The Return – Going back to school


Click on the link for a thorough explanation of Archaeologists’ beards. Source: My Cartoon Version of Reality

Words like ‘university’, ‘tutor’ and ‘final year’ have started to become unearthed again in my life, as though one of the soft voiced, shockingly bearded denizens of Archaeology departments the world over has been assigned to my brain.

Carefully, his dusty toothbrush traces the outlines of forgotten notions, creatures buried deep in the morass of full time work: commuting, assignments, inductions, cake, meetings, trainings, email after email after email. I’d let myself think I’d buried them forever.

One more brush and, there, a face. Two, three, four-  more than I expected. Their little eyes open and they say things to me,

“Remember, in the before times, the long long ago, back when you wrote things for educational attainment rather than to appease your overly networked ego?

“Yes, I think so,” I reply, looking up from my Hootsuite app on my phone.

“Those days are returning.” I stare at them. They continue to emerge,

“Remember when you didn’t have a lunch allowance? You lived off carrots and pasta for weeks.”

“8.30 lectures.”

“And 9.30 lectures.”

“Seminars on Friday afternoons.”

“Seminars on Monday mornings-”

“Yes, I think we’ve covered the horrors of higher education. It… It doesn’t sound that bad.”

A mistake. A particularly gnarled, rotten little creature grabs me and, with fetid breath, spumes a horror (the horror) right into my face,

“Remember how often you were corralled into going to ‘Revs‘? You’re going to go back.”

“But it’s awful! The music is terrible, it’s too loud to talk and the drinks are way too expensive.”

“It doesn’t matter if no one actually likes it in there – you go because that’s what STUDENTS do. There’s an inexplicable attraction.”

“No! I’m working, I have a job. I’m a worker.”

“Don’t pretend to us – we know what you are. And you’re coming back.”

“When?” I splutter, images of coffee and dead-eyed deadline day revisions seething there way into my attention. I had almost forgotten.

“All too soon.”

“But… It can’t be, I’ve still got a few months on my contract-” they cut me off, shaking their heads,

“You’ve already completed the assignment. 30 weeks have come and passed, long ago.”

It’s all a bit overwhelming.

Yes, dear readers, the shuddering revelation of a return to University life has happened. I got an email the other day from academic staff asking me to start thinking about my dissertation. Helpfully, they included several attachments with various outlines on preparing and researching a massive great big essay. Just writing about it is making my vision go blurry.

Now, I know that lots of development people recommend taking time off higher education to work in between getting your promotion baiting degrees. I’ve written about it before, see the previous link. I also know that there is a serious divide between academia and field practitioners when it comes to international development. So I have a few questions:

How do people adjust their brains sufficiently to jump back and forth over that divide? How do people go from daily work to semi-structured bursts of activity? What is a good way to feel like you’re still vaguely connected to ‘real world’ development while you research a suitably specific dissertation?

Most importantly, how do people do all these things without having strange fantasies about mind creatures tormenting them?

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