Wednesday, April 8, 2009

April is the Cruelest Month or How I Taught a 3 Hour Class with Wet Feet and Lied to My Peers About the Value of a $50,000 Masters Degree

Monday, I trudged through the pouring rain and it wasn't a benevolent spring rain, no, it was a mean, winter rain. I had to teach a three hour class at 5:30 pm. My feet were wet the whole time. Got home at 8:30 pm, went to bed by 10:00, done. Awake the next day at 6:00 a.m. Out the door by 6:30, not raining,but cold as shit. T.S. Eliot is right, "April is the cruelest month." Even my customary sugar rush of Red Bull and cheese danish didn't help.

I was f---king cranky. I had 20 papers to grade before a 9:00 a.m., and then an 11:00 a.m. class. I got the work done, walked in classroom, handed them back, took another stack, and said, later for you. I'm like, class is dismissed. All I could think of was, Christ get me home and out of this brassiere and my cowboy boots which are still damp from the day before.

When I got home, I pulled the blinds, closed the drapes, put on my sloppiest clothes, put Molly in my lap and turned on the TV. First I watched Intervention! A young woman, blond and beautiful, was filmed shooting up H. Blood spurted from her arm and she licked it up. I'm serious. Good to the last drop, baby. Her mom was doing the same in the next room except she wasn't copping to it. I liked the fact that were no "talking heads" dispensing pearls of wisdom and erudition. Of course it was shot and edited well, and sometimes that's all you need.

After a couple of hours of this, maybe 3:00, and I had to get ready to participate in a Master Class at my alma mater, NYU. I'd been asked to come in and talk about my novel and the accompanying paper I wrote. It was fun to go back to a happier, more prosperous time. My loans more than paid my rent, plus I was working. Good times. Money in the bank. Anyway. In a lovely classroom, in an expensively remodeled building, I sat at a table with eight students. I told the story of my time-traveling book, The Blue Mountains, and how much I LOVED writing the paper on female archetypes.

One woman asked me if it was worth $50,000. And I lied, and said, yes. Why burst her bubble? That's even crueler than cold rain in April. The work that I did for my Masters--- the books I read, the book I wrote, the research, the papers on Jung, on Duras, on pornography were so much f---ing fun. Everyone should experience that joy, knowledge for the sake of knowledge.

It was a lie because, in this economy, it doesn't seem to count for much. Granted, I might not be seeing the long range benefits. But in the short term, one year after graduation, I cannot find a full-time job with the salary I now require. This is why in dollars and cents, $50,000 is a lot of money for feminist archetypal theory because its not paying my rent or bringing home the bacon.

But like I said, I lied. All the MA candidates sitting at the table were so hopeful. So luminous in the pursuit of their multi-disciplinary artistic, academic careers. One person was creating an educational television project that married traditional classroom pedagogy and entertainment, another was working on a documentary on the Lower 9th, another was producing a play Off-Broadway, another is going to investigate the authenticity of travel to different cultures via the philosophy of Heidegger.

Of course when they graduate, if the economy is still in the shit, they will get jobs as proofreaders, TA's, Adjuncts, waiters, bartenders--- but that's in the future for them. Today they're at the gorgeous library on campus. A place to run away to---- ten levels of books, floor to ceiling windows, silence. I used to sit on the sixth floor, overlooking Washington Square Park, five books in my lap, taking notes, reading. It was like a church, a synagogue, a temple.

Back in the real world, I am oppressed by that debt, I have nightmares about that debt, am concerned it will follow me into my next life--- so when I got home, I watched another two hours of Reality TV. This time the salacious Housewives of New York City. From the ivory tower to the fake world of botox-ed rich women, who got their money the old fashioned way--- by marrying it. Yeah!

1 comment:

  1. Why do the cable-fables speak to us and even give us comfort? Women from Queens who are now known as "The Countess"!!