First Day of School

So do California kids bring their teacher an orange instead of an apple?

So do California kids bring their teacher an orange instead of an apple?

For the past few weeks a lot of people have been asking me:

“So, are you looking forward to grad school?”

To which I have been forced to reply: 

“Yes, but I haven’t really had much time to think about it.”

Between conventions and weddings and showers and travel and managing all the corresponding details of all these activities I haven’t had much time for thinking about the start of classes.

On the one hand this has taken some of the fun out of anticipating my coming studies. I get a lot of pleasure out of anticipation- sometimes to the point where I will delay gratification indefinitely because the anticipation is more exciting to me than the reward. (I actually have to be very strict about actually taking a reward when I accomplish a goal- otherwise the reward never seems real and never seems like enough incentive to motivate me.) 

On the other hand, this has prevented me from stressing about it too much. What if the other kids don’t like me? Can’t worry about that now- gotta catch a plane. What if I’m no good at this? Don’t think about that right now, this is your brother’s big day! What was I thinking paying so much money for three more years of school? Hay look! Candy Crush!

I was doing pretty well with the stress-avoidance right up until last night when it suddenly struck me that today was my de facto First Day of School. Today is a day of departmental orientation and the Mandatory Safety Meeting that has been on my calendar almost since the day I chose to attend. It’s true that classes won’t be starting until Monday, but classes, schmasses: today is the day that I’ll be meeting all my classmates and will need to make a good impression. 

Because you only get one first impression. 

No pressure. 

It was about nine o clock last night when my body suddenly realized this, even though my mind hadn’t clued in yet. My heart started pounding so hard that when I lifted up my shirt I could see my pulse in my stomach. Breathing suddenly required a lot more effort. The impulse to get up and pace around warred with the impulse to lie very still. I think I was very quietly having a panic attack. 

The rational part of my mind knows there is nothing to worry about, but after sixteen years of First-Days-of-School it has a lot of limbic lizard brain to fight back against. It didn’t help that we had spent the evening watching “Summer Camp” which is a reality elimination show where grown men and women go back to summer camp to try to win a cash prize and each week someone has to be banished. The social pecking order is abundantly clear: if you’re not “in” you’re out no matter how hard you work, how honest and honorable you are or how friendly you are. If it brings them closer to the prize your teammates will sell you out. 

Now, I’m not saying that grad school is like Summer Camp, but it doesn’t take a strong push for my fears to tell me that it could be just like a horrible reality television show with me as a star contestant struggling to avoid being sent home. 

So this was my state of mind when I woke up this morning. I decided it would be smart to make today as “normal” as possible: I made myself a to do list, I went for a run, I ate breakfast and read my book, and now I’m writing this blog. Shortly I will be heading out plenty early to go to campus and I’m feeling pretty good about it.

You might even say I’m looking forward to it. 

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on August 23, 2013.

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