Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Waking Dreams and Sleep Depravation

So, to continue my adventures of what happened after I got trapped in the temple . . .

As folks may or may not know, a few weeks ago I was accepted into Brigham Young University's graduate program in English. Yes, I know English is a field for impractical starry-eyed artsy drain-on-society types and that I will never get a job and should have studied something real, like accounting. Because accounting is so much fun. The simple and brutal fact of the matter is that I liked studying English as an undergrad and want to do more, and that I'm very comfortable with my increased risk of starving to death in the gutter. When I do so, you'd better believe it will be poetic.

So here's me, jumping up and down with utterly unfeigned excitement because I get to write huge papers under looming deadlines and live like a hobo, just like back in the good old days, only more so. And this is when I receive a letter.

Dear You,

English grad students teach freshman writing around here.

You are an English grad student.


Writing Department

The word 'teach' is a loaded one for me. On the one hand, there has been for years in the very back of my mind the faint and tentative thought: Wow, English professors have awesome jobs. A life saturated with books. So cool. That's as far as that train of thought ever went, because I am a realist and know that the privilege of teaching post-secondary education is reserved for Really Smart People. Really Smart People like my dear friend Avram, who will be teaching at BYU starting this summer. Avram radiates smartness. When people walk past him, they miss a step because proximity to his smartness makes them too dumb to control their own feet for a second.

I, also, am pretty smart, but my smartness is more in the realm of 'I know more about Victorian literature than a healthy person probably should, and can correctly determine whether I should 'pull' or 'push' a door roughly 85% of the time.' This is not the caliber of Smartness expected of English professors.

But . . . they sent me an application. In the mail. With a STAMP.

I left the application sitting on my desk for about a week, playing the game of "Should I? Couldn't hurt . . . nah, not worth it . . . unless . . . of course not . . . but they sent . . . might as . . . hate resumes . . . already typed resume . . . ish . . ." And then, with the instant regret of tearing through a yellow light I really should have stopped for I picked up the phone and scheduled an interview.

This brings us back to the night I got trapped in the temple. My interview was the next day. Inasmuch as I am a cheapskate, I tend to bus down to BYU when my presence is required there. This is my master plan as a grad student: work in Salt Lake, study in Provo, sleep on buses, in hallways, and anywhere else I can reasonably expect to not be stepped on. I will probably not see my actual bed for periods of days at a stretch. Should be fun.*

So after my fiasco with the temple, I worked my full shift, walked out the door, and got on the train.

Managed the trip in about 2.5 hours, which is faster than last time. I arrived a little groggy. However, I still had about an hour and a half until my interview, and the English department is located on the fourth floor of the JFSB**, which is quiet and sunny and relatively unoccupied. So I found a cosy chair and a cosy footrest, put my coat over me for a blanket, set my phone alarm, and went to sleep.

This is probably not considered the classiest way to prep for a job interview.

(Also, when I start doing this regularly I'm going to rent a locker in the field house and keep an air mattress and sleeping bag in there. Also possibly a sign saying "BYU Grad Student: please do not call police.")

When my alarm went off, I woke up, packed up camp, adjourned to the restroom to throw my tangled hair into an instant professional-looking updo (a skill worth its weight in gold, let me tell you what) and apply chapstick in lieu of cosmetics. (Makeup wasn't going to survive this ordeal. I'd been up and going for fourteen hours already, no end in sight.) Then I slung my purse on my shoulder and walked into the Writing Department's office like I'd just driven down from my modest home in Alpine in my oh-it's-just-a-starter-car BMW.

No matter how this story turns out, I'm always going to be proud of that entrance.

Because there was still a part of me screaming "Don't you dare get this job! Do you have any idea how much work this would be? How are you going to handle two jobs and a class load? Are you insane?," my heart was not in my throat. Flubbing this interview would be a relief. So I waltzed in, cool as a cucumber, and proceeded to have what I think was the best job interview of my life to date.

Except where the bit that I told my interviewer that his mission had been destroyed.

"So you served in Korea?" asked the interviewer. "Which mission?"

"Korea Pusan," said I, proudly.

"Oh, really? That's great! I was in Seoul West."

"Oh, were you? How wonderful! I'm so sorry about your mission."


"Oh . . . um . . . the Seoul West mission . . . was discontinued. While I was out there. It was absorbed by Seoul and Daejeon. You didn't know?"

"Hadn't heard a thing."

Oh, OOPS. Sorry. And by the way, just in case no one's mentioned it, your cat was run over by a semi yesterday.

Other than THAT, it was a good interview.

And when it was over I waltzed out, got on the bus, came back to Salt Lake, changed clothes and went to Cub Scouts. Sleep is my 'It's Complicated' on Facebook.

So now we wait. If I don't get this job, then oh, thank goodness. I really bit off more than I could chew. What a relief.

And if I do get this job, then . . .

Hi. My name's RoseE. I teach at BYU.

*I was not allowed to pull this kind of stunt as an undergrad, when I was required to have an Official Housing Contract in Official Provo. But now I am a graduate student and will do exactly as I please, so ha.

**Pronounced 'Jifsbuh.' Or it should be.


  1. Have you considered that grad students get paid more than undergrads, so if you taught you might not need two jobs? Crazy idea, I know, but I thought I'd throw it out there. Especially because you also might not have to pay tuition if you teach (depends, but some teaching gigs go that way). But, then you might not get to be a hobo, so there is that to consider.
    Nice compliment to Avram, but the truth is, he feels completely normal in the grad community - so maybe it's all bravado. And if you get enough letters after your name, everyone just assumes you're smart.

  2. I'm sure you'll be just fine, whatever happens. Besides, if you structure it right, you'll only have to teach, what, 2-3 times a week? Of course, then there's all the coursework you'll have to grade, and random student complaints, and setting up 'office' hours to hear said complaints...

    You know what I've always admired about you? Your ability to organize and adapt. If you don't have something, you go get it. I want to be more like that.

    Like I said, I'm sure you'll be just fine. :)

  3. That's what Doug does, mostly, teaching English 101 and 102.

    (Alas, for Seoul West!)

  4. Sorry, but grad students don't get to do exactly as they please. My nephew still has to have a "beard permit" to keep the abundant whiskers so prized by artists and film directors in the area, who plead regularly for it to be renewed.

    Remind me to give you my folks' contact information in case you need a livingroom floor to crash on sometime.

    Auntie Sheila

  5. At least "discontinued" is kinder than "destroyed" or "failed".