The End Is the Beginning Is the End

Thursday, August 23, 2012

That title sounds an awful lot like my last one (which also references a song), but today's title comes from a Smashing Pumpkins song I've been listening to on repeat the last few days. 

It's a song I loved in high school and then somehow forgot about until it started playing on the Nine Inch Nails station on Pandora. Normally Pandora is locked on something pleasantly indie like Arcade Fire or Laura Veirs, so the fact that I've been listening to the NIN station all week (which plays mostly NIN, Marilyn Manson, Rage Against the Machine, Korn, and Tool) is a screaming indicator that I'm stressed and more than a little angsty. In moments of crisis, I regress to my fifteen-year-old self.

The music of my youth. How bizarre is it that Paul Ryan claims Rage as his favorite band? 
Whenever Marilyn comes on Pandora, I imagine myself in some sort of CSI lab montage, solving crimes and kicking ass nerd-style. I'm not sure why this is, but whenever it happens, I Get Sh*@ Done. 
That "crisis," of course, is the end of summer. Where did the month go?! It feels like we just got back from vacation, the second half of summer stretching ahead, and now I'm two days away from starting fall semester. That's right. I start teaching in two days. On a Saturday. This semester I'm only teaching two classes, African Literature and Culture here at SFU (traditional TR class) and English Comp at a satellite campus in State College. The comp class is for adult students in an accelerated business program, and it meets for seven weeks, Saturday mornings from 8-12. While I'm not excited about getting up at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday to drive over an hour to State College (especially during football season--State College is the home of Penn State), I am excited that the class will be over by mid-October.

I've spent my last week of summer listening to loud, angry rock music (the benefit of working from home) and planning for my two courses: writing syllabi, assignment sheets, grading rubrics; setting up my Blackboard sites; selecting and scanning readings; and previewing short films for my lit class. Essentially, I had to build two courses from scratch, and I underestimated how much time it would take. My African lit class is going to be a lot of fun, I think, and everyday will be jam-packed with interesting essays, short stories or novel excerpts, short films, and presentations by students, but it's going to be a lot of work, for the students and me both. I'm ready for the challenge, though, and I hope they will be as well. The comp class should have been a bit easier to plan because I've taught comp many times before (though not in recent years), but teaching in such a strange, abbreviated format forced me to rethink the entire structure of the composition class and how to teach writing. I just finished my syllabus and assignments about an hour ago, and I'm satisfied with them at the moment, but I can see myself changing up the syllabus in the coming weeks as I learn more about what it means to teach once a week for four straight hours.

Needless to say, I've failed at every one of my goals for August. I haven't even completed revisions on Chapter 1 for my committee (due next Monday) because I spent this whole week prepping for the semester and the two weeks before that binge reading. I hadn't finished a book in two months before that because I was so focused on my dissertation, plus I just couldn't get motivated to finish A Game of Thrones and I hate starting new books before I finish the one I'm reading. I know it's like sacrilege or something to say that about George R.R. Martin's series, but while I love the show, I just Can. Not. Finish the first book. Finally, a couple of weeks ago I said screw it, picked another book off my growing TBR pile, and didn't stop reading until eight books later. My husband can attest to this. All too often during those two weeks he would go to sleep, leave for work in the morning, and come home in the evening, and I would be in the exact same spot, happily immersed in another world. I read the entire Mortal Instruments series (five books), Immaculee Ilibagiza's Left to Tell (for work), Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles (loved!), and Karen Russell's Swamplandia! All that fiction was exactly what I needed to deprogram my analytical, dissertation-writing brain and allow me to start thinking creatively again. I didn't get as much writing done on the novel as I would have liked, but I got a lot of plotting done and thought through some serious road blocks in the narrative. The story and characters are much stronger now. The only problem is that September is just a week away, and then I will have to put away my fiction to work on my dissertation.

At times like this I have to remind myself, just one more year. One more year, Novel, and this whole dissertation thing will be behind us, and we can finally, truly be together.


Tawnysha Greene August 24, 2012 at 6:49 AM  

Love the picture! Hope the new semester starts off well and that you have wonderful classes!

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