By Tom Dobrowolsky, MLIS Day
It occurs to me that a great many of you are in grave danger. Further, it occurs to me that I myself am facing that very same grave danger. This treacherous hazard that many of us are facing is that thing known as graduation. Why, just the other day, I was chatting with a certain extremely charming and debonair associate dean who congratulated me on my upcoming commencement. When he asked me whether I was excited; I had to pause. At that moment, I realized that I really wasn't completely excited. Sure, I am happy that in a matter of months I will be the Reverend Master. I mean, that ain't no small accomplishment. But, rather, the possibility of having to return to the civilian world brings to my mouth a distaste rivaled only by a swig of lite beer.
See, prior to subjecting myself to the exquisitely beautiful torture that is grad school, I had been out of school for a period of 6 years. I recall that, for much of that time, I was expected to be at work 5 days a week for roughly 8 hours a day. The most dreadful part of that whole business is that there was a vague expectation of regularity to my schedule. The saving grace of this ordeal was that I could be flexible about my hours considering that 4 of those 6 years were spent at a major university in a department that practiced flextime. I can't imagine how horrible it would have been had I had to have been at work at a precise time. In school, at least I can choose whether I want to sit around in a café and write that paper, or whether I would rather write it while sitting outside the HUB… or whether I should put it off entirely because I would rather spend the day attaching crazy things to my car.
Now, truthfully, there are weeks when I probably spend much more than 40 hours/week on school-related work. Additionally, people like to trot out the old horse that, in school, one never has free time because there is always work one could be doing. To that I say: horse hockey! Y'all don't know how to slack properly! In my academic career, there have been extremely few occasions on which I could not be talked out of working by a simple clarion call of "beer?" or "let's go canoeing." The academic environment has, fortunately, fostered such irresponsible management of time.
The other bit of malarkey I keep hearing is that of "having one's weekends free again". I've never felt bad about wasting an entire weekend engaged in frivolous pursuits. Nor have I ever felt bad about working through an entire weekend after weekdays full of glorious, grade-A Slack. There's the rub, and perhaps I don't understand the reasoning because I like things to always be a little bit up in the air - perhaps cuz I'm entirely a non-planning Perceiver, according to Meyers-Briggs, rather than a stodgy, day-planning Judger. Still, though, I have felt the insidious pressure of the social engineering known as a job: defining my personal time around work schedules and feeling prey to the "working for the weekend" mentality. As a result of returning to school, though, I have come to appreciate the freedom to put off whatever I am doing on a Tuesday afternoon because it is too gorgeous to work… or simply because it is Tuesday afternoon.
At first, though, I was concerned whether I was getting enough Slack in my diet, what with the alleged pressure, as a student, to always work. I feared that years of cleverly cultivating a slacker persona were going down the tubes. However, I realized that grad school had honed my slack; it turned it into a denser, cleaner-burning, higher-quality, capital-S Slack. I had also learned how to be busy in a good way, a fulfilling way.
So I realize now that perhaps my barely-coherent ramblings here are more valuable to those who aren't yet graduating. My advice to those of you finishing up your first year is: enjoy this frazzled time… pursue academic work that is intellectually fulfilling… and, most importantly, do not take for granted nor pass up the vast little moments of freedom you have at your disposal. Slack away as if Slack were about to become prohibited by Constitutional amendment. And for sweet Crimeny's sake, find some scared and care-free first years to make and waste lots of down-time with. Do not get locked into the stifling and provincial "cohort" mentality!
To you commencement-ators, I'm sure you will realize a state of bliss and freedom while working in the real world -- hard as that may be for my feeble mind to fathom. And, thus, my barely-coherent ramblings will seem like the mad mumblings of a career student that they are. I wish you all the best of luck in finding fulfilling positions. As for me, a year's sabbatical and, Gods and admissions committees willing, I'll find myself back in academia stumbling along the dark doctoral path. And, in time, when I feel like whining about my crazy school schedule, I hope I can call up one of you working types so that you can take a break from your hectic work schedule. You're buying the drinks, though, as you'll be earning a real salary!
Good luck, my friends! It has been a pleasure pontificating to you from this bully pulpit. I'll make certain to leave a few Dixon Ticonderoga Number 2s in the top drawer of the Komissar's desk.