After 6 1/2 years of graduate school, which followed one year at a real person job and four years of the finest in public higher education New Jersey has to offer (note that I said public, ’cause I went to college down the road from Princeton), I still haven’t mastered the art of ending a semester gracefully.
Take, for example, Friday afternoon. I was really happy I had taught my last class until mid-January the day before. Yeah, there’s still plenty of work to do before I can close the books on the semester, but the end of classes is always a small victory for those of us who try to fight the academic good fight.
Anyway, I thought I was feeling fine. Okay, a little shaky, maybe, but I had a lot of writing to do that morning. And I only ate 3/4 of my lunch before I ran out the door to volunteer. And maybe I should have had more water at the gym. But I never expected my hands to stop working.
Let that sink in for a second.
MY. HANDS. STOPPED. WORKING.
Like yes, they still were moving and receiving signals from my brain. Pawing at things was totally in my wheelhouse. But a strange thing was happening to my fine motor skills. My hands were not behaving like my hands, which have never met an electronic device that they couldn’t operate. It was like living in bizzarro world, and most certainly worse than that time someone handed my mom an iPhone*. Oh, and there was a witness to this spectacular, who hopefully didn’t get that 1.) I was fighting some pretty rapidly rising panic** and 2.) I was panicking because of a sudden lack of dexterity. Instead, I pretended that his phone was stupid. Thank God for humor as a defense mechanism.
Because I can’t imagine attempting to explain what happens to school nerds when the weight of students, teaching, and formal duties gets symbolically lifted off our shoulders. Some people handle it with grace. Others, like me, lay on the couch and wonder why the semester punched them in the face. In more social moments, we call our moms to tell them that the world is mean in between crying jags caused by reruns of Parenthood.
Though, when I think about it, maybe I shouldn’t complain. It’s not like this is 2002. At the end of that semester, I got stitches in my face.
*This almost makes me reconsider my frequent re-enactments. I said almost. If I didn’t give my mom a hard time — constantly — our relationship would lose its zing. And she would probably check to see if I had a fever.
** And a slightly rising lunch. The gigantic post-semester stress release was causing some slight nausea. In the irrationality that comes with the release of that much tension, I was worried that 1.) others might judge me for not being a Blackberry ace and 2.) we were about to repeat the throwing-up-on-the-computer incident that more or less defined me in second grade.