Gradschool’s hidden purpose

I now stand, although perhaps lean is a better adjective, at the end of my fifth week of classes. The maniacal frontal assault on my work and schedule no long overwhelmes me to the same degree. Instead, I feel as though I’ve tamed the endless onslaught of readings, writings, work and internships into a highly controlled outline of lists, checklists, and thoughtful planning. It is the ultimate crash-course in time management and directed reading. I can no longer read every piece of material that passes by with the depth I want to give it. Instead, I have to force myself to skim headlines in GoogleReader and pass over names and dates if they aren’t critical to the argument. The biggest change in my study behavior has been the diabolical need to abstract each article I read because I simply cannot hold it all in my memory at once. There is too much information coming too fast with too many applications to trust that when crunch time comes I will remember where I read what.

It appears that grad-school, particularly a master’s degree, is not only about stretching the mind and forcing it to think harder and more deeply. That is part of my life. Instead, this degree and especially this semester is a challenge in time and project management. I have to learn and practice juggling multiple tasks and thoughts all the time. My life is strangely disjointed between the type of work I do in my part-time office job, my part-time archivist internship, and my full-time student experience. Different parts of my brain function at different levels all the time. One of my classes requires thinking and writing with deep analysis, synthesis and conclusions. The other requires concise summaries of content alone without the near-instinctual need to find coherence or meaning in the readings. The third draws on my empathy as a person, and heightens my awareness in body language and speech patterns to find understanding in interpersonal relationships. The struggle doesn’t lie in my ability to do any of them individually, although all require more practice to make me feel competent. The most draining part of grad-school is in the switching from one mindset to the other, the constant focus of one over another while still drawing on the skills I’m practicing in each.

And I say all of this at 11:40pm, after two exceedingly long days, so please excuse some of the rambling. I may need to revisit my notes on how to write concisely.

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