Wednesday, January 16, 2008

social theory and the irony of grad school

Today I had a meeting with Potential Adviser. This person makes me overly excited and nervous because strangely enough, after three years of graduate school, this person is the first to truly engage with my research ideas. His questions and expectations that I actually engage with theoretical questions in my field scare me. (In fact, I ran into him over winter break at the grocery store and my first reaction was to run away.) I think this is because my graduate program is much stronger in one subfield and weak in the subfield I'm most interested in. Strangely, the program at B.A.U. appears to have a number of faculty with expertise in my subfield, but none of them are currently effective in advising students (several of them retired this year.) This excitement and nervousness results in insomnia and a tendency to overwork myself. I need sleep, yet I can't seem to relax and feel tired. After several years of graduate school in which professors gave me A's and failed to give me any meaningful feedback on my writings, someone actually demanding more of me is terrifying.

Anyone remember the Seinfeld episode about who has "hand?" Apparently it was called "The Pez Dispenser."

GEORGE: I have no power Do you understand? I need hand. I have no hand.

KRAMER: Break up with her


KRAMER: You break up with her. You reverse everything that way.

JERRY: A preemptive breakup.

GEORGE: A preemptive breakup. This is an incredible idea. I got nothing to lose. We either break up which she would do anyway but at least I go out with some Dignity. Completely turn the tables. It's absolutely brilliant.

In my case, I'm not sure who has hand. Potential Adviser seems very interested in having me stay at B.A.U. In our most recent meeting, he again pointed out new developments at B.A.U. and their potential to positively impact grad students in my program. Yet I'm convinced (maybe because of my total lack of self esteem) that my weak dissertation ideas and inability to distill them into a coherent and concise proposal mean that at any moment he may decide that I'm not worth his time. Oh the anxiety!

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