Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving is over and for that I am thankful. It is so much work and stress for what ends up being a two hour period when we are all together and I just have to wonder, is it worth it? Not really, not when I have so much homework. It's hard to enjoy the holidays when there are so many other things hanging over my head. So here I am on a Saturday night, trying to finish my Columbian Exchange paper so I can turn in a rough draft on Monday. Really, I need to get a life. In slightly less than three weeks the semester will be over and I will stop complaining. Really.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

End-of-Semester Blues

I miss my friends. I used to have some. I used to have a life. I miss hanging out with the girls, watching chick flicks, laughing and acting silly. I can't remember the last time I had a chance to do something like that. It seems like all my friends have scattered, with busy lives, busy families. I'm certainly no exception. Will there be a life left for me when I finish school? I read a magazine article recently about how hard it is to make friends in your forties. Some were of the opinion that it isn't just a matter of being hard to make friends; others believe it is just harder to find other women with whom we have common ground. Both may be true, I'm not sure.

I've spent all weekend working on a paper for Latin American Civ. I'm nowhere near finished. I need to have about another ten pages in order to turn in a rough draft right after Thanksgiving. My Spanish teacher is prepping us for our final, which will be a two minute presentation to him in his office. We have to find two articles in Spanish, both with similar themes, and then tell him, in Spanish, a summary of both articles. Slightly scary, but at least it we don't have to do it in front of the class.

I'm really looking forward to the end of this semester. It has been a long, hard 16 weeks. I can't wait to have time to read for fun, to read as many blogs as I want to without feeling guilty, to watch a movie in English (or in Spanish, if it has Javier Bardem), or just lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling. It doesn't really matter. Just rest and no stress. It's good to have something to look forward to.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My great-grandfather couldn't read or write. He worked hard all of his life, had a driver's license and drove a car, voted in each election, and traveled throughout the city and county, yet he couldn't read the street signs or sign his name. The most he could do with a pen was make a scraggly X on documents in place of his name.

I'm reminded of his illiteracy when I'm in Spanish class, and as usual I only half know what is going on. I don't understand everything I hear or see. This is actually a big improvement; at the beginning of the semester I never knew what was going on; now I understand at least half to three-quarters of what he says. I no longer cringe quite so badly when he calls on me to speak. I'm becoming a little more comfortable with trying to speak the language in front of people who are able to speak Spanish so much better than I can. In short, I'm learning and improving as time goes on.

My great-grandfather never improved, he never got any better; he spent his entire life unable to read anything. He never complained and he never seemed to feel the lack. He just carried on doing what he had to do and coped however he could. Like Grandpa, I have found ways of coping when I don't understand what I see and hear. I watch and listen intently to the teacher. I watch my classmates. I follow along as best I can and if I'm heading the wrong way, someone will tell me. Grandpa had his own ways of coping. When he went to vote someone would read the ballot to him. Medical and legal documents where read to him before he made his X. Whenever he needed to drive somewhere new, he was given directions based on landmarks, or someone would go with him the first time. He then found his own way to get back home, usually taking a more scenic route that was more complicated but involved less traffic. He wasn't stupid, he just couldn't read.

I don't know how much stress his inability to read may have caused him throughout his eighty-five year life, or how he may have felt about being illiterate. It was just the way he was, and growing up the way he did, maybe he never expected anything different. I didn't give it much thought when I was young, but in retrospect, I admire the way he lived his life in a world he didn't fully understand. He always did it without complaint and without blame or bitterness. And seemingly without fear.

I registered on Monday for the spring semester. I've already dropped one class and added another. It is still subject to change, but right now my schedule includes Spanish Composition, American Religious History, East Asian Civilization I, and People and Cultures of the Caribbean. I am so ready for this semester to be over so I can give my brain a brief rest before diving into the next semester. I just tell myself that I will be one step closer to the finish line!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

And so we are in the homestretch, and we are all tired. At least, I know I am. I finally have an outline for my Latin American Civ. paper and I'm hoping to get a good chunk of it written next weekend while my husband is out of town. I have a test in British Empire this week; an Ethics assignment due Thursday. The Spanish teacher chewed us all out Friday for not talking. Half the class skipped (probably because it was such a beautiful day)and the rest of us apparently didn't have much to say, at least not in Spanish. I was just glad that for a change I wasn't the only one not talking. Please let it be over soon.

On a positive note, I'm happy to have found others like me, non-trad students. They are all on-line, as I never see any on campus. ( I know they are there; I think they are all in accounting or in some other more practical major.) I take comfort in this virtual club when I'm in class with a group of twenty-year-old students who are complaining about being tired and not having enough time to get their homework done. Occasionally when I hear these complaints, one of them will realize who they are talking to and have the grace to look embarrassed. Most of them don't have a clue.

Tomorrow is my designated registration day. Decision time, although I'm feeling quite wishy-washy right now. New classes are frequently added to or removed from the schedule, so my options could change before registration ends. This could be good or it could be bad. There are so few history classes offered each semester already, it makes it hard to plan my schedule so that I am on track to graduate in spring 2011. What a day that will be!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Well, I somehow survived the Spanish Inquisition interview last week and even more surprising is that I received a good grade. He asked a question that was not on my list, but I think I managed to answer it well enough. If it seems that I spend a lot of time ranting about this class, it is because this is the only class that makes me want to bang my head against the wall. A few people in class have been complaining about their grades, and I just don't understand why they are not getting A's, because they actually know how to speak. When he calls on me, I feel like all I can do is stutter, yet my grades are good. I don't get it.

Registration begins later this week, so I'm going to have to make a few decisions about the Spring semester. Will I be able to survive in the next Spanish class? Should I take four classes again, or cut back to three? If I only take three, will I have to make up the other class next summer or squeeze it in during another semester? Summer classes don't offer many options, and not counting the short summer semester, I have three semesters remaining before I plan to graduate. I have to find a way to fit everything in my schedule and still keep my head above water (and actually have time to learn something from my classes).

This weekend I bought the latest book by Diana Gabaldon. Unfortunately, I absolutely can not touch the book until school is over in mid-December. It is several hundred pages long and if I start it I will have to finish it, to the detriment of my history paper that will be due all too soon. Delayed gratification is no fun.

I don't remember what it was like to have a life. What will life be like when I finish school? Will I need to find a new goal, or a new purpose for my life?