Despite the somewhat romantic notion I had about enjoying a leisurely time after finishing my degree, it has worked out to be a bit different. This summer I have had very little break time between interviewing for new opportunities, IT repairs, a 180-degree shift in a work project, finishing my home redecorating project, and preparing to enter a new academic program. You would think I could see all of that coming, but, unfortunately, no. What managing it all helped me realize is that reading and studying has been a kind of stress management tool for me, in addition to being something I really, really enjoy. Studying as a form of stress management might sound unusual to you. It certainly sounds unusual to me, but while managing all the rough and tumble of professional life this week, I realized that having my reading and intense engagement with English studies is an excellent stress management tool and helps me maintain a helpful perspective on other projects.
It is that time of the year again; the familiar, frenzied yet excited emotions that you felt a year ago. It is like travelling to a foreign country―a time of exploration and discovery; but accompanied by the anxiety of the unknown. You welcome it though. Despite all the tension it had given you for one full year, you did feel buoyed up by a sense of achievement by the end of it.
Now, the new list of texts (again) intimidates you. You slowly realise that the sheer number of them will tower over you. Some of them are heavy, more so on the mind than in the hand. Merriam Webster calls them ‘tomes’― “large or scholarly books”. Surely, you want to be ‘scholarly’, but your packed schedule stands between you and the books. You will, however, be relieved to know that it is not impossible to approach this seemingly herculean task. What I find immensely helpful, when I did my first year, as well as now when I am gearing up for the upcoming academic year, is to first gather the raw materials―things which construct the skeletal frame. It is the first step, which I think is essential before I approach the BA English programme. I have also imagined the tools for this first step as the sculpting knife and the stone; the very basic materials I need before I proceed to chisel a completed sculpture. As an Asian doing the English course, I feel, knowing the history of England― both the country’s as well as its literature, provides the bare necessities to develop better appreciation. Three books, in particular, I have found extremely helpful in providing me with adequate knowledge within the shortest time.
What a week we have had here in Pittsburgh! Jelly Bean, my collie dog, and I have accomplished a lot. We spent some time digging over and planting three new flowerbeds, began a creative project, and finished our ‘spring’ cleaning that got sadly, sadly behind when concentrating on exams and some professional projects. This week we also finally finished two big, lingering work projects. (Yes, we – she is a very good co-pilot for long stretches at my desk.) Having professional and personal projects like this is a great thing right now. While it is sinking, albeit slowly, into my brain that I actually completed the degree, I have not quite figured out what to do with the time devoted to study. There was a celebration and a few tears of relief and joy when grades were released but nothing like the sense of satisfaction that came with the invitation to our graduation ceremony in the spring.
It feels like transition time, and perfectly timed too with the lovely feeling of spring ripening into summer, not that it is always a process without drama. This week we had an incredible summer storm. In just a few hours, we had three inches of rain. A building on our street was struck by lightning, streets were closed from flash flooding, people were rescued from floating vehicles, and our garden room flooded impressively. Although Jelly Bean is normally quite brave during thunder and lightning storms, she felt better sitting in my lap as we watched this one from her favorite window seat. In an almost Shakespearean way, like our own personal ‘Tempest’, the storm arrived along with my decision to pursue new professional opportunities and set new academic goals.
It is such a lovely summer here in Pennsylvania. Jelly Bean and I are enjoying some long, lovely summer days. Her favorite way to spend the day is lolling in the grass, playing in the lawn sprinklers. When evening comes, the fireflies mesmerize her. Because of her chronic medical condition, we dedicate a lot of our playtime to these pursuits as well as lounging in the shade and reading. There is nothing like relaxing in the garden with Jelly Bean and a good book. My summer reading list is quite interesting, perhaps even eclectic, and a bit surprising. Read the rest of this entry »
Grades were released for the BA English last week. As you can imagine, the event generated some excitement in our student chat areas. For yours truly, it is an enormous relief to have the marks and know where I stand, so to speak. For me, this was a challenging year with greater work and study responsibilities than ever before. Revising for exams was a worrying time, managing professional projects and trying to have some kind of personal balance. This year, like other years, the link to grades arrived in my inbox just at the time I settled my thoughts about each course and started thinking realistically about the exam. I like that process because self-assessment is an important part of our study skills in distance learning, and because it is an excellent validation of some complex thoughts and feelings.
One of the things that makes literature beautiful is its ability to bring out our multifaceted humanity. It functions like a prism that reflects the many colours of the rainbow when a beam of white light passes through it.
However, this ‘rainbow’ is not all about beauty; neither is it infallible. It has its vulnerabilities, the little pockmarks that blemish an otherwise beautiful face. And I think that it is not only at its most vulnerable, but also at its most interesting stage, when the intricacies of human relationships and of humanity surface.
It is the first week of a very hot summer here in Pennsylvania. Jelly Bean and I sit in the shade of our enormous maple tree for our favorite activities. She indulges me in one of my favorite activities, reading and we wait for a chance to indulge in her favorite activity, romping with her canine playmates as they come by on their walks. Now that I have no specific course to study for, I am suddenly aware of how much reading I have been doing over the last several years and how much I enjoy reading with a plan and a purpose. Even without preparing for a course of study, since May, my reading list surprised me: two novels by Hilary Mantel, one by Rushdie, Malory’s complete works, and Monmouth’s The History of the Kings of Britain. Right now, I am back onto Victorian poetry. I wondered what I would choose to read without a syllabus or course goals for structure. How much our course of study has affected how I read is a constant, pleasant surprise. How did this happen, exactly? Other students seem to be curious about this too, according to conversations in our student chat areas. Many wonder which texts on the recommended lists are the best aids to degree level study. How I read now has been influenced by some helpful texts.