Sunday, December 11, 2011

Time to Angst-Out and Vomit Some Feelings on the Internet

Alrighty, I've been blogging (and reading) steadily for a week now, and I want to talk about what's going on in my head. I'm reticent to over-share because I don't want to be judged by anyone who might read this blog. The speed at which I'm working, the way I'm working, the ultimate and intermediate deadlines I've set myself--all of these might open me up to judgment from invisible academic readers, my friends, my colleagues, my professors past and present. But by golly, I'm not even sure anyone except for my mom is reading this blog (and even she only skims, because, in her words, my blog used to be "much more interesting," which is true, thanks Mom), and I am so tired and messed-up that I need to write it out.

My written prelims are February 13, 14, and 15th. I take my orals on the 29th. For those of you unfamiliar with the jargon, "prelims" means my preliminary exams, a huge test I take after reading a book-list that is so long and daunting that it's sort of unbelievable. I have had since May to be reading for this test. From May to December, I underwent a program, long-tested by students of all stripes, of learning by osmosis. I tried to surround myself with fun and easy learning opportunities--listening to Stephen Greenblatt on audio book, downloading $hakespeare plays on iTunes, going to conferences and performances, watching The Tudors. I would like to respectfully ask my past-self, What the hell was your problem?

My excuse was, I was doing a lot of stuff that was educational. Presenting at two conferences, preparing to teach (and then teaching) a new class in the fall, going to a 3-week workshop on performing Shakespeare, directing and performing in a play. Also I moved. And my car got smashed, so I had to buy a new one. And there was grocery shopping and working out and socializing with my friends who, you know, won't be around forever because I'm not always going to be a grad student surrounded by like-minded people my own age, etc.

But now I'm actually doing it, I'm actually preparing for an exam that is about 2 months away, and I'm terrified and I feel like crying every day. My plan, which I've been told by some people is crazy and by other people that it will totally work and I'll be fine, is as follows: read and blog on 2 theoretical books a day until the end of December. This should give me a strong familiarity with all the secondary material. In January, I'll read and blog on one play a day, and maybe catch up on some articles related to the plays, or articles I had to skip in December. Then, for the first two weeks of February, I'll review, make notes, make charts, re-read my blog summaries, and sit and wait for the axe to fall.

One of the problems, though, is that I'm not really "reading" 2 books a day. I'm reading reviews of books, the introductory and closing chapters, and perhaps skimming especially pertinent chapters. Which means I get the thesis of each author's book but none of their examples. And although I am trying to save some books to read more thoroughly later on, especially the edited collections, I'm worried that I won't remember everything I skipped and meant to read later.

Reasons why it won't be so bad:
1) They want us to pass. Of course. It would be dumb if they didn't.
2) I'm really smart.
3) I read really fast.
4) I remember really well.
5) Each day I will be presented with several questions to choose from, so I can skip the scary ones and then prep them for the defense.
6) I'm really smart?

Reasons why I'm terrified:
1) Everyone else is smarter than me.
2) When I talk about what I'm doing, people seem worried.
3) I'm directing a play next semester, too. (I respectfully ask my future-self, WTF?!?!?)
4) My professors are going to think I'm an idiot and not even qualified to be in grad school.
5) There's supposed to be a "bad cop" in every defense, and I am very sensitive and might get scared and cry in front of them, like I almost did in the Fulbright interview.

Things I need to remember:
1) Acknowledge when I don't know something.
2) Make it a conversation.
3) Play to my skills.
4) Whatever, man. The worst that can happen is I don't pass. That might seem like the Doom of Moria, but it's not.


Scott said...

To silence just one of the questions in your head, yes, you're really smart.

Kevin said...

Kate, I love your blog, and I think you'll do great in your prelims!! Keep up the great work!