This morning was grumpy. There was a touch of chill in the air and it couldn't decide if it was going to rain again. A little cloudy and gloomy--a perfect match for my mood as I headed into my final day of exams for the semester. I was tired, sleep-deprived, tightly wound; my mind was swimming with facts, and I was obsessing over the number of things I had not covered that might be on the exam.
Three hours of exam later, several questions over what I had not done, but not so many I couldn't exclude them from the questions I did answer. I don't think I made any mistakes, though I have yet to check the one I waffled about. I spent the hour afterwards talking to a friend, eating my lunch and skimming the chapter I was scheduled to teach this afternoon. The worst of the mood passed, but I still felt weighed down.
Then I headed outside to get to my class. Into a bright, sunny, warm day. As I exited my department building, I caught a whiff of lilac, a smell of spring--gentle, happy, alive! And the exhilaration of having completed another major task hit me. Suddenly it was easy to get through two hours of teaching, even with minimal preparation. And I started to realize that maybe my summer schedule (teaching four afternoons a week, plus two hours of fitness courses a week, and some therapy for Scooter) was not nearly as oppressive as I had imagined before--funny how time opens up when there aren't exams filling up all one's time with studying and the actual writing. And I found myself thinking, there will be time to do the part of my comps I'm setting for myself this summer.
After a quick stop by the library to pick up a couple books on my primary author--reading not for a specific class!--I went over to Scooter's school. We were walking over to the garage, enjoying the breeze and warm sun. "Can I get some ice cream?" he asked, and I agreed. "Can I eat my ice cream on the bench?" he asked. I started to suggest that we take it to the car, but the beautiful sky beckoned and the smokers had all left the area, so I agreed to that to. I sat and watched as he thoroughly enjoyed an ice cream sandwich. I thought about how much older he looks in his new haircut, how confident he was in handling himself and the food, what a neat person he is. And I appreciated the opportunity to slow down and just breathe.
I am now at a turning point in my program. I had been working on Stages 1 and 2 simultaneously, Stage 1 being some core courses with highly proscribed content intended as a foundation and Stage 2 being made up of seminars. Because of the time I had taken off from school and my particular preparation, I was ahead in some ways and needed to go back to some even earlier courses for other things. And so for two years I have been working on both Stages simultaneously. The simultaneous part is not entirely unheard of, as many people end up overlapping for one year and then take 2 1/2 years to complete both parts, but doing both for such a long time is unusual. It also means I'm finishing them at the same time and now moving onto my comps. OK, technically, I have one more seminar to take, but it's fairly standard, due to scheduling concerns and the seminars available, to push one seminar into this time; in fact, I won't be taking my last seminar until Spring 2008, because none of those scheduled for the Fall fit into my interests and needs.
To put it more succinctly, I find this afternoon that I have magically jumped into an advanced stage of my program without entirely knowing how I got here. It is both exhilarating and daunting at the same time!