Posts Tagged ‘academic year’

“Hot out today,” the woman at the bus stop said. It was 5 pm. It was 101 degrees. I nodded.

“Hard to believe it’s September,” she said.

That broke my heart a little bit. Because September is my favorite month, and the precursor to my favorite season. September is when the first apples start to ripen on the trees. It’s when the nights turn a little bit crisp and there’s the scent of fall in the air. In September all your notebooks are new, all your pencils are sharp, and your homework is always in on time.

For the last four years, I missed the feeling that you get on the first day of school: the sense that something new and possibly extraordinary is about to begin. As a “young professional” I found it almost impossible to adjust my mental schedule to a lifestyle that disregarded the academic calendar. I thought that once I was back in school, that sense of disorientation would disappear.

I was wrong. As it turns out, going from a 9-5 lifestyle to a 24/7 one isn’t such an easy thing to do. I seem to have picked up some habits in the past four years that I’m not ready to abandon.  Although technically I may be “back” in school, this doesn’t feel like going back at all. It’s not just about my schedule: my relationships with my peers, the pedagogy of my professors, even my homework is different than it’s ever been before. Whatever I’m doing here, it’s something entirely new.

New things in September – that, at least, is a familiar feeling. But at 100 degrees fahrenheit, I don’t think I’ll be getting apples this fall.

Back to the Future. Obviously.*

A pleasant 98 degrees at sunset in Austin; 64 degrees and cloudy in cambridge.

Hannah: 7 out of 10 on the “can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. Feeling pretty peaceful now that it’s cooled down a bit.

*I think the post title works with the content. Or maybe I just really wanted a picture of a flying car.


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it's summertime!

This is the time of year when things start to change.

One day, there’s frost on the ground, ice in the streams, and dirty piles of snow melting at the edge of the parking lots. The next day, it’s seventy degrees and the sun is shining and, more miraculously, the dead trees that line the streets suddenly start to look like something out of the lorax.

This is the time of year when things start to change. Remember being in school? This is what the air smelled like in the afternoons in the weeks before summer vacation started. It is the smell of Fun Day, and final exams, and those neon ice pops that squirted out of their plastic casings.

When we become adults, the world tells us to suppress the instinct for change as best we can and soldier on as if the year were not dynamic, and cyclical. Fortunately, Anna and I are doing no such thing. Anna is moving with the IPI office to a new, shinier and substantially hipper space. There will be no more racing to catch the train, and no more reverse-commute into the suburbs. It’s an exciting time.

As for me, I’m about to embark on a more long-distance venture. In two weeks I will be departing Somerville for a week in Rome – and if all goes as planned, I don’t expect to return until August. But never fear! I’ll be tracking my emotional calendar from abroad, and filling you in whenever I find myself within internet access.

How are you embracing your desire for change this year?

Weather: Sunny and warm.

Hannah: 8 out of 10 on the ‘can’t get out of bed’ to ‘jumping to joy’ scale. I just ate a really great ice cream cone. With sprinkles.
Anna: 8 out of 10.

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Julia is a  colleague who is home from her first semester in college. She shared her thoughts about bad weather everywhere with us.

“This Is Nothing.”

That’s what I’ve been saying to my mom since I’ve been home from college. Trust me, Massachusetts’s blustery winds have nothing on Ohio’s howling gales.

Oberlin College (which is also Hannah’s alma mater, by the way) is situated smack dab in the middle of “The Snowbelt,” which stretches from upstate New York to Wisconsin. In terms of extreme weather — blizzards, floods and tornadoes — Ohio has seen it all.  From November to April it’s as if the Arctic Tundra has been temporarily relocated to the Midwest.

Since September, I experienced a host of tempestuous conditions — sudden heat spells, torrential downpours and harsh snowfall — all of them usually occurring within a short period of time. On top of all my schoolwork, this unpredictable weather has been a lot for me to handle.  After one particularly violent wintry day, I exasperatedly asked my hall-mate, an Ohio native, “Is it ALWAYS like this?!”

Being at home has been a nice break from unpredictable weather — up until last weekend, when a surprise cold snap rolled in and ruined my mood. It was too cold to go out and do anything, like explore the city. On top of that, I had a terrible cold that zapped me of energy.

This week, I’m still sick and growing ever more frustrated by this frosty weather. Sure, snow is pretty when it’s softly falling on cedars, but during blizzard conditions I can’t stand it. I have no desire to sit by my window and stare contemplatively into the wintry white abyss.  All I can do is curl up into a ball and wish it were spring.

If I’m trying to get somewhere in the snow, like to work so I can write this blog post, I hate the snow even more. I don’t know how to drive so I rely on public transit to get me everywhere. But in inclement weather, trains and buses are almost always hopelessly delayed and I am left in the cold, aggravated and waiting for them to arrive.

This severe weather will only worsen when I return to school in two weeks. I’m excited to start new classes and see my friends, but now more than ever part of me is wishing I went to school in California. At least there I wouldn’t be freezing from November to April.

Overcast with lots of slush on the ground.

Julia: 5/10. Could be better, could be worse… still wishing it were Spring.

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Nobody likes a grinch. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t get into the holiday spirit.

Maybe it’s because I dislike shopping. Trying to make a morally justifiable purchase (fair trade? locally produced? organic? important? desirable?) can be paralyzing. Trying to select a personal, unique, and affordable gift is equally challenging. And pushing through throngs of shoppers while listening to Christmas carols gives me nightmares.

Or maybe it’s because growing up, the holidays were always a battle. In seventh grade my Spanish teacher wanted us to perform “holiday” songs at the school talent show. (“They’re not Christian!” she said. “Jesus is never mentioned!” “Feliz Navidad means merry Christmas,” I replied.) This is not really antisemitism. It’s just frustrating.

When I moved away from home, it got worse. Because of the nature of the Jewish calendar, Jewish holidays almost never fall during vacation time. So I spent my holidays alone, usually swamped with schoolwork. There’s nothing like thirty-page essays and final exams to dampen the holiday spirit.

I know that tonight is the first night of Chanukah because my non-Jewish friends have been e-mailing me all day, wishing me well. As for me, it may be grinch-like, but I’m trying to wipe Chanukah off my emotional calendar entirely.

That way, I should actually be able to enjoy the best part of the holiday. Latkes, anyone?

Weather: rainy and cool


Hannah: 6 out of 10 on the  “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale.

Anna: Staying steady at 7.

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Happy End-Of-Daylight-Saving-Time!

Here are some reasons why DST (as we like to call it) matters:

Historically DST was designed to, as Wikipedia puts it, “exploit sunlight hours.” In researching for The Emotional Calendar I learned that the Wikipedia article on DST is actually heavily based in myth – but you’ll have to read the book to find out the truth 🙂

Physiologically DST has been linked to everything from increased rates of heart attacks to increased traffic fatalities. I just read an article in Scientific American about a new research method which allows scientists to track our circadian rhythms by looking at our hair follicles. Since DST disturbs our circadian rhythm (the approximately 24 hour cycle that our bodies run on), this should help scientists understand how – and why – DST messes up our health.

Personally the end of DST (that’s yesterday) marks the end of time, at least temporarily. When I was in high school, I was in school or commuting from 715am to 5pm. In a comic twist, my school was located in the windowless basement of a converted office building. In the winter months, I didn’t see sunlight at all! But now, DST means that for a few more weeks (until the ice sets in) I’ll be able to go running before I go to work. Hooray.

Culturally we all have feelings about the way sunlight shifts. The New York Times collected DST poems from some great contemporary poets, all of whom happen to be Pulitzer Prize winners (what does that mean about the state of poetry today?). One of them, Louise Gluck, is even featured in The Emotional Calendar! Cool.

“I sat at home and began to cheer up. What if none of this happened? I thought. What if there was nothing to be sad about?”

– James Tate


Weather: Cloudy and 40 degrees. Fortunately I haven’t been outside yet.


Hannah: 7 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. I had a wonderfully relaxing weekend.

Anna: 6. Strange, vivid dreams last night mean I feel a little off this morning.

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My world hasn’t revolved around an academic schedule in several years, but like many people, it still affects me. I suppose this could be because many of my friends are in grad school and as soon as September hits, it becomes difficult to coordinate schedules around seminars, chapter deadlines, advisor meetings, and dissertations; I’m vigorously reminded that the school year has begun. But I have a sneaking suspicion my calendar will always be impacted by the start of the academic year.

You see, when I imagine each year, I conjure up an oval. I’m nearly always situated at the 6:00 position, or September. If I move clockwise and go halfway around the left side of this stretched oval, I hit May and June crowding around the 12:00 position. If you’ve followed, you’ll realize I mentally pack the entire academic year into one half of my clock-like calendar. Only June through August sit on the right half of this oval. And, if you’re not satisfied by this culturally-influenced perspective, let me add that in my mind, the left side is in shadows and the right side is awash with light, so there’s a strong seasonally-driven, light-related component as well.

For as long as I can remember, this has been the way I imagine time passing in a year. If someone mentions scheduling an event in December, I imagine myself at a dark 9:00 position dotted with lights—lights on a Chanukiah, Christmas lights, all sorts of lights that bring cheer.

But December is not where I mentally start on my calendar, despite the fact it ends with the secular New Year. I start in September with the rest of the students. Always. And so I expect that even as the years pass and my friends graduate, adding various letters to the signatures of their emails, September—and the beginning of the academic year—will continue to hold a unique place on my emotional calendar.

Weather: Some sun shining through earlier today, but completely overcast now.


Anna – 4 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “Jumping for Joy” scale. 6 points off for too much stress surrounding the search for a new roommate—is it already almost Nov. 1!? Also, too many commitments this week.

Hannah – 8 out of 10. She has a new book to read!

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