Friday, August 28, 2009

settled in

Today's my last day as a free woman before school starts on Monday. A couple quick thoughts on New Haven, Yale, and grad school so far:

* everything at Yale seems like it's in a castle. The gym? In a castle. The bar? In a castle. With all these gothic structures around, I keep expecting a knight to gallop out on a horse, but instead, all I see are drunken students stumbling.
* the distinction of the ivory tower and the poverty of the city is physical and startling. While the campus itself is like something out of a fairy tale, it also seems like a physical fortress against the poverty and crime that is the rest of New Haven. Unfortunately, I live in the "rest of New Haven;" in particular, across from a pawn shop and a Western Union. There are nefarious characters loitering on the sidewalks at all hours of the day, seemingly undeterred by the "No Standing" signs that are posted at every corner. That's right, standing is illegal here...ok, not really. But maybe it should be?
* new grad students act the same was as new undergrads, minus the fake ids and twice the anxiety. They drink a lot (school sponsored, interestingly enough), rely heavily on prosaic conversations to break the ice (program/location/undergrad/blah blah blah), exchange numbers with everyone, even the people they'll never speak with again, and subtly-or not so subtly- try to feel out where they stand in the social hierarchy. Me, I just like to spill on people as a way of introduction. Leaving a beer-stain impression is better than none at all, right?

Even before classes start, a couple of my fellow students remind me of the over-eager beavers that so annoyed me at Northwestern. Chill out already! No one wants to hear your random pontifications on progressive taxation and health reform.  But to my surprise, many are friendly and laid-back, definitely a reassurance to a decidedly non-serious person like me. On the other hand, we'll see how non-serious I can be after school starts on Monday. Here's to one last weekend without guilt or anxiety...let the games begin!

Monday, August 3, 2009

"all good things are wild and free"

It's been awhile since I posted anything about grad school, or anything at all, for that matter, as I've been so immersed in soaking up my vacation. It's been a real joy to stop for a few weeks, probably for the first time since high school, and just enjoy being in the moment. I've spent the last few weeks at my parent's place on Lake Erie, kayaking in the grottoes and lagoons around Catawba and Green Island. My  dad's been teaching a little bit about bird watching, which has been enlightening on a few levels. Usually I'm so caught up in the rush of life that it's painful for me to sit still with my own thoughts for more than a minute or two, but being on the lake relieves that pressure somehow. Suddenly, the details spring to life- the purple wildflowers blooming from the bluff, the deep green moss, optimistic lily pads, the mysterious and enticing caves. It's so clean and simple and refreshing.

And how have I gone my whole life neglecting the beauty and wildness of the birds? The eagles gliding fierce and regal, arrogant in their royalty. The herons elegant and with admirable patience; the coomerans swift and clever as they dive for fish. My favorite, I think, are the kildeer, amusing entertainers who drag their wings and play injured in a show to lure predators away from their nests. Sitting low and silent in the water, paddling whirlwinds through the warm green water, I feel part of nature in a way that, for all the hustle and bustle I love, I never quite manage in a city.

I'm growing increasingly excited as my move approaches, and I crave the chaos of student life-  it's part of what drew me to grad school. In fact, it's been a challenge to suppress my anxiety and guilt about not using  my time more "effectively," to travel to some exotic locale, or do some internship or other career-enhancing activity we all scramble to do so much of the time. I'd be lying if I said I don't thrive on that...most of the time.

 For the time being, however, it's been sheer bliss to spend my days idly reading, hiking and kayaking, and finding a kind of peace I didn't know existed. The storm will begin soon enough.