I'm a fairly young guy. A young man, if you will. That said, I am occasionally reminded that here, on a college campus, I am old. I am one of those old, boring grad students who often does work on weekend nights, wears sweater vests (don't be jealous), and gets as much excitement from finding a great journal article as I used to get from getting to the cafeteria before all the Frosted Flakes were gone.
One of the students in the class I am TAing reminded me of this when I told him about the last paper I had for the semester. On finding out that it was to be 25 pages, his response was, "Good luck!" in the kind of "you're about to go into a battle against a mountain lion with nothing but a toothbrush, but I guess it's your funeral" kind of tone. I used to do that. Now? 25 pages is... just 25 pages. After handing in a thesis proposal 71 pages long, 25 pages just isn't that scary anymore.
Which brings me to this morning. As I stood there in front of 350 or so undergrads, mostly sophomores and juniors, I thought, "Could I kick it with these youngsters?"* I had received a few Facebook requests after my (epic) review session on Wednesday, which got me thinking how different we are. I'm about six years off sophomore year--a fact I still can't believe--but we're all young, right? I listen to new music. Okay, so not new popular music, but new music.
As I looked at the faces of the students taking their final exam I thought, "those guys don't look all that different from me (sans beardo). I could see them up here in my place." Then it hit me. There was a good reason why those faces looked like my face. I am a grad student. These were undergrads, yes, but they were undergrads in the middle of one of three tests that make up the whole class grade. Most of them probably didn't study enough. They were stressed, they were tired, and their spirits were getting ever-so close to being broken by finals.
Yes, they were becoming grad students, if only for a week and a half. Is it my extra six years on this earth what makes me responsible enough to be entrusted with 350 class grades. Nay. It is the qualities that I earned over those six years of job search rejection, paying rent and bills, working lame temp jobs, and having paychecks that make new undershirts look like a luxury.** Stressed, tired, and that sweet broken spirit with which I shall spring into the world this coming May with the most marketable skill in our economy's present state: low expectations.
*that's what you kids say, right?
**seriously, I really need new undershirts.
To All Pissivity
3 weeks ago