Last Thursday evening at about 10 pm I walked out of my final class as an MA student. I wish it had felt better, but the looming deadlines of papers, grades and diplomas fairly squelched the feeling of relief I wanted to have.
Since then I've knocked down one 20 pager (though of course, I will keep it for a week and dust it off when it's due) and progressed to the really big important Masters paper...the one I've looked through, commented on, read for and shied away from for about eight weeks. Now that I've really gotten nitty gritty with it, I still feel as though I'm just smearing my words around on the page. Perhaps I'm just tired, perhaps I'm intimidated by my audience, and perhaps it really is just a series of digressions trickling around on the page and contributing little in regard to my main point. As I type that, however, I wonder what any paper is but a series of digressions and ruminations; some are just better mapped out with signposts.
What bothers me is that this paper is arguing some pretty huge fundamental things about the nature of poetry, and I'm finding myself, after three years of intensely dedicated study, unable to convince myself that it' that damned important. It's like, some sort of academic life crisis.
I'm using a Classical base to approach a very well known Old English poem. Of course, this is not a new approach, but I'm pretty well convinced I'm doing it a bit differently than has been done before. In an isolated academic sphere then, I think there might just be merit to what I'm doing. But when I talk about it at the dinner table wtih my in-laws, politely curious about my work, I am met with blank, uninterested stares before the question comes out "so, are you teaching in the fall..." (i.e. making money, at least influencing young minds, not just talking about thousand year-old poetry). Mind you, I'm not blabbering on about my thesis--I've got it fairly whittled down to a 25 word schpeal--and yet even that is too much time wasted not making money or contributing to the larger, more important aspects of life.
I thought I'd be a lot different at this point--smarter, wiser...something. Three years ago when I considered the sensation of pending graduation, I had a very different one in mind. I figured I'd be, at this point, someone who had developed extraordinary abilities of argument and organization and insight. But I'm just me. A lot more well read. I'm not trying to say grad school didn't/hasn't changed me, I'm just observing how different my expectations are from my eventual realizations. This is nothing surprising, either.
What is keeping me up tonight is not worrying about my future--neither the MA paper or the baby coming soon after, its worrying about how I've been spending my time, and my present mindstate. I know that poetry and literature and thoughts and ideas are important; I am little miss in-your-face in defense of the humanities at my institution...but when I get out there and talk to people, I have difficulty convincing anyone that what I'm doing is important. I can't even convince myself that its worth arguing about.
I just thought I'd finish my degree on a higher note.