I am back! Did you miss me? I can say, dear reader, with some certainty, that I missed you.
That and it feels like forever. I can only describe with great trepidation the odd sensation of time over the past few weeks. It would slow down and speed up of its own accord and my willingness to make it do otherwise had little or nothing to do with this.
For example: the week before my exam felt far too short to be a week. The day before my exam was gone before I knew it. The time that passed between arriving at the testing center and receiving the exam questions felt infinite. The time that passed during the exam felt miniscule. The time that has passed since I turned in the last portion of the exam feels monumental.
But I get ahead of myself. Let me start here: I learned many things during this process.
This is obvious. One does not simply read two hundred books over the course of three months and learn nothing (I’m not joking about this number or even exaggerating… I tracked it via library checkouts, loans from friends, and the extent of my personal library which got shuffled around over the summer). I learned facts, dates, biographical details, yes. I also learned how to learn, how my body reacts to extreme stress, and where the line is for me, personally, between “I’m Okay” and “THIS IS TOO MUCH” (for the record: that line is somewhere in between life-changing personal crisis compounded with life-changing exam compounded with the seeming requirement for shouldering the burden of household responsibility). That’s something of itself as, really, who gets to push herself to her own personal limit? Ever? I can tell you for a fact that anyone with the letters “PhD” after her name has done so at least once and probably many times.
What I have hinted at here is the not-so-apparent aspect of what comps teaches you: it’s not just about memorizing and synthesizing information. It’s also about the academic process and your personal process.
In many ways, comps was a series of alternatingly small and gigantic revelations about myself as a human being, myself as an intellectual, and myself through my work. Once a revelation was achieved, then came the inevitable breakdown; I’d discover something mind-bending about the avant-garde, then cry about eggplant. I’d unearth some fact about theatre history from my brain on complete impulse and relate it to whatever was going on at the time, then melt down because there were dishes in the sink. I’d come to some miraculous understanding of Noh drama, then rage quit talking to anyone in the outside world because they just didn’t understand what I was going through in that moment.
Let me tell you, taking the exam puts certain things in perspective. Day one of my in-
house, during my lunch break, I walked across the street to my favorite pastry shop to purchase a treat for myself in an effort to maintain my own sanity. The gentleman retrieving
my delectable carb-bomb did so grudgingly, with much heavy sighing, and not a single smile or kind word. I couldn’t help but think, rather viciously, that there was no possible way he was A) having a worse day than I; or B) more mentally taxed by his job on that particularly day than I.
The exam lasted for six days; two in-house and four to write a take-home. Over the course of these six days, I had six (what I shall refer to as) “Golden Revelations”. Allow me to take a moment to share those with you now:
Day One: I might just get out of this alive.
Day Two: I know a lot more than I think I know.
Day Three: My personal library contains a lot of books about my area of expertise and, moreover, these books are actually useful in paper-writing.
Day Four: Mostly, this process is about never being able to utter the words “I can’t” ever again.
Day Five: This is how the rest of the world writes research papers (at the last minute under the pressure of a hair-triggered-gun-wielding-maniac ready to grade you down for the slightest mistake). I never. Ever. Want to do this again. Ever. When this is over, I’m going to devote my time to ensuring that my schedule accounts for this new personal quest.
Day Six: Against all odds, I might just be an intelligent human being with worthwhile things to say. Particularly about things I know about. I just used the same word twice in a sentence. I may be tired.
Despite the ever-present urge to draw a picture of Shakespeare riding a T-Rex while battling Godzilla, turn that in, and call it “good”, I managed to finish my exams without a single doodle (and narrowly avoided using the following phrases, all of which appeared in preliminary drafts of my essays: “not your momma’s authentic Shakespeare”, “fifth act wedding-palooza”, “as Ru Paul says: Don’t F— it Up”, and “one does not simply discover that she’s have an incestuous relationship with her own son/husband’s killer (same person) then calmly walk offstage to hang herself”).
So here I am. On the other side.
Or, I should say, here I am in the waiting place since it’s not really over until they grade the exams and release those results. But for now; I’m going to revel in the fact that I did it. I got through my exams. For better or worse, I have walked through that particular fire. It has changed me, but I’d like to think that it’s tempered me rather than melted me.
More on comps to come, but for now I’m just glad to be back.