There are many reasons to be happy this time of year. Celebrating religious traditions, time with family, time with friends, giving and receiving presents, eating yummy seasonal treats, shopping sales, perfecting your snowflake catching tongue acrobatics, or just counting the stars on a clear winter night. For me, I am happy to say that in addition to the aforementioned blessings I just completed my masters degree. I am happy. It is wonderful to be able to turn the page on the story of my life to start writing what happens next. Hopefully I’ll even manage to write here at the pond more often than I have been.
It is a curious thing, freedom. It makes me feel rather giddy the way I feel peering over a precipice or a balcony on the 92nd floor. In grad school you get in the habit of talking about life after grad school the way characters in movies talk about life after prison.
“When I get done I’m going to <<insert any one of a number of fantastically extraordinary ordinary things here>>.”
Now I am here, at this place in time I have been dreaming about for years, this moment I feared many times would never come, this precious opportunity to say in all honesty: “Yes, I am done with my graduate degree,” to anyone who asks.
The thing of it is that part of me, a small but nonetheless vocal part, is mourning. Every step of this degree was hard. I will never sugarcoat that. There were times I thought I was doomed to fail, really fail, and it terrified me. Yet, I had fun. No joke, I did. I had fun planning. I had fun sampling. I had fun analyzing once I figured out what the fudge I was doing. I had fun teaching my lab assistants and working with my colleagues. I had fun chasing down citations through the library like a detective. Many times my maniacal laugh (every scientist should have one) rang out when I was able to add another citation to my growing list of references. I even had fun writing my thesis. Crafting each sentence, each argument, was curiously satisfying in a way I would never have guessed it could be. I joked with friends that it was graduate school Stockholm syndrome; “How I learned to stop worrying and love the grind of science.” Maybe there is more truth to that than one might like. Jokes are like that. It is nonetheless still true that I had fun, noticeable memorable fun moments, doing something that was really fudging hard; that I have happy memories, that in the end I did something that I can be proud of, and now…it’s over. I don’t want to turn back time and I’m not sad, quite the opposite in fact, but I think it is human that a little vocal part of me is mourning the end of a chapter in my life.
Life goes on though and I am lining up new opportunities. I am doing some of those extraordinary ordinary things like writing fiction–real fiction, not just scribbled notes on hibernating project ideas; the just-add-water survival food of a creative writer’s imaginative soul. My maniacal laugh is ringing out over newly discovered job opportunities. I am crafting like a North-pole elf high on peppermint sticks and hot cocoa. Of course I won’t be posting pictures of the fruits of these labors until after Christmas, just in case any of the future recipients actually frequent the technicolor lily pond. Then of course there is reading. My superpower in life, for which I am humbly grateful, is the ability to read regardless of circumstances. I’ve read 1/6 of my fall/winter reading list in between the busy events of the last few months, and some extra pieces besides. Huzzah! I’ve re-posted the list below as a frame of reference.
Ellen’s Fall/Winter 2011 Reading List!!
- Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
- Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin
- Slippage by Harlan Ellison
Alone Against Tommorowby Harlan Ellison <– Done!! 🙂
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Annie on My Mindby Nancy Garden <– Done!! 🙂
- Forever by Judy Blume
- Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume
All Alone in the Universeby Lynn Rae Perkins <– Done!! 🙂
- Changes by Jim Butcher
- Ghost Story by Jim Butcher
One for the Moneyby Janet Evanovich <– Done!! 🙂 Sunshineby Robin McKinley <– Done!! 🙂
- The Collusus of Marusi by Henry Miller
- Music for Chameleons by Truman Capote
Gulliver’s Travelsby Jonathon Swift <– Done!! 🙂
- Othello by Shakespeare
- The Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare
- A Winter’s Tale by Shakespeare
- The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Orsinian Talesby Ursula K. LeGuin <– Done!! 🙂
- The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
- 100 selected poems by e.e. cummings
The Enchanted Castleby Edith Nesbit <– Done!! 🙂
- Volume One of the Journey to the West
- A Light in the Window by Jan Karon
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
- The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis
- The Riddle Master Trilogy by Patricia McKillip
The Blue Castleby L.M. Montgomery <– Done!! 🙂
- Arabian Nights
- Maurice by E.M. Forster
The Deception at Lymeby Carrie Bebris<– Done!! 🙂
- Of This and Other Worlds by C.S. Lewis
Mistress Masham’s Reposeby T.H. White <– Done!! 🙂