out of the frying pan, into the fire


I graduated two weeks ago. It wasn’t that momentous an occasion. For one, I always feel weird about these “sad” situations. It makes me feel cold when I realize that I am not sad to say goodbye to people. It’s not like I’m happy to say goodbye; I find that I brace myself for these situations weeks in advance, and therefore don’t feel much at all. I don’t really say goodbyes, because I am doubtful I will never see my friends again. Those who I may never see in person I will see online, on Facebook or Instagram, cyber-agoras. It is unlikely that I will completely drop out of contact with those I care about, and so saying goodbye to someone’s physical form does not seem to move me much at all. And saying this may make me seem cold, but I can’t do much to change how you read me, or how you read the way I read myself.

I am in New Haven, staying with a graduate student in the comparative literature department. New Haven is a nice town; I can already tell I am going to like it a lot. I’m taking the Latin class I’ve talked about, and it’s not too bad. While I think it’s annoying I have to learn Latin, I have a knack for languages and in many ways consider myself an amateur linguist. Latin, as a classical language, has a lot of features I’ve only been able to study on Wikipedia pages, and learning it will definitely help me understand how French and Portuguese and other Romance languages function, even if the utility of Latin will not necessarily intersect (at least directly) with my research.

I am set to move into my apartment in about a week. While I have been enjoying my time with my host, I feel like a burden nevertheless and will appreciate having my own space and not being a squatter in hers. Only time will tell.

Yale is a beautiful university. The buildings are old-looking and imposing. Yale seems to occupy New Haven in a way which both quarantines it from the rest of the city (which is remarkably brown) while also allowing, at the same time, a kind of fluidity which Swarthmore completely lacked. There are few gates, besides those that close off the individual colleges for reasons I assume are related to safety. It’s not quite NYU, where all semblances of a campus have essentially been obliterated, but it’s not like Swarthmore either, where the boundary between Swarthmore College and the Borough of Swarthmore seems cleanly demarcated. There are plenty of graduate students around, since the University seems to esteem itself as a primarily graduate institution.

I am not feeling imposter syndrome per se, but I do feel a weird out-of-place-ness that I can’t describe. I am always expecting to be stopped by a security guard when entering the library or carefully ogled because of my unfamiliarity but this doesn’t happen. It seems that no one doubts my status as an insider, although I in some ways do. I am feel weirdly liminal here, neither undergrad nor grad, and while this is my current state, I’ve been treated as just a graduate student, with the normal expectations of a graduate student, whatever those are. I am curious and nervous about my classes in the fall, because I’m not sure how they will play out. Will they be difficult? Will they be somewhat easy? Somewhere in the middle? Will I be expected to read five novels a week, and if so, how quickly will that pace normalize? It’s pointless to think about these things so far in advance, but as you already know, I can’t help it. It only helps me to brace myself in advance so I am not utterly shocked when the pain and suffering comes.

Some good news; I won second place in a writing contest! Because I’m a good person, and I haven’t really treated myself to a gift for last semester’s accomplishments, I’m going to spend my contest earnings on an iPad. I’m still figuring out what model I’m gonna get (I’m choosing between an iPad Air 2 and the new iPad), but I essentially want something to sub in for my laptop, which is rather large and heavy, and doesn’t fit in the laptop sleeve of my new backpack. I’m gonna have to shell out a decent amount on whatever I get, completely doing away with my contest earnings and then some, but I think it’ll be worth it. I’ll have more mobility and I can spare my back some of the strain. I have chronic neck issues (I get really uncomfortable, daresay debilitating, neck cramps, especially when it’s cold) and hopefully carrying around a 2lb iPad + keyboard case will help to address issues which carrying around a 5lb laptop everywhere may address. Now that I’m writing it out, carrying 5lbs doesn’t seem like that big of a deal… but for one, I’ve also been having issues with my left wrist (weirdly, this is the wrist I didn’t break) and sometimes when I try to pick up my computer, it feels like my wrist is gonna give out… so the iPad, being half the weight, will hopefully help with this issue.

I am somewhat concerned about my finances though. While I think I will actually use this iPad, I have a Kindle Fire (it wasn’t what I was expecting) I just finished paying off, and another tablet (it wasn’t very good; very cheap) that I bought about a year ago, sitting in a drawer at home in New Jersey. I hate being wasteful, and purchasing items impulsively “because I deserve them” leads to wasteful misuse of my resources. In college, I didn’t have to worry about bills and managing my finances since all of my money was essentially disposable, but soon I won’t have that luxury. This iPad (and accompanying accessories) may be my last big purchase for a while.

I’ve been thinking about kinds of supplementary content I can create for this website. For one, I want to start vlogging, but the idea of spending an hour listening to my voice during editing kind of makes my skin crawl. I suppose that would go away with time, but it’d also be another thing to consume my time. I was talking with a friend I made here in New Haven about my course schedule for the next four years (when I will be taking classes) and I realized that, because I have 14 credits to get in 8 semesters, I will essentially be taking 2 courses a semester with a free semester during my fourth year so I can travel in preparation for my dissertation. In my head, that doesn’t seem like a tremendous amount of work, and if Yale is anything like the Swarthmore Honors program – I assume it’s not, but humor me – I will have a decent amount of time to work on my research, my writing and my “advocacy” work. I want to start vlogging because I think it’ll be helpful to get my name out there, as well as access a different kind of audience. Not everyone wants to or enjoys reading this blog, but I think it’s important to show that there are Black people in grad school through vlogging, a media form with far more reach than a text blog. But I’m a perfectionist; I’d only settle for the highest quality work, and anything less would just frustrate me. I’d love to feature interviews with other Black and Brown grad students, as well as show my life as a person of color in an environment which is still struggling to find a place for and reconcile its prejudice against individuals like me. It’s a half-baked idea, and I’ll keep you all posted as to what I decide to do.

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