Friday, August 29, 2014

TV Break

So I'm trying this thing where I don't watch any TV or movies for the semester. Obviously, I read for my classes, but I read for pleasure far less often than I used to, and I'd like to fix that. If I need a break from coursework, great! I'll read one of the oh-so-many books I have not yet read sitting expectantly on my bookshelf. It seems like the perfect time to conduct such a grand experiment; neither Game of Thrones nor Mad Men is currently on TV. The only show I'm in the middle of is the current season of Project Runway, so I figure that can be my one exception. Once per week I am allowed to watch one episode of Project Runway. I think that's reasonable. Trips to the movies are also allowed, considering that they're relatively rare.

Thus far it seems to be working, but that's not saying much, since I only decided to do this on Wednesday night. Still, I see the early signs of effectiveness; last night I went climbing with Austin, ate dinner, and read the entirety of As You Like It for my Shakespeare class. The whole damn thing. At any rate, I have practice giving things up, thanks to my Catholic upbringing. Not that I've participated in any Lenten activities in years. But no matter how far your beliefs stray from Catholicism--and I suspect that most Catholics-turned-atheist or Catholics-turned-whatever-else can testify to this--you can't ever fully shake the culture. I will feel guilty about everything, unnecessarily, for the rest of my life, and I will always remember what it was like to give stuff up for Lent. TV will seem so great when I can watch it again! Or, on the other hand, maybe I'll no longer care to watch. I guess we'll see.

Speaking of my Shakespeare class, I was getting a bit nervous about it the other day. It's not, in fact, a 9-page paper. It's a 15-page paper--but that's not the problem. It's a midterm, a final, an in-class presentation, and a 15-page paper. You know--exactly what I used to do multiple times a semester every single semester of my undergraduate college career. Why am I nervous? I am truly afraid that I've forgotten how to take a normal class. At this point it's been over four years since I graduated from Loyola with my Bachelor's (grossgrossgross I'm old), and working at ABIS was nothing like working in academia. I feel far stupider now than I did then. I'm not kidding. I frequently feel as though my brain has turned to mush. Writing a relatively short critical essay for Maile's class last year, and then a significantly longer and more difficult one for Dr. Becker's class, was so much harder than I had anticipated.

When I was an undergraduate, I cranked essays out like it was my job. Because it sort of was, I guess. I had no problems with it at all. Sometimes I was dissatisfied with my essays--I wanted to feel like I had written something truly original, and I knew that most of them weren't--but I wrote them well, I wrote them quickly, and I never received a grade lower than a B (as I recall). However, I definitely struggled while writing my two critical essays last year. The ideas wouldn't come, or coalesce, or organize themselves. Not easily, anyway. I think part of the issue is that I was intentionally trying to write on more sophisticated and nuanced topics than I did as an undergrad--I was trying to up the ante, as it were. But that's what you're supposed to do in grad school, n'est-ce pas?

And then let's talk about in-class, off-the-cuff essays. How do you even do that again? I guess I did it when I took the GRE, technically. That was...2012. Ugh. I don't want to think about it.

The point is: I'm worried and I feel ridiculous for worrying. Any advice a) on how to write critical essays easily or b) on how to stop feeling stupid would be greatly appreciated.

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