Sunday, January 28, 2007

Paper Bag Bookcovers

The sum total of my academic work this weekend was reviewing my flashcards once, deciding that half of them are silly, printing out the stuff for my Skills lab on Monday, and covering my hard-backed textbooks in paper bags, ala eighth grade. By far, the most satisfying was the book covers.

I remembered how to make the little pocket to slide the book's cover into. I was tempted to get out my kid's crayons and draw the names of the courses on the books in bubble letters. And I was quite disappointed when I realized that at least half of my books are soft-backed, and can't be covered in paper bags at all. (or at least, it would be dumb to do so, and probly DEcrease the life of the book.)

One of the reasons I did this is that I had a flashback to the room in the house where I grew up, with at least one whole floor to ceiling book shelf full of my dad's engineering and math textbooks and reference books. I always wondered why he had so many, since I couldn't remember seeing him pull one down and look at it. But as first one, then another professor said during their first lecture that one of the ways to succeed in this program is to buy the books and keep them, I realized that he had them because they were the books of His Field. They represented the choice of careers that he had made (and stuck with - interesting to a thirty-something pursuing her first bachelors' degree). They represented his accomplishments during college. Not insignificantly, they represented a monetary investment. I paid $729 for the books for this term. I've taken 15 hour semesters at the community college, I've had big bills at the bookstore, this was not a total surprise. But the idea that I won't be selling these books back as soon as I walk out of the final exam is a new one. I've always used Pell Grant money to buy books at the bookstore before - and apparently, that's not the way it works here. I got my fin. aid check and then paid out of my checking account for the books. It's the biggest transaction my little debit card has seen in many months. I couldn't help thinking of the sum in terms of months of rent, phone bills, tanks of gas.

But it's really cool to think about beginning to build the collection of books that I'll have in my office one day. They may be completely obsolete in five years. Many of them are full of maddening backwards language and ridiculous doublespeak - referring to people with "yellow skin" in a chapter on cultural sensitivity, using male pronouns throughout with no note at the beginning about why the authors chose exclusive language, including blithering pop-psychology as factual evidence for the importance of non-verbal communication skills. But they are my reference texts. They represent my entrance into a Field of Study. and they remind me of the things that my dad had to give up to earn his college degrees for his chosen profession.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

When Things Settle Down

Dear Mom,
Remember how hard I cried the first week after I went away to college fifteen years ago? Remember how I said that I never would have come if I had known how hard it was going to be? Shouldn't fifteen years which encompassed an entire life span of a marriage, the birth of a child, the death of a father, and countless years of accumulated successes and failures have mitigated some of that emotion?

I've survived the first week of nursing school at BigSounthernSchool. After attending lecture last week, I made the following to-do list:
Be a Good Person.

According to my professors and textbooks, nurses are caring, attentive, selfless, open to new ideas, creative, calm and professional. They are reseveroirs of knowledge, advocates and teachers. They use good communication skills, show flawless emotional control and time management skills and are devoted to the health of their patients above all else. I begin to wonder how I will acheive this in only two years.

The first two days felt like one big blur of faking-it-til-I'm-making-it. With no clue, a thousand wishes and a million fears, we all dashed around to find classrooms (or not), see people that we recognize (or not) and collectively we waited for Things to Settle Down. Hopefully, I won't be too far behind in the reading when this finally happens.
For weeks before the semester started, I've been busy at home, shopping for books and looking at campus maps and bus schedules. Apparently, that was all for comfort only, because I never actually bought the books (everyone's already read the first chapters of everything), am lost immediately upon stepping onto campus and take the wrong bus for three days in a row (oddly enough, three different wrong buses). I was also busy constructing a thousand assumptions. No wonder I'm lost. How can I come to this open? How can I dive through the fear and get to the thing that needs doing? I sit in the library and wonder what needs doing. With each breath, I know. With each breath, I can open and dive. But this moment's breath seems caught somewhere small.

I'm lost. There's something in the feeling itself that can allow me to string together the times I have felt small and sad in a long heavy chain. But the the beads of all the days that I have grown larger and brighter scatter and roll under furniture. The joy is finding those beads in a dresser drawer somewhere. with love, kati

P.S - Things are Settling Down a bit. The doc from Counseling and Wellness who addressed us at Orientation had a slide that showed a much higher rate of grad students than undergrads come to the office for counseling. She said that grad students see the value of free psych services when they see it. I'm not a grad student, but I'm old enough and poor enough to perk up when I hear the words "free service". I've got an appt next week - let's see how good your free services are, nice lady.