Saturday, November 01, 2008

Mind the Gap

Yeah, it's been awhile. The ease of LJ and the notion that I am not required to post anything of substance there has been almost too great to resist. The message boards for my program (see below) take up some of the "typing ideas in a box and hitting publish" energy. And then there are the thoughts for the paper journal. Anyway...

A summation of sorts before we begin.

I'm in grad school, am alternatively terrified and deeply in love with what I'm learning. There's more group work than I anticipated, the boards are easier to navigate than I thought (I really do need the extra time to ponder), and the balancing act of full time work and part time school seems to be working. What I didn't anticipate about this program is that I would find myself thinking about the program all the time. There isn't a minute of my day where I'm not either puzzling out some concept (metatheories, how you vex me!) or planning my attack on homework for the week. On top of this I've found myself "being there" for friends and then feeling guilty that I've lost precious studying time. I guess the balance isn't as perfect as I thought.

However, none of this compares to the blinding panic and fear that coated my first quarter at Birkbeck. There's no new city to navigate, no bank accounts to create or any of that administrative BS (though it did take several weeks to straighten out my student account, but that required phone calls more than anything else). I have the necessary resources to deal with panic this time around - familiar places and people and habits to keep me steady. But I find I'm not really reaching out to them as much as I thought I would.

The residency was hard in that I was again in the middle of a new city, trying to make friends with the 80 or so people in my cohort, and crashing on a couch two buses from campus. There were moments when I doubted that I could deal with this at all - that I was far too stupid or weak to take on grad school again. I pushed myself through it and left the residency feeling positive, feeling capable. I can't emphasize enough how different this feels from my first grad program, how calm I am and how unanxious I am about grades. My adviser (who I may have to change from in a year or so as she's in the iSchool, but not inlibraries) gave me a fantastic pep talk in week three, about learning for the sake of learning, for improving oneself and the world. It seems cheesey, but it really resonated with me. I have to do this degree so I can go on and make more money and have a proper career, but it's also because I love the work I'm doing and want to take on more. Working in libraries is what I do and what I love. I need to keep plugging away at this and hope for the best.

The other major change I've noticed is my ability to just keep doing. I used to be paralyzed by fear in London. I would curl up under the duvet with a novel checked out from Senate House and just ignore. Today there's a new coping mechanism - the doing things in tiny bits and tricking yourself into thinking you're not doing work until the assignment is done. Case in point - looking at web design assignment turns into just preparing for it turns into completing it. Worrying over an assignment turns into looking at the criteria and then an email to the reference librarian for an appointment. This is how I wound up getting my application for grad school done with plenty of time - "I'm just going to sit here and draft and not finish anything brain, so no need to put the perfectionism into gear!" Let's hope I can keep tricking my brain for the next three years.

That's essentially life - posting and reading and staving off anxiety. I've been reading, but mostly re-reading old favorites (I picked up A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for the first time in three years) and papers on information behavior. Exciting times.

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