jocelyncee: (productive)
I found gratitude for peer reviewing today.

In the graduate literature courses we not only write a 10-20 page literary analysis for each class, we also switch papers (officially, no choice involved) with another student and read, review and comment on their work. When I first started graduate school I dreaded this -- what if I was completely wrong? What if I misunderstood everything? The prof would think me stupid beyond belief, and certainly not deserving of decent grade.

Over the last three years I had come to tolerate, then be resigned to peer reviews. Okay, so I wouldn't see everything about someone else's paper; that was fine. I'm only supposed to tell what I see, and I only have 10 minutes. It's not like I can be comprehensive in that amount of time. That's not expected. In fact, attempting to be all-encompassing is avoided: enough about the grammar already, typos are to be expected, and punctuation is only relevant if it hinders understanding.

Today I became grateful for it. I even found myself enjoying it, even when it was my turn to critique the work of someone whose ability to express ideas verbally I admire, and quite frankly, envy.

Thing was, I expected a virtually perfect paper. Someone so thorough, so adept at expression, was likely to have an excellent thesis and lay out each point with aplomb far exceeding my meagre skills.

What I read and reviewed today was good, potentially excellent, but not perfect at all. I had been seeing writing a paper as the achievement of a finite goal, an achievable completeness with every line in place, every thought entirely and indisputably argued.

What I came to understand today is that literary analysis is not an act with discrete a discrete pre-defined perfectionistic end, but a process that occurs along a continuum, a scale that begins with your first work and curves upward as you improve, never reaching absolute perfection, but gradually nearing the infinity of that state of total completion.

Short version: There can always be improvements. There will always be something that is not quite definable, or that is not quite understandable by someone. Just because it's not 100% doesn't mean it's bad.

The second part to this: I'm not the only one who fears critique. The person I critiqued did, as I had been told by someone else earlier in the week, and it was evident through body language that, although mastering the fear, it was still present within.

Translation: this was someone just like me.

Everyone else was just like me. There is no reason to fear.

So, the purpose of peer review isn't to judge. It is to assist. That was said, of course, many times in my general vicinity, but it takes the hundredth tap of hammer on chisel for a sculptor to chip away a splinter of marble in addition to the previous ninety-nine.

Today I saw, and understood.

Another realization struck me almost immediately thereafter. I assume, based on the language the course is given in, that I will write the paper in that language. German literature equals paper in German. It never occurs to me to ask to write in English if German is the language of the class. It never even occurred to me to give a presentation in English about an article that was written in English. I expect to do things in German.

I found out today that this particular professor expects no such thing. Two people in class (at least) wrote theirs in English, their native language. Considering this, I thought I probably made things harder on myself by choosing German, or rather, by automatically excluding English.

After a few minutes thought, I realized I would have chosen German anyway - not because I feel the need to impress, or so I won't be bored, but because that is what I am here for. That is what I want to improve. If I don't practice, I won't improve. I'm "hard" on myself because I want to grow.

So if I decide to see each writing project, each presentation as an opportunity to improve, to grow, to learn how to better express myself in this foreign language, I will not dread the experience - I will enjoy it.

I will love graduate school as much as I had hoped to when I started it. The journey will have been, and will continue to be, worthwhile.

I truly can do this thing. It is within my grasp, a handful at a time.

relief

May. 31st, 2006 09:56 am
jocelyncee: (flutter)
It's a sweet, sweet thing.

After a semester of sweating it out, mourning, celebrating, and generally spending less time on my classes than I felt I ought to have, my grades for two of the three are finally in.

B in the 900 level linguistics class, and an A in the 800 medieval lit!

I was fully expecting to have three B's this semester, or maybe even two B's and a C.

That's not happening now. :) I might have one of each, but that's not as bad as I was fearing. With all that's happened this semester, and as crazy as my life was for a time, I'm exceedingly grateful that I managed to do well (at least, someone else's definition of 'well') in at least one class.

*whew*

The worst is over.

ablaze

Oct. 7th, 2005 05:49 pm
jocelyncee: (Default)
[crossposted to both the blog and the livejournal]

In the shadow of Katrina and Rita, a single fire seems a minor concern. For my neighbors, it wasn't.

At about 1:30 this morning I witnessed the burning of an apartment building about 50 yards from my front door. The aftermath was shocking. The building went up and was completely in flames within 30 minutes, and possibly less than that.

It wasn't my building, but as I could feel the heat from my front door.

I had looked at an apartment in that same building when I moved in, and decided against it because the kitchen was too cramped.

There have been camera crews, reporters, firemen, police, news helicopters, ambulances and utility repair vehicles all over this place today. Coming back to my apartment felt like checking onto Patch Barracks; I was stopped (even when I came on foot from the bus stop) by policemen, wanting to know who I was and if I lived here. The roadblocks have been disassembled now, but most of the crews are still working.

This post will likely be edited: I have much more to tell, but a dose of normalcy is called for. I'm probably going out with my sister and Viki, when Becca calls back in a few minutes.
jocelyncee: (Default)
I am so loved. I mean it. Really, really loved.

I have gotten two real cards and three e-cards (here's one) within the last 24 hours. I had a happy birthday wish via IM when I got up, from a friend in Germany who had to go up to work on a Saturday afternoon to send it (thanks Christian! *hugs*) Kind and generous gifts are allowing me to treat myself to a book (thanks Joel!) and a bookshelf from Pier 1 (thanks Grammary!)

I am so grateful for my life and the quality of life that I have today, I could just burst.

I am tempted to write the very 13-year-old phrase "This is the best birthday EVER!" because it just so happens to be true.

I have so much to be grateful for, and it's all of you. To everyone I can't physically hug right now, consider this the biggest hug I can give.

With much love and fondness, on the best birthday ever,

Jo
jocelyncee: (Default)
I sat at home last night for quite some time, acutally working (surprise, surprise) and resting up a bit. I got more phone calls in one evening... four, at least. Of those at-least-four, the last was my younger sister, requesting tea and talk.

What can I say? We had so many years of antagonism or just plain ignoring each other that I can't ignore a request like that. Lots of time to make up for.

I went. We visited. After clearing the air of all the stress and general chaos of her day, we sat with our respective drinks and chatted about that most common of topics, our respective singleness. Or, in this case, current events that have the potential to alter, or at least vary, the singleness.

"Boys," she says, shaking her head slightly.

I nod with understanding. This is an old conversation, well trodden.

We trade names, a few stories*, and then laughter fades as the conversation wanders and dwindles into pensive, supportive silence.

It was not always so easy between us. That it is now is miracle to me.



*P.S. The pup-seal story will be blogged. I have decreed it so. As soon as she posts it to her blog, you'll know it here.
jocelyncee: (Default)
so, I go to the Jazzhaus tonight to get out for a bit, since Mike Putnam invited me to tag along... well, Mike didn't show by the time I needed to come home to actually sleep, so I had a nice hour to myself there and went home afterward.

I had a drink there, and the combination of alcohol and soothing acoustic guitar got me in a thoughtful mood. Thoughtful intensified to pensive, then took on a brooding quality. The whole "why am I single" idea came up (of course) and didn't help matters; the thought crossed my mind to go to the ATM for more cash and stay for another drink or two. I decided against it (how, I don't know) and left. My mood didn't improve on the way; I was in a moderate funk by the time I got home.

But then, as God would have it (no luck involved there) I get home, sit down to the computer and Kortney comes online... tells me that a mutual friend is both pregnant and getting married, and we chat for a bit. Then Duygu comes online and I try to skype her, but we chat instead of talk because she's leaving for work. She asks how I'm doing, and I tell her honestly... that I'm bummed out about being single, but that I need to get over it. She proceeded to tell me exactly what I needed to hear, that love takes time, and patience.

Had I decided to stay at the Jazzhaus and get drunk (which is what I felt like doing), I'd have missed her and her wisdom.

Oh, and she's going to help me learn Turkish. :) Of course that cheered me up immensely.

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