So, I am not the standard grad student. I am pushing 40, I have a kid, and I am married. I am attending a Buddhist school. I am not Buddhist. I am not even a good atheist. I base my beliefs on coffee beans and magic. The first day of my first year, I was pumped. I was raring to go! I had been working on prerequisites for seven years. Here it was! I entered my first class. It was wonderful. I was learning things. I wasn’t at work. I was expanding my mind and racking up huge amounts of debt.
I had to race to my second class, which was half way across town. I had ten minutes. I drove like the wind, and arrived 10 minutes late. I walked in, and the entire group of 20 students and 2 instructors turned to look at me.
I felt like I had walked into an Elks meeting. Or a Mormon wedding. It seemed something important and secretive was happening and I had missed it.
“Sorry!” I said, far too perkily. “I just had a class at the other campus; I can’t get here right on time.”
The main instructor had a serious expression on her face and looked terribly disappointed in me, as if while meditating a potato bug had crawled right up her butt, and somehow it was my fault.
“Uh. I mean, it was only 10 minutes.” There was a distinct pitch to my voice, much like a whine.
The class looked at me with obvious pity, perhaps thinking I wouldn’t last the day. I was thinking,”I’m not going to last the day.” We were all on the same wavelength. Except for the fact that my wavelength has been out of school for over 15 years and my wavelength can’t read a course schedule and my wavelength scheduled a class that ran one hour into my next class, because my wavelength is totally overwhelmed and my wavelength wants to quit school this very instant. I was okay before this. I wasn’t progressing in my working life, I wasn’t learning anything new, but this? This is not cool. I am not going to be the kid no one wants to sit next to at lunch. I’m not going to be the Ally Sheedy of the Breakfast Club. No I am not. In fact, I’m going to the bathroom now, and not to meditate.
To hide in a stall.
Even the free tampons couldn’t cheer me up. I gradually picked up my swollen, puffy eyed face, wrapped my heart that really just wanted to be home with my daughter up in some extra toilet paper, took a deep breath and went back to class. I smiled like nothing was wrong, hoping my fake cheer distracted from my red eyes. I traveled to the admissions office and tried to figure out my schedule. The woman, who was about my age, looked at me like I was probably the stupidest student to ever enter the program. Yeah. That’s me, I’m the slow one. Thanks. By the way, where are the Buddhists hiding? I thought you all were supposed to love EVERYONE! Even the remedial grad students!
She told me, “You registered for a class that conflicts with another class.”
Well, no shit. Now who’s the stupid one? (I’m not even going to fake that I’m a Buddhist.)
“Yes, I did. I’m wondering how I can fix it.”
“Well, you have to get online and change classes.”
My face quivered. I had reached a breaking point.
She looked me in the eye and very seriously said, “This is graduate school, you know.”
I thanked her, for completely topping off my awesome first day of school and went to my car where I proceeded to do the ugly cry and call my sister (she is the main receiver of all my ugly cries – an underpaid job for sure). I huffed and puffed, telling my sister all the stuff I meant to say to the admissions lady, but I didn’t because my brain operates on a 10-20 minute delay.
Why did it suddenly seem as if graduate school was a NASA program that only 8 people in the world had been admitted to, and if I didn’t figure out my schedule the earth as we know it would cease to exist because the sun would explode and the moon would crash into the ocean? Yes. It IS graduate school, I realize this. And I am paying this school nearly $80,000 over three years to have the honor to earn a degree from them. I think for that kind of money, someone should hold my hand. I mean, if I am going to negatively affect the entire planet, shouldn’t SOMEONE HELP ME OUT?!
I never said any of that, of course, and somehow I finished my entire first year without destroying the sun or the moon. Or my marriage. Or Buddhism. It seemed my newbie status was morphing. I was becoming an expert grad student. Drinking lattes by the gallon, typing papers by the pound, sitting on cushions and not totally cursing the person who invented the damn cushion. I could do this! (Though I could do this better on a couch.)
Until year two.
I made it through my first day with no problems. Whew. I really was going to be okay. And then… then…
it was day TWO!
I went to get my financial aid money. La la la. Life is good. Getting some money from the government. whoop. Gonna buy some groceries. Gonna pay the water bill. Holla!
“Um, we have no check for you.”
“Well, you see this section of the form?” The financial aid guy drew a big square around a paragraph at the bottom of the page. I swear he drew it really slowly, emphasizing my stupidity, but I might be projecting.
Seriously? Why are these people such dick-heads? What would Buddha do? Don’t they know this shit is difficult for someone who used to register for classes IN PERSON? God. I probably babysat this guy in college.
Of course, again, instead of saying any of this, I cried. It’s my go-to mature reaction.
Graduate school is no laugh. But it also is not that big of a deal. The big deal is that I quit wearing deodorant about 2 months before the program started. This was probably a bad decision. If you are going to go back to school as a “mature” student, it’s probably best not to let them smell your fear. I wonder, if I do become Buddhist, will my sweat no longer stink?