I started graduate school, or at least the orientation part of graduate school two weeks ago. Let me tell you, classes haven’t even started yet and I feel like I’m going to have a total mental and physical breakdown.
I’m attending The Bard Graduate Center for Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture. For anybody who is wondering what the hell that means, it is, as far as I can tell, a fancy way of saying “design history.” In other words: the poor man’s art history. Why, you might ask, have I decided to go back to school? Aren’t I tired of academia, especially after five years and four different academic institutions? Don’t I want a break? Isn’t my body about to disintegrate like a stack of Jenga bricks from sheer exhaustion? Yes, yes, and yes. And to answer the first question: I’m insane.
The only concrete reason that I can give for my decision to jump right back into school is that, despite all of the hair-tearing anxiety-driven meltdowns it causes, I kind of like it. I love to let my brain act like the sponge that it is and soak up new facts, images, and beautiful things. I like an excuse to buy new books. I like feeling like I know what I’m talking about. Also— having a master’s degree can’t hurt.
Anyhow— the school I’m attending seems great so far and, aside from being absolutely scared shitless, I’m pretty excited about it. Not only is it the head bitch when it comes to design history, it’s also located in a sickeningly gorgeous townhouse on the upper west side. It’s kind of like Hogwarts. If Hogwarts was in Manhattan and populated with midcentury furniture, iMacs, and anthropologists.
But, anyway– back to the mental and physical breakdown bit.
Orientation started two weeks ago and I feel like I have spent two weeks battling a pack of horny grizzly bears after taking a bottle of ambien. For the first week, it was 9-6 every day, with each hour fully accounted for in our schedule. These people want us to be seriously orientated. If I didn’t know my orientation before last week, this week I am a rock-solid butch lesbian with a rainbow tattoo.
On the first day of orientation I was nervous to the point of nearly defecating myself. I got up at the crack of dawn, determined to be the first to arrive, just so that people would be forced to introduce themselves to me and not vice versa. Once people did start arriving and the obligatory introductions began, I became even more nervous. As a person coming into a humanities graduate program after getting a BFA from an art school, I felt a little bit like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. These were serious people. These were people who knew how to write a bibliography without the aid of Citation Machine. They had jobs at The Met and degrees from Harvard and Oxford. And then there was me.
On top of all of the anxiety that comes along with meeting new [and obscenely smart] people, I had a language exam hanging over my head. Bard, like many arts-related graduate schools, requires all incoming students to take (and pass) a language exam in either French, Italian, or German. I decided on French, based solely on the fact that I had taken French I two years ago. I was absolutely certain I would fail and my fears came to fruition in the grade I received the next day:
They really don’t beat around the bush.
So, in addition to a seemingly endless stream of orientation meetings and shenanigans, I had a language class to take every evening. A long, hard, grueling language class.
Still, I don’t want it to sound like orientation has been nothing but waterboarding and torture for two weeks. I have met some very lovely, interesting people so far. Despite my first impressions, I have found that people at this school actually have kind-hearted souls beneath their intimidating experience and far-reaching intellects.
I am incredibly exhausted from these two weeks, but I’m also BEYOND EXCITED for classes to start. I’m sure they will seem like a cake walk compared to the boot camp that orientation has been. My course list is as follows: Survey of Decorative Arts, Colonial Revival, The Arts of The Baroque, and Craft and Design In The USA. Sounds like a pretty kick-ass semester!