As I have previously mentioned, comps does many things.  Among those things, it gives you perspective.

It gives you perspective about your friends.  Who is really going to be there to cook you dinner at the end of the day when you can barely make eye contact and talking about anything that’s not theatre history is simply out of the question?  Who is going to not be offended that you haven’t called/been to a party/replied to text messages for the last few months because you’ve been swallowed into the oblivion of studying?  Who is going to understand when you just need to sit and stare at the wall/cry/talk out an idea that they have no possible way to contribute to?  Who is going to respond to the rally of “I need to not be in my house tonight, but I don’t have any energy to expend socially”?

It gives you perspective about your life.  Can you ever really say that you’re having a stressful day ever again?  Or a bad day for that matter?

It gives you perspective about what you can and cannot handle and what you can and cannot do.  I, for instance, am never going to say that I don’t have enough time to complete x assignment again without some serious thought about what I managed to do in four-days with my take-home exam.  I have a better idea of my own limits both emotionally and intellectually.

Most pertinent to my everyday life and writing, however, is this: it gives you perspective about books.  I have a brand new notion of how big a “big” book is, or how many books is “a lot” of books.  What this really means is that my perspective is skewed.  I sat down, for instance, to write about how I should be doing some research right now and sorting through the “large pile of books” that I brought home from the library today.  But looking at it?  It’s not that big.

In other news... campus was really pretty today!

In other news… campus was really pretty today!

…it’s really not my fault that, at my peak this summer, I was reading 5-7 books in a day and, thereby, a stack of 8 books no longer looks insurmountable, right?  Somehow, this newfound regard for the amount of research that I am capable of is somewhat dehumanizing.  If I can really pound through that many books in a day, then what does it say on days when I don’t?  Days when I’m working at my usual speed rather than ridiculous comps-speed?

The psychological aftershock of this process is something that I’m going to be dealing with for some time now.  Also; I’m not even really done yet.  I still have orals to get through.

No rest for the weary.

Reclaiming my Life

In a faster-than-light turn-around time, the fate of my PhD career has been decided: I have, officially, passed my written comprehensive exam!

There is still a long way to go on the road to doctorhood (next up: orals; after which I can (non-denominational deity willing) call myself a “Doctoral Candidate” instead of a “Doctoral Student” and, perhaps, take a much-needed and well-deserved BREAK).  That said, I’m champing at the bit for the next challenge and I’ve hit the ground running with the projects which had been sitting dormant just waiting for my exams to be complete.

I had been told that Comps would drain me.  That I should expect to not do much of anything for a week or so after I sat the exam.

I found that this was true for the day or two directly following my final turn-in moment.  I was dead tired.  But I was also aware, as only a Type A personality can be, that I had a long list of things waiting for me.  I had some deadlines looming; conference papers to write, blog posts that I owed people (details on that to follow!), and friends to catch up with.

While I was bone-weary, I was simultaneously caught in an existential loop of utter chaos.

a pretty shot of campus I took the other day

a pretty shot of campus I took the other day

My life had been built upon preparing for and taking this exam for so long; what was I supposed to do now without it?  Who was I if I wasn’t a book-reading machine designed only to take notes and choke down more theatre history?  And what did my academic career really mean if I, for some reason, hadn’t succeeded at this monumental thing that I just did?

That not-so-slowly faded into a wave of “OH GOD I HAVE ALL THESE PROJECTS TO DO!”  Luckily, since I had effectively proven to myself via the test that I’m an invincible super-girl, this did not panic me nearly as much as it would have in the days B.C. (Before Comps).  In picking at the sides of my projects, I have been slowly but surely making good progress on them and, after Tuesday, will have knocked a few things off my desk so I can move onto the next step: orals.

It also took me some time to reconnect with my social and personal life.  Towards the end of the comps process, I limited my interaction with the outside world.  Part of this was of necessity; since I was studying much more, I didn’t have time to see anyone.  Part of this was also a calming mechanism: as a terminal introvert, I just didn’t have the extra energy for social interaction.  Especially any social interaction that I had to think about (which, for an introvert, is a surprisingly large amount).  Because of all these factors (and the fact that I was still tired and brain-fried), I had to be very careful about re-introducing myself to my life.  I did not have a giant blowout bash; I made play-dates to see my close friends in small group situations.  I did not invite a ton of people over to my house; I went outside to smell the fresh air and not have to look at my desk for a while.

I cleaned my desk.  Oh god did I clean my desk.

I also hopped in to rehearsal to put together some stage violence. Because nothing gets me feeling like myself again like punching students.

I also hopped in to rehearsal to put together some stage violence. Because nothing gets me feeling like myself again like punching students.

I’m slowly returning library books, but as my last count was over 150 books and I can only bring them back in manageable loads (10-20 or so), it’s been taking some time.  At this point, I’ve gotten at least half of them returned (though I have picked up some more in the process to assist me with aforementioned projects).

I am, with more and more seriousness, exploring the idea of reading for leisure once more.  During the final stages of studying, it was all I could do to tumble into bed at night and, due to eyestrain and general brain fatigue, leisure reading was right out.  This unfortunately meant that To Be or Not to Be (Choose your own Adventure Hamlet) and William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope sat sadly in the corner mostly un-cracked.  The more days that go by, the more these volumes look appealing to me.  It’s like regaining your appetite after you’ve had a stomach flu; it feels so good just to want these things again.

I’ve been calling this process “reclaiming my life” because, really, that’s how it feels.  For several days after the exam, I walked around feeling not like myself.  Like a stranger in my own body.  These days, I’m feeling more and more Dani-like.  The whiteboard is back to its normal peacekeeping.  My tasks feel less alien and more comfortable (and comforting!).  I’ve returned to using caffeine as a morning stimulant and not a life-line.

On the whole, I’m doing great.  I’m not back to 100% yet, but I can tell that I’ll get there.  I’m also feeling ready to take on the next challenge which, really, is the most important part.

Onward!  Into the Wild Blue Yonder! To Doctorhood; and beyond!

I’m Back!

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 desk on the last day just before I left to turn in my take-home

my desk on the last day just before I left to turn in my take-home

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”).

"the other side" has given me room to do things like pontificate while climbing trees.  As you can clearly see.

“the other side” has given me room to do things like pontificate while climbing trees. As you can clearly see.

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.

…ergo sum

I am really tired.

Everything is funny.

Everything is beautiful, and nothing hurt.

No wait, that’s not it.

I am… a seagull.


I am… an actress.

I am… over-worked and completely stressed out.

I am attempting to find comfort in frozen yogurt and hard cider.

side-note: the acorn head at Tufts has been replaced by this dapper gentleman.  Whomever worked the sparkly tophat onto this deserves a good hardy handshake.

side-note: the acorn head at Tufts has been replaced by this dapper gentleman. Whomever worked the sparkly tophat onto this deserves a good hardy handshake.

I am reading and re-reading, copying information onto index cards, thinking deep thoughts, trying to make the puzzle pieces slide into place and keep them slid once they get there, trying to control the number of books I have in my house, trying to make sure I don’t rack up overdue fees on anything.

I am prepping my syllabus for Acting I, scanning readings, setting up my online bulletin board for my students.

I am bracing for the new semester and all the meetings that come with it.

I am evaluating my fall wardrobe and what pieces I need to acquire/dispense with.

I am both praising and cursing the coming of seasonal pumpkin flavored treats.  This is not going to be good for my diet but OH MAN DO I LOVE ME SOME PUMPKIN.

I am counting the days until this is all over and the next chapter begins.

I am cursing myself for counting the days because that means I have to face the reality of this test actually happening.

I am going back to work.

Lazy, Hazy Days

Yesterday, I meandered onto campus to run a few errands in what I will blissfully refer to as “the last golden days of summer”.

Summer (or any large break for that matter) on a university campus is a blissful time.  A peaceful time.  A time when graduate students can haul books around without fear of being held up by a large pack of care-free mozying undergrads taking up the entire sidewalk.  A time when a graduate student can be assured that librarians (or diligent hard-working student laborers) will be at the circulation desk and, thereby, will not be told that she can just “leave her books over there” when clearly she wants them checked in in front of her because she has 150 check-outs and can’t afford overdue fees due to some error or loss between her hand and the library’s tender cradle.  A time when on-campus errands can be accomplished in a breezy way since there are no lines at the public safety desk and thereby IDs and Parking Passes can be picked up in fifteen minutes rather than two hours.

In this last week of summer, I was smart enough to do all of my pre-semester business before the crowds arrive (a wonder in itself that I had the presence of mind since my brain is essential blown for anything that’s not theatre history right now, and even that is touch and go).  As I looked around I realized a few things:

1)   Wow, this was really smart.

2)   Some of these fresh-faced kids sporting around campus may be my students in just a few weeks.

3)   …I had probably better find somewhere else to practice my bullwhip.

Sixteen days to comps lift-off.  Headed back to the grind now.


Riding the Wave

Lately I’ve been doing what I not-so-fondly refer to as “riding the wave”.

It begins like this: it’s Monday.  I have all my books lined up for the week in neat bite-size piles.  I can totally do this.  I’ve learned so much already and I’m a rockstar.  No, I’m friggen invincible.  I’m bloody supergirl.  I can conquer not only this book pile, but maybe one or two from tomorrow’s book pile and OH MAN THAT EXAM BETTER LOOK OUT!

Tuesday morning dawns and I’m still riding the Monday high, rearing to go, totally ready for whatever the day brings with it.

By Wednesday I have to slow down a bit.  My zen isn’t completely blown, but I begin to experience symptoms of eye strain/brain overload/stress and I decide to take it easy for the day so I can make it through my week.

By Thursday, I’m completely frazzled.  I have (sometimes) multiple panic attacks, I don’t want to see or talk to anyone, I’m pounding my head into my desk singing “I suuuuck I suck I suck I suck I suuuuuccckkkk” (see: 2:48).  I often give up reading halfway through the day in lieu of watching filmed theatre or documentaries.  I have a fitful night.  Sometimes I drown my sorrows in ice cream.  Sometimes I opt for a beer.

Friday, I drag myself out of bed and a miraculous thing happens: I talk myself into doing it again.  Somehow, through sheer force of will, I sit back down at my desk, portion out some more books, and crack them and get to work.  I take it easy for the first few hours, but eventually I get going and when I really get going I’m hard pressed to stop.  I remember why I love theatre.  I remember why I’m doing this.  I remember why I picked this life style.  By the end of the day, my spirits aren’t completely revived but I am resolved to spend the weekend relaxing and recharging and getting ready to do it again next week.

The important part isn’t that we love what we’re doing all the time.  We’re not going to love what we’re doing all the time.  There’s always going to be some part of the job that we loathe, detest, or otherwise makes us utterly stressed out.  The important part is that, when this does happen, we pull it together.  We pick ourselves up and get back on the proverbial horse.  We charge back into the fray, guns blazing, ready to show that research who’s boss.

I am officially T-minus twenty days to comps liftoff.

Here I go, back into the fight.

Autumn is Coming

As August winds down and the summer comes to a close, I am nearing the completion of my study-time.  I’m also nearing the completion of my list of things to study.

Lately, when I talk to people about the study process, pretty much everyone has the same thing to say about it: “Well, it’s almost over.”  The smart people then revisit this statement, look at me with a wide-eyed sheepish gaze, and add “…which is both good and bad.”

It’s both good and bad that I’ve, at this point, combed through every chapter in Brockett except the one devoted to contemporary theatre (which I might not get to and, honestly, that’s probably okay given the amount of contemporary theatre I see and have lived through).  It’s both good and bad that I’ve been through every section of my reading list and ordered/read the books from each of them (I’ve just done the last round of book-looking for the “North America” section; I’ll be picking those up at the library tomorrow).  It’s both good and bad that I’ve even started to return some of the beginning-of-the-summer ILL acquisitions (ILL books tend to have a sooner due-date than those borrowed from my home institution, and they are unavailable for renewal so I don’t have much by way of choice here and with 135 books sitting on my floor and more to come I can probably use the cycle-out time; if I haven’t gotten to them by now chance are I won’t get to them anyway).

This is, by far, the largest book in the book fort.  It is literally bigger than I am and 300 pages long.  It nearly killed me.

This is, by far, the largest book in the book fort. It is literally bigger than I am and 300 pages long. It nearly killed me.

I’m feeling oddly serene these days (though exhausted).  Granted, it is the beginning of the week and I tend to be more at peace with the universe before Thursday morning.  However, there is a consistent feeling of calm; I’ve learned a lot this summer.  I know a lot of things.  I’ve forgotten a lot this summer, but I’ve scheduled review time into my study habits.  I continue to look at old exams and think “well, it’d be a struggle but I think could manage this”.  Perhaps it’s just that I’m getting used to the stress load (there’s only so long you can run around feeling like Atlas before your shoulders become stronger).  Whatever it is (and I don’t want to say this too loudly in case my body figures out that I’m onto it), I am grateful for the respite from the physical symptoms of stress.

I’m definitely experiencing the trifecta of exhaustion (physical, mental, and emotional).  I’m definitely still in the weeds.  But, for whatever reason, the end of summer isn’t (at least at this moment) causing blinding panic and paralyzing terror.

I’m looking forward to the start of the semester.  I’m looking forward to teaching my acting class.  I’m looking forward to taking the next step on the journey towards Doctorhood.  I’m looking forward to returning the book fort only to re-model it with shiny new books.  I’m looking forward to doing something new and different with my days.  I’m looking forward to boots, sweaters, scarves, and the return of my favorite seasonal jacket.  I’m looking forward to pumpkin flavored treats.

Autumn is coming.  You can try to run from it, or embrace it.  And I, personally, look great in fall colors.

I hope your semester-start prep is going well; keep plugging!  We’re nearly there!


In Nōh drama (an ancient Japanese style heavily laden with chanting and slow rhythmic dance), the desired effect of a piece is termed yūgen.  Sometimes, yūgen is translated as “grace” or “a mysterious sense of beauty”, but honestly it’s just easier to try and wrap your head around the concept of yūgen than to find a good way to define or translate it.

Yūgen, when achieved, is supposedly a symptom of “refined elegance” that properly executed Nōh brings with it.  Attempting to understand it is today’s metaphor for attempting to prepare for the comprehensive exams.

the book fort is growing

the book fort is growing

You don’t really know what comps are, despite knowing what comps are (just like yūgen).  Even when you think you may understand it, explaining it to someone else is extremely difficult and you find yourself resorting to all kinds of crazy metaphors (…i.e. this post).  While it may perhaps relate to something completely outside of its realm (comps prep relates to athletics like yūgen relates to comps prep), you can never truly pin down entirely what it is.  When you think you have achieved it, you can only understand that by a true inner calm and a self-assurance that you have done well.  While others may, by gazing from the outside in, observe the process within you, only you can be completely assured that you have truly done it.

Actors study for decades to achieve yūgen.  I have studied for decades to reach the comprehensive exams.  Japanese acting teachers are notoriously abusive in their training techniques; as is the world of academia (especially since the old guard had to walk fifteen miles uphill both ways in the snow to retrieve their library books and, of course, speak fifteen languages so thereby don’t need translations of foreign-language passages in their texts).  Japanese theatre is a man’s tradition (women were banned from the stage until the later part of the twentieth century, and even now there are extremely few female performers of the traditional theatre types; Nōh and Bunraku especially; Kabuki has a bit more).  Academia is still very much an old boys’ club.  Dressing in drag is discouraged in either setting (once they let ladies onto the stage, it took care of a lot of anxieties about what onstage cross-dressing meant for Japanese gender identity… and as much as I LOVE Ru Paul, somehow I don’t think she’d make the appropriate kind of splash if she showed up in full regalia to lecture “Theatre History 101”).

Appreciative audiences often sleep through Nōh productions (the desired

a better/alternate shot of the book fort

a better/alternate shot of the book fort

viewing state is the place between wakefulness and dream, so this activity, unlike in the Western theatre, is not at all discouraged).  Sometimes I take naps on books (especially if they’re not particularly engaging, or alternatively too mentally taxing).

Achieving yūgen is essentially achieving a divine state.  I can imagine that completing comps will feel the same way.  I only wish that there would be an ensuing audience to give me a GIANT round of applause while I take a triumphant bow when I turn in the final portion of the exam.

I am officially one month away from my test.  I think I’ve finally defeated the six-day stress headache that made me slow way down last week to accommodate the ailment (…though I won’t say that too loudly in case the headache-from-hell hears).

…let’s try to achieve some nirvana, shall we?

Work Habits

As August stretches out before me, I begin to hone in on the methods which create the best study environment for myself.

This is, of course, assisted by the magical early arrival of autumn here in New England.  I can definitely say that my work habits are much healthier when I can comfortably sit at my desk all day as opposed to having to find alternate places to work due to the heat.  My office is wonderful and sunny with lots of windows… though these qualities also make it the hottest room in the house (lots of windows = greenhouse effect and essentially bakes me out of the entire area as soon as the temperate spikes much above 75°).

I’ve come to carefully and jealously guard my weekdays.  While technically I can work anytime anywhere, I find that I am much less inclined to work on the weekends.  I have no qualms about working late, but if there is anyone else in the apartment I become distracted; I mean, really, who wouldn’t prefer to watch episodes of Supernatural with housemates than read about Weimar Classicism?  So, despite the HUGE amounts of temptation* to go do other things during the week, I am extremely careful to keep my work hours to work hours.

I’ve found that a pile-system works well.  When I move into a new unit, I order somewhere

....just my supplies for a normal trip to campus.

….just my supplies for a normal trip to campus.

between 20 and 40 books from the library.  When I get those books home, I pile them on my desk in thematic piles.  I can generally go through between four and five volumes in a day, so I try to pile them in approximate daily-dosage.  When I go to work in the morning, I pull a pile and see, visually, how much work I have to get through in a day.  It’s a good way to track how much I have accomplished in a time period (be that time period a morning, a week, etc.) and a good way to track how much more I have left to cover before I can move on.  Since I’m a kinesthetic learner, this is HUGE in terms of facilitating my study plan.

As I (not so slowly) reach burnout point, I’ve also learned to prioritize information.  I will look at everything on my desk, but the amount of time I devote to a volume will depend on that volume’s readability, the ease with which I know I will digest the information in that volume, and my ability to connect the volume to something else I know.  Learning is facilitated by connections.  As I fill in the edges of the theatre history map, it is much easier to move outward from territory I have some passing familiarity with than to plonk myself in a strange land where I know nothing and try to figure out the local culture.  Sometimes, I will have (and have had) to start from scratch (let me tell you how much I knew about the Spanish Golden Age before I started this process… there we go, that’s about all I knew), but by and large I can relate most things to something either historical or theatrical that I already have in my arsenal.  As such, if I find something that’s difficult to digest, completely unrelated to anything I already know, and written in impenetrable academicese, I tend to set it down and move on.  The time I would devote to decoding this piece of information is valuable and could better be used finding a book which will explain it to me in a way I can readily understand.

I do find ways to give myself little rewards and motivational things for reaching the next hundred pages, the end of the next book, etc.  Often times these thing consist of “okay, we will send that e-mail AFTER we get to page 150” or “you can check in on facebook/twitter once you finish x more chapters”.  This way, I’m not distracted by the completely natural urges to participate in the rest of the world for longer than I can afford, and I’m motivated to get through my workload.

side-note: I also taught myself to embroider this summer.  This is my first piece (mostly done, I may add some highlighting to the roses).

side-note: I also taught myself to embroider this summer. This is my first piece (mostly done, I may add some highlighting to the roses).

Speaking of distractions, I know that I work better if I can silence my phone and leave it in another room.  No matter how well intentioned, mid-day texting completely breaks my concentration and instantaneously takes me out of whatever it is I’m doing.  Chatting while working seems to be a phenomenon that desk-job people can accommodate (I know when I worked a desk job, I had an IM window open all day every day).  Because of the nature of my work (deep thought, deep research, uninterrupted brainwaves yield the best results), I simply can’t do it anymore.  Even when I’m in the deepest portion of research mode, the smallest thing can jar me back to reality and, often, I find it twice as hard to recover whatever it is I was doing before someone decided to ask me some menial question or send me a selfie.  Solution: silence the cell phone and put it face down on the desk.  Unfortunately, this is a do as I say not as I do item as my self-control tends to only go so far with this rule.  But!  We are all in a process of bettering ourselves as individuals and if this is what I need to work on as a human being, I’ll add it to the list right under “being careful of caffeine overconsumption”.

Obviously everyone is different so what works for me may not work for you.  My point is that astute self-observation will lead you to the path of righteousness and productivity.  Sleep well, study hard, and get ready because autumn is coming.

*By “HUGE amounts of temptation” I’m talking huge… like the knowledge that my entire family is having a get-together in New York because my scattered-across-the-country siblings all happen to be free on one weekend and are flying home and so I should totally join them two weeks before my test.  Let me tell you how painful that was to turn down, especially when a certain family member who shall remain nameless simply won’t stop pushing the issue no matter how many times I say “no, mom, I can’t come down to New York two weeks before my exam”.