The Everyday Adventures of an English Graduate Student: Perspective

Here we see our young graduate student settling down into her seat on the airplane. It is a window seat. She pulls out the texts she is evaluating for a critical paper and stuffs them into the seat pocket in front of her. Yes, the 45 minute plane ride will be the perfect time to go through her books and see which key scenes are relevant to her paper.

She glaces up as a thin, middle age man, settles into the seat next to her. He smile and says, “Hello.” His accent is thick and she can’t really place it. She smile and says hello back. The two then settle into an almost awkward silence. He pulls out a stack of papers from his briefcase before sticking it under the seat in front of him.

Our graduate student recognizes the format of the first page. It is an article of some sort. A word involving globular or something along those lines is nestled into the title. Our graduate student pays little attention to the article, obviously it is focusing on something that is clearly not in her line of study.

“Why do you mark the pages?” The man asks.

This is what our graduate student should’ve said: “Oh, I’m doing a textual analysis of the figure of the cross-dressing girl hero in young adult literature and how it subverts the stereotypical gender norms.”

Instead she says this: “Oh, I’m doing a paper on girls who dress like boys to get what they want.”

Silence. “Uh, so what are you reading?” She asks. She’s really hoping that the man doesn’t realize how awkward she feels.

“Ah, yes, this is a paper my colleague and I are writing. It’s looking at a mathematical equation that will generate a 3D rendering of the growth pattern of brain tumors.”

“Oh.”

More silence.

Our poor graduate student looks from her books to his paper and wants to jump out the emergency exit of the plane. She keeps repeating in her mind, “My work is important. My work is important.” How is it important? Had you asked her that before the plane ride she would’ve been able to give you a very good answer. But for the life of her she can’t think of what it is right now.

“So,” the man must sense our poor graduate student’s distress. “You want to write?”

She has to bite back, “Well, not any more…” and instead smile and says, “Yes.”

“That’s good. Literature is very important. It engages the other side of the brain.”

HA! Her work is important! Suck on that doubt!

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