Bunny in the headlights

Jen, David and their 'congrats on being in grad school' gift

There’s a reason it’s taken me more than two weeks to write a single word about being a gradual student. I think a friend and colleague said it best in a recent email. “I found that grad school sometimes made me wonder how I had got out of high school.” And this from someone whom I classify as scary smart.

Her email made me feel a lot better. I needed to feel better. If it wasn’t for my stellar cardio-vascular conditioning at the moment due to excessive swimming, I’d be in danger of keeling over from heart failure. I’m sure of it. I’ve been that tense.

Most of my stress boils down to simple math. The amount of reading expected is exponentially higher than the ability of any mortal to complete, understand, and discuss intelligently. Keep in mind that the mortal in question in now 45. While my work at Ryerson makes me more confident in an academic environment, it has still been 13 years since I was on the other side of the desk. This is going to take some getting used to. Throw into the mix a few complications, and you’ll see why I’ve been a bit of a wreck for the past few weeks.

My negative sense of direction is epic. I can’t read a map and am incapable of reversing written directions. I don’t know why. I just know that this spacial deficiency doesn’t get any better with age. I think it gets worse. I got lost at least four times in my first week—the first time in sheeting rain, trying to retrace my steps back to the car. I needed to find my car, because I was scheduled to teach my first class at Ryerson, and though I thought I had left in plenty of time, the misplacement of the car coupled with the fact that people forget how to drive in the rain, resulted in a Def-Con 4 level panic. I was rescued by a lovely young woman who pointed me in the right direction. I just made it to my Ryerson class on time, though I was a little damp. Since then, there have been several instances when I had to pull over, whip out the cell phone and ask Kim where in hell I was. Once, I turned left on Finch instead of right, finally realizing something was amiss when I passed Bathurst and still there was no sign of the ramp to the 400 south. Oops. Kim got me home via Yonge to the 404. But that shouldn’t happen any more. Like a horse, once I learn my way home, I can generally get there. I just need a few practice runs.

Did I say run? Walk more like. Better yet, crawl is a more apt descriptor of the 401 westbound from Toronto anytime, any day. Really. On day two, I left the house at 6:30 a.m. Plenty of time to get to the York pool by 7:30. Nope. That week I was reading about the theory of relativity in Stephen Kern’s The Culture of Time and Space. Great book. It made me think that the 401 westbound is in its own space-time continuum. You never appear to move, but eventually, you somehow get to where you are headed. In this case, it took more than an hour. I managed to get a few lengths in the pool, and wondered about a transportation Plan B. (No, not the TTC.) Years ago I realized that if I needed to get anywhere in Toronto by a specific time, I shouldn’t rely on the TTC. So I don’t. And since I can’t read on a bus, any time spent on the TTC is wasted. I’d rather waste it in my car with my own music, thanks. Plan B involved the 407. I now have a transponder to add to my parking at York costs. I opted for the cheapest parking, by the way. It’s a $10 lot hell and gone from my classes, but at least it’s not too far from the pool. I figure I can beat off sexual predators with my snow scraper. I’d rather pay the roughly $600 a year and freeze my ass in winter than shell out the $1,000-plus for the privilege of garage parking closer to class.

After the whirlwind of week one, Jen and David came over for dinner. Kelly, who so kindly put us up in Port Stanley this summer, was also here doing the Cabbagetown arts festival.

Dinner after week 1

Jen and David gave me a framed map of Canada in 1763 and 1783 that came from an old history text. I love it. It will hang in my office, where I can appreciate it while I’m banging out academic papers and hopefully not tearing out my own hair. So far, I’m up to date on my readings but have yet to begin my GA work, researching any papers or even thinking about my thesis. But hey, at least I’ve finally figured out how to get home from class.


6 thoughts on “Bunny in the headlights

  1. Interesting. In what discipline are you doing graduate work? John takes the TTC to York every day he teaches. The bus from Downsview is really reliable and quick now that there is a ‘busway’. The kids actually line up. However we live at St. Clair W.
    When I went back to do an MBA, there was a former student sitting behind me in my first class….so I know how you feel.

    • Hi Maria. I’m studying history. I have heard the bus service has improved, but for me, getting to Downsview takes forever – I’m coming from the east end – Coxwell station. The bus to the station seems to run once every 1/2 hour on a good day, then 2 trains, then the bus to York. In other words, hours.

  2. It seemed to me in law school that part of what they’re teaching you, without actually letting you know as much, is to learn to discriminate in what you read, because it is physically impossible to read absolutely everything. I nearly died in first year because I kept thinking it was me, my age, etc. that meant I wasn’t keeping up, but in fact everyone was in the same boat. So chill a bit, and just pace yourself for the long haul. The first few weeks are the worst – once you get into a rhythm you’ll be fine – who knows, you might even get to enjoy yourself once in a while – ha ha!

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