Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Day 19 (Round II) "In the trenches" (samsara abides edition)

Yeah boy yeah. It's hard all the way 'round, some days. We're into that fifth week, the first-round exams have hit, and the stress level is pegging. Fortunately, Fall Celtic Fest stuff has ended on a high note--though, I've discovered, conducting an ensemble I've coached in a performance is about four times as stressful, for me, as just playing the damned performance myself. But, the way I was taught, the ratio of learning versus instructor-performance involvement, in the musics I play, is roughly inverse: the less I play, the more they have to rely upon themselves, and thus the more they learn. There are other sides to this, of course--sitting in an ensemble with your teacher is a really great way to learn, because the right teacher energy can haul right along in its slipstream--but I would rather my guys got that from me in less formal/concertizing situations, such as the pub sessions and the one-off gigs we do that are actually more like the free-lance stuff I do. Those are good learning situations too, but as far as being able to walk out on stage and hold a performance together on your own, that's something you need not to do with the instructor sitting next to you. It's scary and stressful, but some percentage of that leadership and self-reliance can only be learned in the performance situations where there isn't somebody else to hold it together and it's on you. Bunch of the Celtic Ensemble kids heading off to a neighboring state to do precisely that.

Grand jury again today, and it's more of the same depressing shit. Not much else to say about it; one more weekly meeting and the month is over.

Anddd...a lot of suffering going on. The corollary to the above first-third-of-the-semester stress is that large numbers of them are encountering the "holy shit, I might not be able to do this" hurdle. The fall semester is a ramping-up for almost everybody: the high-school kids starting as freshmen, the freshmen/sophomores facing-up to 4000-level history classes, the newly-minted grads in their first couple of semesters of grad work, the pre-tenure folks grappling with or trying to polish new skills, and on and on and on.

Up to and including leadership stuff on my part. How to handle ups and downs, effective systems and systems that need tweaking, communications up and down the chain of command, coping with when to manage and when to let people solve stuff on their own. Pretty danged hard work for everybody.

And, occasionally, offering a little comfort. I am not a proponent of intervening in kids' lives--the old Buddhist adage "wait to be asked three times before offering opinions" is a good one and one I still struggle to realize--but dammit, sometimes (especially in the wake of the Web 2.0 and Facebook generations I've blogged about before) you know enough to know that somebody needs some comfort: a kind word, or an embrace, or maybe even just a break from the round of butt-kicking.

Or a comment (bootlegged from a response over on Mac Tire):

[Mac had asked, plaintively, "do they hand out the super-powers at graduation, with the hood?", and I replied]

We all have super-powers. Grad school, old-school, is a testament to an absolutely titanic investment and commitment of dedication, concentration, and guts. It takes massive stamina, great courage, and a healthy (and well support-networked) psychological profile to get through graduate school.

It's mother-f***ing hard and most people couldn't do it (which is fine, there's no reason that "most people" should do it). We spend years- broke, scared, stressed, and mistreated, in order to be able to spend large chunks of future years doing what we love. For those people who stick it out, it's the right choice--and by sticking it out, they demonstrate their fitness for the job.

St Julian of Norwich said "all the way to God is God." I'd say--and meaning no blasphemy--"all the way to the job is the job."

It's mother-f***ing hard. But it's goddamned well worth it, too. We are some of the people who hold the world together. And we are some of the people who create the bigger worlds into which young people can enter. I would not be where I am (with, yes, a house and a family and a job and tenure and even a crotchety elderly cat) if I had not stuck with it, through--in my case--literal decades of abuse.

But, even more, I would not be where I am, if my Great Teachers had not stuck it out in their jobs before me, and, by therefore being where they were when I needed them, saved me.

Being in graduate school is the hardest thing I've ever done (emotionally) other than live through a loved one's protracted terminal illness. But it is also one of the most important and, I believe, constructive things I've ever done, as well.
I still believe that.
Now playing: Thomas Mapfumo - Hondo (War)
via FoxyTunes

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