Category Archives: Finals

Week 15, or The End of the Road

If you aren’t singing “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men at the top of your lungs, you should be, because I am. 

Although, full disclosure, that song is actually about a painful breakup in which one party is extremely hurt by the split. Content wise, it doesn’t actually apply to my situation because I couldn’t be more excited about being done with course work for the year. 

I battled through my last week of classes while nursing a head cold/sinus infection, but in the end, I dragged myself through to Thursday. I sat through all my classes and was properly engaged; then, at Omohundro, I handed back my OI library card and made five trips from the basement to the main floor of the library to tote back the year’s worth of books I’d checked out to check facts. Even though my arms were burning by trip number from the weight of some of those monstrosities, the feeling of complete and utter shack-less freedom I felt as I shoved the books across the circulation counter was entirely worth the pain.

 As I left my last class on Thursday afternoon, I was filled with pride and a smug sense of satisfaction. I’d had a semester for the books. I started out off kilter because of an entire class being cancelled on me, a sinus infection, and the confusion surrounding Donald Trump’s implausible inauguration. A few weeks later, I got a life-changing mental health diagnosis. Just when things were starting to feel within control again, I spiraled downward, suddenly and dramatically, until the only solution was for me to take a medical pause for a week from school. Just as I was coming back, my mom got sick— the kind of sick that lands you in the hospital for a week and some change and that keeps you more or less bed ridden for several weeks following.

I’m writing this the day after spending another few days in my hometown with my parents to help make mom a little food and to be a second nurse, despite also being physically ill again myself, to give you context. That’s more than enough to cause someone to withdraw from the semester or at least be drowning in work by the end. I’ve not only managed to make it through, I’m coming in with enough of a headstart to take a little break before diving in to my final papers. 

Friday was a self-declared “self-care” day; I took myself out for coffee before going to get braids, then my parents and I went to go see Fate of the Furious. I ended the day by making everyone baked salmon, rice and broccoli before finally crashing from exhaustion. The next day, I made my way back to the Burg and continued my well needed decompression weekend. I started watching “Dear White People” in between my normal feel-good “Gilmore Girls” binge. I took well needed naps. I’m starting to feel better than I had all semester. 

That said, today, I’m getting ready to get back in the saddle. At least for a little while. I have 10 pages of a 15-20 page paper written already and two other 15 pagers to go, with a full week before I have any deadlines at all. I can work at a somewhat less harried pace over the next few weeks as I try to get my work together. And this evening, I’m having a little pow wow with my New Woman seminar as we workshop the first drafts of each other’s papers. I’ve yet to even look at anyone’s papers (fortunately there are only 2 papers) so I’ll be doing that this morning/afternoon. Then tomorrow, it’ll be back to writing, at least for another week. But if there’s anything I can do, it’s writing. I’ll be okay. I’ll be fine.

I’m still not entirely sure what the status of this blog will be going into the summer. It will most definitely be going out of commission for a few weeks while I make it pretty, but then…? I’m not sure. I guess I was so busy trying to make it through the year I didn’t think about long term. But, even so, there’s always more years to document, which means, at the very least, I’ll see you in the fall.

Week 14, or Finals (!!!) and Summer Plans

It’s Sunday before the last week in the semester.

I have 4 days left in the spring semester, 4 days left in my first year of graduate school, 4 days standing between me and a glorious, glorious summer.

I have two days of classes left: one Major Texts in African-American Life Since Reconstruction class in which I get to present on Ta-Nehisi Coates (very excited about that); one New Woman and Modern Feminism class left (have to finish reading Song of the Lark for that one); and two more sessions of Harlem in Vogue. I have 10 hours of work spread across 3 days left to finish checking quotes on a book chapter and editing a 30+ article. I can absolutely do it.

After I summon the energy to power through these last four days, I can get myself through to the end of finals. The truth is, it’s a lot easier to write when you’re not also in classes and you don’t have to finish reading so as to contribute in class. I’m planning to sleep for a couple days after classes end, then start writing.

I’m surprisingly calm heading into the foray this time around. It’s likely because I know that I’ve already done my first round of finals. I beat them, even though I didn’t know quite what I was facing. I did surprisingly well for my first go around. This round is easier than the first. None of my papers are research heavy and one of them is an extremely creative enterprise that I’m looking forward to working on:

  • I’m doing a close reading of the mulatto character Sappho in Contending Forces as indicative and an indictment of the “New Negro Woman” in the late 19th century for my New Woman and Modern Feminism class. (That paper needs to be 15-20 pages.)
  • I’m working on the graphic novel Incognegro  and the Harlem Renaissance classic The Conjure Man Dies for my Harlem class. (Always got to make it about comics if I can.) I don’t have a clear question yet, but I’ll work on it this week. (also 15-20 pages)
  • And finally, my African-American Texts professor has given us the task of writing a dialogue between W.E.B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, Gunnar Myrdal, Patrick Moynihan and E. Franklin Frazier as if they were in a room together in 2017, knew everything we as students and professors knew and more, on any topic we want. (15 pages maximum.)

It was so refreshing to see that, like me, Professor Ely believes in alternative scholarship and setting us an exercise that is truly beneficial. It is quite the intellectual exercise to try and imagine a dialogue between these men, given that to have such a conversation, you need to have a firm concept of each of their stances on any given issue. This requires you to have read carefully during the semester, to have thought critically and gives you the license to dress it up creatively if the mood strikes, so to speak.

These papers over all are so much more fun to write than those I did last semester. I’m excited about my work and there’s nothing I’m dreading writing. Even though it doesn’t seem like much of a difference, writing 45 pages total looks a lot less daunting than wading through 60.

If I get through my paper for my Harlem class the way I want, I think it’ll be a good second essay for my Masters portfolio, in conjunction with my Black Panther essay. The portfolio will show how I can read comics in a literary fashion but put it in a historical context (Black Panther) and how I can put comics in conversation with other, similar literary works (Incognegro and The Conjure Man Dies.)

So there’s nothing left now but to do it.

The Monday after classes end, I’m going to spend some time with one of my cohort mates and we’re going to plan our writing schedule for finals. Then over the next two weeks, we’re going to get together to write, just so we don’t isolate ourselves and end up drowning in a flood of our desperate tears.

Sometime during the panicked writing, I’m hoping to work up a summer writing schedule to plan my edits and revisions to the essays I want to use as the basis for my Masters essays. I also want to figure out if there’s anything I can use in the National Archives and if so, I need to find out a way to make a trip up there. The earlier the better, as it leaves me more time during the summer to wade through material and write. (Stay tuned during the summer, as I’ll surely be writing about Baby’s First Archive Trip.)

It definitely seems like it’s time to be celebrating. Celebrating the conclusion of my first year, the conclusion of my Masters classes, of a semester well done. And yet it’s not quite time. I’m still looking forward.

The end of the spring semester, isn’t like the end of the fall semester. At the end of the fall, your brain just shuts off for a month, trying not to think about what’s to come in January. In the spring, you’re forced to think ahead. Now is when I fill out forms for assistantships for next year (Good-bye Omohundro, hello…Lemon Project? Stay tuned to find out.) think about the best ways to not waste an entire summer.

Instead of one month of rest, I have to fill 4 months this summer with academic activity of some kind.

As of right now, my plans include being a Classroom Instructor for the Keio Cross-Cultural Program from August 3-August 18th and between now and then, holding down a little part-time job at Michaels, my favorite craft store. The jobs not meant to pay rent by any means, but it gets me out of the house a few times a week, gives me a welcome break from staring at my laptop and writing, and funds my art addiction. I can honestly think of no better place to work, with the obvious exception of Barnes and Noble. (I am most definitely not qualified to do anything but work at a book store, a craft store, or a coffee shop, i.e. the only things I like and am good at outside of being smart– generally speaking.) I think the jury’s still out on whether or not I’m actually allowed to have this part time job at Michaels, but granted that I’ve petitioned to have it on the basis of I need it to help keep me happy, mentally/emotionally healthy and safe this summer, I have a pretty good feeling about my summer plans.

I’m planning to write at least one more time this semester, just to wrap up. But in case any of you are avid followers and look forward to my weekly updates, be aware that summer updates will be few and far between, and will most definitely come in between updating the site itself. (It is horrifically ugly and I HAVE to change it as soon as I get the time.)

To any other Black girls out there doing grad school, just be encouraged and stay blessed: God knows you’ve made it this far and that in itself, is quite the accomplishment.


Week 17, or Ravynn Writes Her Conclusions

Whoever decided to only put one week in between Thanksgiving Break and the end of the semester deserves to step on a floor of Lego blocks for a very long time.

I didn’t realize how much I was depending on the turn around time after Thanksgiving to get ready for the end of the semester. Fortunately, due to my obsessive need to plan everything out and work weeks ahead of schedule, I found myself with a substantial part of my final papers done coming back from break. But I also realized that was somewhat unusual. Most of my peers had nothing written, no ideas, no arguments, and while I totally understand that procrastination is absolutely a way of life for some people, even the idea of having nothing this close to due dates was enough to nearly send me into a panic.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to work under the pressure of a next day deadline. I don’t want to imagine it. As a perpetually anxious person, I need to do anything I can to alleviate the stress I do have to deal with. So if that means getting an obnoxiously head start on papers…well, you know the rest.

Two of my three deadlines are Wednesday at 5 PM; the other isn’t technically due until Christmas Eve, but the thought of having one final paper hanging over my head for another three weeks also stresses me out, so that paper will probably get submitted with the rest of my semester portfolio.

As of today, I have drafts of two papers and half of the last; I’ve sent two in to professors to get comments and I have one back already; and after I finish writing this blog, I’ll probably get cracking on that last paper. Fortunately, it’s just a literature a review and a sort of exploration of my field of interest, which I’m discovering is Blackness in speculative, fantastic fields (thank you, Richard Iton, for expanding my ideas of the Black Fantastic), particularly sequential art and comic studies (which, thanks to Deborah Whaley, I’m realizing is not the same thing). Honestly, the literature review has been helpful; if anything it’s been helping me organize my thoughts and ideas, narrow down my areas of interest with laser precision, and read what else is out there, thus figuring out where my own work will fit in this larger intellectual conversation.

My research paper has been an experience. I started thinking about how I could track the image of Black Panther, the comic character, over time and then the deeper I got into the research, the bigger I realized what I wanted to talk about was. I wonder how often that happens and what happens when your realize your project is too big but you want to keep working on it…Maybe over time, with more research, this paper might turn into my first article that I refine for submission to a journal.

Finally, I’ve been working on a sort of interdisciplinary, literary analysis/criticism for my Interracialism class. I took a look at racial formation through musical and linguistic articulations, and how that may look in different geographic spaces, in James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography of An Ex-Colored Man and Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues. I love that I’m coming back to works that I found intriguing in undergrad and finding a use for them now. So special shout out to Professor Hamilton who assigned some bomb books I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise in Musical Fictions, and also to Professor Woolfork for her Fictions of Black Identity books. I should also take the time to thank her for kicking my ass in terms of my writing. I will never forget how hard I had to work in her class–I bring that ethic to everything I do now.

Through out all of this, I have been trying to take care of myself…with varying levels of effort, thus with sometimes spotty results. I did outline my ideal study/work day and my usual attempts to organize my work and life during finals, though, for the site I write for Literally, Darlingso if you’re interested in my tips and tricks for surviving the madness, be sure to check it out here.

It’s hard to believe that the next time I write might be the last until I gear up for Act I, scene II of the drama that is my life as a graduate student, because it’ll all be over for the moment. I can’t wait to reflect on it all, to see the road I’ve come down, and assess the path ahead.

Over break, I might toy with writing a few blogs on writing the big papers, figuring out your areas of interest and reading on your own, and application tips and tricks that I didn’t know about when I was getting ready do the graduate school thing.

I’m so proud of myself for making it this far, and thank you, dear reader, for traveling with me as I embarked on my latest great adventure.