Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"So in a world dominated by the digital the metronome I listen to beats inside of my chest." - Blueprint

I express in pictures more than words recently. I used to write novels in my head while walking to and from places--arrange ideas in the form of stories and anecdotes to illustrate events. But now words are replaced by images that clutter my meaning and make my tongue feel like lead. Why can't I just say what I mean?

Some schools make you write a thesis in order to complete your Masters. The Luskin School makes you do a project. I'm not there yet, thankfully, but I am standing at the precipice of what comes immediately before. I'm staring down into an ocean of summer internships and have somehow managed to forget how to swim.

I got into this program because of my personal statement. I wrote something provocative, personal, and poignant. I made myself different and I knew I would stand out. No one had my story. No one could tell it the way I could. I was impossible to forget or lose in the piles of applications. I was the statement you went home and talked to your wife or husband about because it struck you as being a mixture of all the characteristics you enjoy in the heroes of your favorite novels. But I did it in a a few paragraphs.

I need to do that again. I need to write my story in a way that appeals to my readers in a very specific way. But every time I put something down on paper I feel like I've just vomited ink all over it. I hate everything I come up with. It's too sarcastic, or too judgmental; too emotional or too involved to feel sincere. I think what I'm really looking for is my sincerity. I need to rediscover a way of being honest about my experiences, even when they are on subjects that I try not to think about. Maybe especially when they're on the subjects I try not to think about. After all, those are the stories people like to hear. Those are the stories that set me apart.

I've read examples of what people have written in the past and it has occurred to me that maybe I'm setting my bar too high. Most of the statements lack insight and inspiration. They're flat and informative in that way of giving people your basic components without really letting them know anything about you. All of those people managed to obtain internships in the past. Maybe I'm worrying too much.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I would like to make a motion for sanity?

I noticed something today. It was a strange and familiar feeling that has been creeping over me since around the end of October that I refused to acknowledge for fear that saying its name would somehow invoke its power over me again. However, given my resistance to even begin writing this, I realized it's probably to late to pretend it isn't there.

I'm tired.

It's the kind of tired I chalked up to something only Peace Corps Volunteers felt. The kind that equated not only to lack of sleep, but the sheer physical exertion that leaves you limp by the end of the day and nearly comatose for as long as your hyper-curious neighbors will allow. It takes the drive and desire right out of you. It kills your will to smile. It makes you cynical and sarcastic and ready to assume the worst in people because the worst has become such a natural state of events.

But this montage of feelings isn't just my history. It's my present. This is graduate school.

I walked into the second week of my second term feeling, among other things, rather unappreciated. Did I really just pay another ten grand for another ten weeks of hazing? Over the break I had lead myself to believe that my first term at the UCLA graduate studies program of Public Policy, or the "hazing period" as I had come to call it, was over. The intensive hours of busy work, grading systems geared to provoke perfection, and a "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" attitude garnered little more from me than an image of faculty members hazing me to see if I was willing to put up with enough crap to get to the 'real thing'.

I did, but I was evidently wrong is believing these expectations had evaporated. What was my hyperactive Statistics class last quarter has transformed into a hyperactive American Institutions class this quarter. To say I feel underwhelmed with this class is a distinct understatement. I am a student who has absolutely no intention of ever being involved with governmental institutions, or domestic politics. I walked into my weekend, after already putting over 40 hours of work into my course load, and continued to spend hours working through a radically unclear project for a class that will essentially have no impact on my professional life.

The fact that this assignment robbed me of my weekend, and did not offer the satisfaction of signaling the end of my workload for that class before our next meeting, elicited a deeply personal reaction against not just the class, but also the professor assigning the work. After a Monday that began at 7am and is still not over at what is now 6:30pm, saying I am highly resentful that my American Institutions professor is requiring me to read a case study on Welfare Reform, in addition to the 500 page book I was told to complete over my weekend, is probably much less accurate than, say, the term: 'piercing animosity'.

I noticed that this feeling again, was much like a lot of the rage I felt towards my adjustment to the overtly sexist climate of my first site in the Peace Corps. This mixture of searing anger and exhaustion is something I had hoped to leave behind upon my re-entry to a world that made much more sense to me. But clearly just because I am now back in my own culture, it does not necessarily mean I am back among the sane.

I figure two things:
1. I have no intention of reading this case study. If I am called on to discuss it tomorrow I will simple say I did not read it because I was preoccupied with the 6 other assignments that were contained within the boundaries of a rational graduate workload.
2. If this class doesn't calm the fuck down, I'll have to express my concern for the necessity of such an intense pacing for a class that isn't particularly relevant to all participating students.

Throughout my years in the Peace Corps I knew I had made a decision to be there, but there was also a certain amount of resignation to the situation. There was a degree of feeling like Peace Corps had also been done to me, probably stemming from the fact that there were several things I had no control over. Graduate school is different. While I am pulling late nights, early mornings, and missing out on valuable time I spent two years lacking with my family, I am keenly aware that I am paying people to make me feel miserable. I am paying THOUSANDS of dollars every months to feel miserable. I can muster the will to work hard if I understand the goal I am working toward, but there is something heartbreaking about looking at this pile of non applicable books, papers, and notes, and wondering: What is the point exactly?