Friday, December 23, 2005

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine

Perhaps it is a character flaw, but I prefer closure in all things. I find that if I leave threads unraveled, they come back to haunt me. Best to finish and be done, tie up all the lose ends, even if no one other than myself knows. There is a peace in simply recognizing finality. As Emily Dickinson wrote, “After a great pain, a formal feeling comes”. As I write this I am packing again and there is a great finality to packing. It’s like erecting a memory cathedral: you pick things up, you put them in the box and think “I remember this…I remember this.”

Earlier this week I was having a sort of goodbye lunch with my friends in Austin and we were talking about some funny things people have done during exams to intimidate other test takers. My friend H said one guy brought his own lamp to the exam he took that week. H also knew a guy who brought a whole crate of books bristling with post it flags to the exam. The guy left the crate in the room and walked out long enough to get them all freaked out, and then when he came back he put the books all away and never opened one for the exam.

Since "I am at least 50% law retarded" as a friend of mine likes to say, I decided at lunch that I would consider new test taking tactics that are focused more on intimidating my fellow students rather than concentrating on increasing my own knowledge. I’ve formed a three part strategy:
1) making any sort of loud body-function noise (e.g. coughing, heavy breathing, etc.)
2) distracting clothing (e.g. a swimsuit, a toga, etc.)
3) and of course bringing bizarre objects (e.g. bell-book-candle, the kama sutra, 100 pens/pencils, etc.)


The key is to be as noisy and distracting as possible, while persevering with one’s own exam. In an effort to help my plan, H left me a gift when he left for the holidays – his desk lamp to take to my exam. This parting gift made me laugh, but alas, I lacked the courage to actually take it into the rooms with me. Instead I kept it in my carrel and would laugh about it when I started to feel overwhelmed.

When I finished my last exam yesterday and it was time to clean out my carrel, I felt I could not simply walk away. That just seemed to lack closure. So to mark my leaving, I created a sort of installation piece. I left the lamp from H, a pile of papers and this message…

To Whom It May Concern:

It seems a shame to clear away
As though my presence never were
Having labored here so many hours
Which quickly turned into days


I think I’ll leave a bit of me behind:
This lamp – a gift from a friend
Who wished me well on my exams
My paper which served me so little –
I’ve decided I’ll keep my pen

But even these artifacts will not remain
To this I am resigned
My only legacy is these words
And the friends I leave behind

Let this then be my manifesto and my creed:
This library did not break me!
Though I sat in this chair a rock, a slave
I could look down the hall to the window
And though it be but a speck –
– I saw brighter days.


______________________________
And though I am sad to go, I remain optimistic. Although it may not be by choice, the next year and a half will be an adventure. School may be my Ahab, but Ishmael did survive.

Straight on then ‘till morning, Starbuck.

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