Dear fellow students,
My time is almost up in this little nucleus of syllabus weeks that turn into essay seasons, of small talk that turns into class banter. I have one final battle to endure—one final essay season—and then I will be graduating from Carleton with a BA in English. But before I do all that, I have to say goodbye to this blog.
For the past two years, this blog has been a lifeline connecting me to my program—first, when I was too busy to spend time on campus, and then, when we didn’t have the choice to meet there anymore.
I am one of those fortunate introverts who thrives in my nest, but there are a few things I have slowly come to miss: pulling out my laptop to work in a cafe, the 613 Flea Market, nerd conventions, and being on campus. It’s not that I miss the UC, or the tunnels, or Dunton Tower, or even the library, or anywhere specific at all. I just miss being in a community: of students, of lifelong learners, of sleep-deprived coffee addicts.
Beyond these labels, we don’t have much in common. This is not to say I didn’t find my people; I made lifelong friends in this program. But a wonderful thing about university is that you come into contact with people who live vastly different lives: people who never take the elevators, who have watched all of Grey’s Anatomy three times, who own several reptiles, who put maple syrup in their coffee, who handle stress in a way that stresses you out. Inside the classroom and out, you can feel the horizons of your brain expand.
This blog and this final post especially are dedicated to all of those students I have met who are so profoundly different from me. I never wanted this blog to be about one student, or one type of student, so I tried to tap into the universal student experience as much as I could while acknowledging there is no true universal experience. Being a student is rewarding, engaging, fun, and fulfilling, and it is challenging, alienating, boring, and frustrating. Sometimes it’s all of these things in one day, or in one class. "We contain multitudes". (Achievement unlocked: cheesy Whitman/Dylan quote. I’ve held off for this long, I couldn’t resist, forgive me.)
This desire to speak to and for all of us oddballs culminated in twin blog posts where I interviewed students and professors in the English department about the trials and triumphs of online learning. This is my proudest accomplishment as this department’s student blogger. With the generosity of many busy people, we made a quilt of our unique struggles during this panopticon (this pandemi moore, this panini) that will exist on this blog long after I’m gone, when you’re back in classrooms and office hours again.
And after I’m gone, well, who knows where I will be? I sure don’t.
All the digs about English degrees or Arts degrees being useless don’t mean a thing to me because I know what I got out of mine.
I don’t live in the present by nature, but I have been trying to. My tendency is to focus so much on the future that I don’t actually enjoy things that are happening right now. Delayed gratification is my natural inclination. I try to make a crate of mangoes last until they start going bad and I save the best bites until they’re lukewarm. I keep working and working so I can take a big break later and when later rolls around, there’s more work to do. Or my body stops doing work at an inconvenient time because it has taken a break for me.
I want to leave you with a story about how I learned to work with my body by living in the present.
When you’re behind on sleep, your body takes longer rests whenever it can to make up for it. I always get enough sleep, but without waking rest, my body steps in and rests for me. I didn’t realize it until recently, but my body has always been trying to rest for me. I can’t start working for hours after I wake up and I need a few more hours to unwind before I can fall asleep.
This was my schedule, up until recently: wake up at 11 am, grumbling and swearing I’ll wake up earlier tomorrow. Mess around until 2 pm. Start working. Stop working at 9 or 10 pm. Fall asleep at 1 or 2 am. Wake up at 8 am. Tell myself I need to get to work. Snooze my alarm. Wake up at 11 am, grumbling.
I broke out of this cycle by doing the opposite of what comes naturally to me. I stopped working before dinner, no matter how much work I felt like I could do, because my brain needed time to unwind so I could sleep earlier. And when I woke up in the morning and wanted to fall back asleep, I started playing Animal Crossing. I had to do the things I wanted to do so I could do the things my body didn’t want to do. I had to work with my body instead of against it.
Now I wake up around 9 am, unless it’s raining, in which case my body goes rogue and sleeps eleven uninterrupted hours. I won’t be surprised if and when I lose this finely tuned circadian rhythm. In fact, I already lost it once with daylight savings and had to start all over again, but I did it. And I’ll do it again. I like being awake in the morning, I love having evenings to myself, and I don’t know how I ever lived another way.
Here are my takeaways from this story:
Work ethic aside, the world needs good readers, writers, researchers, analysts, and—I add tenderly—hearts. I believe an English degree—at least, the one I have gotten here, with the help of all the professors who have guided me—can help you become all those things. (Grammatically, you can’t become a good heart, but sometimes the sentiment is more important than the grammar. Yeah, I said it.)
As I write this, I know that not everybody has the same warm feelings about their university experience as I do. Some people leave university feeling lost, uncertain about their choice in program, regretful about the experience as a whole, and some people realize it’s not for them and drop out before they finish. These stories are familiar to me, close to my heart, and valid. I know that my rainbow is someone else’s storm, and I hope everybody finds their rainbow.
Now that I’ve acknowledged that university isn’t for everybody, I just want to say with my chest: oh my goodness, is it for me. I wrote a whole blog post about the struggles of essay season but at the end of the day, I love writing essays. I can’t wait to write a research paper or thesis for my MA one day.
But first: I need a break. Badly.
There’s this narrative that circulates among well-intentioned parents like mine that if you take a year off after your undergrad, you’ll never look back. I don’t think this is such a bad thing. There are other ways to build a life, and you shouldn’t force yourself into a cookie cutter because you chose what cookie you wanted to be when you were seventeen. But I’ve known what kind of cookie I wanted to be since I knew what an oven was. And I like this oven. Carleton, I mean. I’ll end this metaphor now before it gets overdone. (Sorry, I lied.)
See you, Carleton. You haven’t seen the last of me. (By which I mean, I am going to come back to campus one day when it’s safe and sob through Dunton Tower saying hello and thank you to all my profs. And this would be a good place to do an MA.)
Sincerely, your student blogger and her furry mascot,Jaclyn and Goji
[Puppy’s note: sniff sniff, boof boof boof, huff puff, snore]
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