ago, I sat for my written Masters exams, last week was the oral portion, and just like that, I was done. I am now a graduate of UMass Amherst, twice over.

Obviously, this summation glosses over a lot of details. OK, it outright skips over and blows by most of them. Some I've written about previously, like the royal screwing I got courtesy of the UMass computers, the summer between undergrad and graduate school, or my much more documented career as a grad student. Many things happened long enough ago that they predate any and all online blogging I've ever done. Most of my junior college career falls into that time frame. Again, some of it I've written about. How I spent 9/11, for example. But most of my higher education story is still untold.

And now that I'm at the end, after a week's worth of reflection, all those details seem less important. The journey may be what matters most in the end (and I suspect I'll be writing about some of those stories, to make sure they don't escape me), but right now, it is the destination that looms largest in my mind. And what comes next.

I've always wanted to be a writer. A paid writer, I should specify. And while I cannot explain it, since I know plenty of writers, and know of many more, I've always thought that, if I was going to be a writer, I had to be educated. Which meant that silly little piece of paper that announces to the world that you are smart. Or, in the case of a graduate degree, a masochist. And while I didn't have any piece of paper declaring either, I couldn't pursue my dream.

I know. Stupid, and plenty of evidence to the contrary. But that's what my brain convinced me was true.

So I've been sitting on a ton of ideas, some for a very long time. Some are articles, others are books. One is even a movie idea. Some are fiction, some non-fiction. And one, maybe two, have the potential to be fictional series, if I get really lucky. And now, after a week's worth of reflection, I realize that I no longer have my old excuse.

In the last four years, I've received three pieces of paper that say I'm smart. And while I was still in school, I could easily justify not pursuing my dream. School is time consuming, at the very least. I barely had time for all the things I had to do, and was required to do, let alone anything extra. So my ideas sat, some partially developed, many little more than ideas or book titles, jotted down in electronic notes to myself, sitting in my inbox as unread reminders of the life I always claimed to want.

As of the end of summer, I will no longer be a student. Even during the year I spent taking care of my personal life when my marriage ended, I still thought of myself as a student. Since the first day I walked into the admission office at STCC, all those years ago, "student" has been part of my identity. For ten years, I've been either taking classes, recovering from taking classes, planning what classes to take, or what school to go to next. And while I am not ruling out a return to school (I'm so conflicted about getting a PhD that it really deserves its own post), it is definitely time to add a new facet to my identity. After ten years of college, it's time to replace "student" with "writer".

In many ways, this has been the best ten years of my life. I've been working for tangible goals, and reached them one at a time. I've been stretching my mind, working with brilliant people, most of whom were my intellectual equals, and more than one or two my superior. I've been studying things that really interest me, and I've made insights that were both original and interesting to other people. I've honed my skill as a writer in ways I never thought possible. Ten years ago, I'd have told you I was a good writer, but with little conviction. That man had no clue what he was doing, and deep in his heart, he knew it. This one knows he is a wordsmith, and if given the opportunity, he can shine!

This is what my week of reflection has led me to. I've spent ten years, far too much money, and many hours of lost sleep to get where I am today. For ten years, I've been pursuing my educational dreams, and now it is time to pursue my life dreams. I'm as ready as I'm ever going to be to try to become the writer I've always wanted to be.

Now is the time to shine.

Comp Exams

Jun. 8th, 2011 06:31 pm
tehuti: (Default)
Today was Der Tag. My written Master's competency exams. Two out of three went really well.

I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. So let's back this up a smidge, and begin at the beginning.

As many of you know, I had planned to do my comps back in early May, naively thinking that I would be able to continue to work with a new baby at home. My plan was to read while up with him at night.

That went about as well as I should have expected. So I admitted defeat, rescheduled my exams for June, and kept on preparing. I finished my prep last weekend, and went into review mode for the first half of this week. Then, yesterday, I did nothing. Kept my mind blissfully blank. Ideas would bubble up and around, but no active studying. It was heavenly!

Today, I got up to campus around 9:30, got my questions and instructions, and went to the library to write. Three questions, six hours, plus a bit for lunch. My questions for the Early America and Public History fields were fine. In one case, I had a choice of two questions to answer. Both fields had questions which were based on conversations I'd had with the two professors in question about my reading list over the course of the semester. In short, they were questions about stuff I was prepared to talk about, and to some degree already had.

The question for Global History was almost completely out of left field. Most of my list was about world-systems theory. The question I got was almost pure economic theory, based entirely on Marx and Smith. To prepare for this exam, I could have completely ignored almost my entire reading list, and focused only "Capital" and "Wealth of Nations". In short, I felt that this question was completely unfair, and did not address my reading list in any appreciable way. I said as much in the essay. I was pissed, and couldn't contain myself fully. When this whole process is over (orals are next week), I'll share the questions here (and maybe my answers, too), and you'll see what I mean.

So now, as I tweeted shortly after I finished, it is out of my hands. Until next week, that is. I get to do orals next Wednesday. Should be interesting...
tehuti: (Default)
Today is Connor's seventh day of life. Two ideas are warring in my brain: "Is it really only seven days?" vs. "Holy crap, it's been seven days!"

The two have fought themselves to a stalemate at the moment. And despite all appearances to the contrary, there have been non-baby related activities and news happening here at Olympus. Ian had his first day back at work on Friday, Aimee actually took a work phone call the day after Connor's birth (yes, in the hospital), and I've been doing schoolwork.

Which brings me to the real meat of this update. I was officially not accepted to the PhD program at UMass this week. A couple weeks back, I got news I was wait listed, and not enough people said "no" for me to make it to the top of the list. Baring any surprises, at the end of summer, I'll have a master's degree in hand, and in little over a month, I will attend my final class as a college student.

And I am perfectly ok with it.

I've been feeling really conflicted about continuing, even before I decided to apply. On one hand, earning a doctorate has been my long term goal since very early on in my return to college. But on the other, I really feel done. Like, DONE done. I really want to start writing things because I want to, not because I have to for a grade. Right now, I'm working heavily on my research paper for my independent study this semester, which is good, but most of my writing this semester has been to prepare for comps. It is supremely unsatisfying. I've barely had time to blog (has anyone noticed that the birthday blogs are the first real substantial posts I've made in months?), and simply cannot make time for creative fiction.

Since I first went back to school in 2001, I've been at least a part time student every year since then, with only two semesters off completely. I've been a full time student for the last four years. In that time, I've earned two degrees, and will finish a third by the end of summer.

I've accomplished a lot. It's ok to feel done. It's ok to BE done.

Shortly before Connor's birth, I attended a speed-interview workshop for prospective museum professionals. I made a lot of contacts, at least two of which have great potential for future employment. My Master's program has prepared me well for life after school. I'm eager to get to it.

Last, and most importantly, I am not going to find work right away. The economy is still recovering, and jobs for people with my skill set and training are not common. While I'm searching for an income, I can play Mr. Mom so my other partners can bring home the tofu.

All of this is predicated on me not being a student next year. So I was leaning against continuing anyway, and now UMass made it moot for me.

And I'm really ok about it. Next fall, I might apply for programs again (not just UMass this time, and maybe not them again at all). There are things I'll miss about being a student. I'm going miss being part of an academic community. I'm definitely going to miss my library access. And I'll miss the types of conversations you only have while in grad school.

But I'm ready for what's next. My whole family is. Let's see what you got in store, Universe.
tehuti: (Education!)
Today was a good school day. In no particular order.

I got my credit override form signed and submitted.

I chased down details on two of my letters of recommendation for my PhD app.

Got an "A" on the paper I did for class this week.

Gave a great oral presentation on same paper in class today.

Found an academic journal that I plan to submit a paper for publication, my very first submission (eek!).

Had a great conversation with one of my advisors on the comp books I read this week.

Started reading another comp book.

So yeah. A good school day. :-)
tehuti: (Education!)
I completed and submitted my application for the PhD program at UMass tonight. It's an online application now, which made things quicker. Also, since this is my second application to the program, my first one is still on file. This means I don't have to run around collecting transcripts again. Plus, my previous letters of recommendation are still on file, so when the three new ones come in, I'll have six total. That can't hurt.

The website claims that decisions are made six to eight weeks after the deadline, which would mean sometime in February. However, I know from experience that I'm not likely to hear anything until after spring break. And now the waiting begins again...
tehuti: (Not a Weed)
No, this is not about Arisia. We've got that covered already.

The American Historical Association annual meeting is coming up early next month. The conference runs from Thursday, Jan 6 through Sunday, Jan 9. This year, it is in Boston, spread out between several hotels in the Prudential/Hynes Convention Center area. Any of my Boston-area friends willing and/or able to put me up? I don't have a problem using mass transit, and would rather do that if I can, as it is cheaper than parking by a lot. I could stay with my mom (that is my current plan), but I'd rather not do that if I can avoid it. I would prefer to arrive Wednesday night, as I am scheduled to start working at the conference Thursday morning at 9:30am. Please reply privately if you can help me out, directly or otherwise.
tehuti: (Running Wolf)
A long time ago, I used to enjoy running. For a lot of reasons, I stopped. Earlier this year, at the urging of my Princess, I took it up again. If someone had told me at the end of 2009 that I'd be entering timed races in 2010, I'd have laughed at them. I cannot even begin to guess what I'd have thought if that same someone told me I would be seriously contemplating running a half-marathon in 2011. More than one, actually.

But here I am, approaching the end of the year and I'm a runner again. For many years, I've done year-end wrap-up posts on my LJ. Starting this year, my running results are getting added to the list. I'm posting them a bit early for two reasons. First, to get me back in the habit of posting at all. Second, and more importantly, I am not planning to run another timed race this year, so this list is complete.

The format for the list is race name, location, date, place, time and pace. Click to see it! )

Not to bad for a guy that hasn't been doing this very long. All of the hiking I do helped a great deal. It suddenly occurred to me, as we were climbing up Mt. Mansfield, that if I could hike up a mountain, which is pretty strenuous, with minimal rests over three hours, then I could learn to run that long, too. So far, I can run a little over an hour non-stop, which is about half as long as I would need to in order to run a half-marathon. The biggest obstacle to me running a half next year is time. I simply may not have the time to devote to nothing but running, especially with comps and a child both on the way in a few months.

This would be a great time to write up some thoughts about becoming a runner again. As it happens, I already did. In my magazine writing class, our first assignment was to write a personal essay (approximately 2000 words) on any topic we wanted, so long as it was personal. I choose to write about running. This is the final draft of the essay, and I am planning to send it out. Some of you mentioned in my last post that you would be interested in reading samples of what I wrote this past semester. Here you go:
More stuff under here... )
tehuti: (Default)
Hey everyone. Remember me?

I know. Two months without a real post. Yes, I really have been that busy. Of course, the few of you still paying attention to my LJ are my closest friends, so you all know that already.

A sizable end-of-semeser post is forthcoming. So are year-end posts. I might even be willing to post snippets of my writings from this past term, if y'all are interested.

Fair warning, guys. In a very short amount of time, I need to start concentrating on my comp exams. It is looking like they will be scheduled in the first week of May. That gives me less than five months to prepare, and during that time I have to take classes and prepare for the arrival of our family's first child. So when I disappear again, don't be surprised. :-)

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