Student-ing

It’s the first week of the new semester.

Today I went to 3 classes, and somehow the effect was painfully oppressive. Now granted, three classes is a lot for one day – especially the extra-long T-Th classes. Last spring I took only one, which hardly counted because I never left the Math building and by the end actually forgot I was in the class. So by contrast, sauntering over to Recitation or University several times in a day amidst all the students trudging to and from class felt unexpectedly bizarre. Like being back in “the good old days” of… a year and a half ago? I didn’t realize I had so thoroughly moved into another mode of graduate school.

But apparently I have. And apparently, I have no interest in going back. No, worse. Today’s foray into class-going mode, complete with little chair desks, discussions of course outlines, and the framework of other people’s expectations for what I would learn in a semester affected my happy little math-ing soul like a fast dehydrator. It’s put me in mind of the description of feeling like “a compacted ball of dust” from the end of my first year. At the end of the day, I needed emergency Bach and lying on the grass.

I mean, what’s so bad about it, after all?!? I’d call it two moderately good lecturers and one moderately bad. Two classes that were mostly review with some good insights and one new but not unapproachable. On the face of it, not unreasonable?

But what kills me is the change from setting my own course to being subjected to someone else’s. The glorious thing about the “new mode” is the ability to pursue, track down and think about the things that I find interesting. To say at the beginning of the day, “Today, I’m going to figure out what’s going on with Divisors. And if I get tired of that, I’ll go back to the First Main Theorem of Nevanlinna theory.” To be free to wrangle out the level of understanding that satisfies me, rather than that which best balances the pressures of professors’ expectations, workload, gpa, and sleep. To be self-directed is fantastic.

The professor who looks to require that I learn something in his class this semester is my enemy. (Ok, maybe “enemy” is a bit strong. But at any rate, I don’t feel like he’s helping me.) I wish to acknowledge only the responsibility to produce some good thought about something in exchange for my time.

I don’t think the “new mode” has to be incompatible with taking a class or so. Classes count as a way to pursue an understanding of something one is interested in, right? I’m hoping that it’s just the three at once that threatened to launch me backwards. Three doesn’t leave enough room for a personal project and campaign of study to take hold. Three is not one part of a larger offensive, it constructs (and enforces) a complete strategy of its own. Which feels so suffocating, I can’t even tell you.

I wasn’t planning to take three, anyway. I’m aiming for one and maybe sitting in on another if it’s interesting. But apparently, I shouldn’t even have tried to go to three for a day. Guess I learned something today. I think maybe this new illumination on the different modes of student-ing will be worth having. But gee-willikers, I just had to spend 2 hours writing this to work my way out of my class-induced funk, and that’s excessive. If I try to show up to all three again on Thursday, somebody please hit me with something.

 

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