One is the Loneliest Number
Sorry for the radio silence, earthlings.
Things have been crazy at casa di university of lies lately. I still suffer from an all too common strain of thesis blues, phd neglect, and ennui. Symptoms include: apathy; unhealthy rage; desire to consume nothing but pizza and saccharine sick cups of builder’s tea; and netflixia.
So I let my side job take over my life. Because even a teeny micropeen of a paycheck is better than focusing on the other thing, which just costs me shit like money, sanity, and precious life units daily.
(also: don’t google micropeen.)
As the semester approaches its final death rattle, my classes are thinning out at an alarming rate. My bigger class, which started with 40 students, usually has around 18 seat warmers now. I don’t know if I should really care about this or not. There’s not even really a proper ‘selfish’ perspective here.. because this new low low number probably doesn’t mean less papers for me to grade. It means more random ‘did we do anything important today’ emails and students finding me in the hallway, feeding me a sob story about how their car broke down/they were abducted by aliens and can I please just wait in my office for another hour while they go to the computer lab and whip up something fresh for me to read?
But the show must go on and it does. As I’ve said before, alien abductees aside, I really like the majority of my students as people. They are funny and quite nice when you engage them on some other topic besides the one I’m supposed to teach. But I can’t help but get frustrated at their lack of work ethic when it comes to things that are hard or don’t interest them. I want to bash my head against the wall when they go on about their impending stardom, or ask them if they have a backup plan in case Simon or Xtina hit the ‘X’ (or don’t hit it. however those shows work).
(Though, according to the recent comments on that slate article about how the phd ruined some other persons life, this is probably a manifestation of the self-hate i feel, since apparently becoming a professor at a decent school with job security is just as ridiculous a career goal as wanting to be lady gaga.)
But the bright star in the firmament is that I have one student who gets it. This student is pretty affable, will say hi to me on campus etc. And while ze rarely hands in any work, ze always shows up to class and has an interesting contribution to make to the discussion. Which is often a discussion I am having with myself, or one other person. I don’t know why the hell ze bothers coming to class and paying attention when the hopes of someone passing the class without doing any fucking work are nil.
We are doing a Shakespearean play at the minute. It has made me parts maniacal and homicidal at the level of fucking apathy that gets bounced back in my face on a weekly basis, despite all my jazz hands and attempts to make what is already very fucking interesting even more fucking interesting. But yes, this one student gets it. And to hear hir laugh at the funny bits and make very 21st century comments in response to what is actually happening in the play is awesome. It’s like one of these internet memes where puppies and ducks and rabbits are best friends. I feel some kind of electric ZING that signifies the transportation of knowledge and all the centuries are squished into nil and isn’t literature and time travel brilliant, fellow adventurers?
Then I look around the rest of the room and see 17 slack jawed walking dead extras.
I’ve been ‘mentored’ by some very awesome people who tell me this is the best I can hope for. But as good as I feel in that moment, with my student who does no work but can appreciate timeless art, I don’t know how good I feel about ‘getting’ 1 in 40.