The following online journal entries are from February 2005.
WEDNESDAY. 8:58 AM. It's only the second week of school and I am freaked out. I know you all must be thinking that I'm usually a pillar of security and relaxation (sarcasm does become me). But I'm usually not this sensitive, this anxious so early in the semester. Clearly there must be something going on. I think it all boils down to the fact that this is no ordinary semester: it's my last semester, it's my graduating semester. And my life, once again, is on the brink of significant change. I guess I haven't quite put myself in that frame of mind. I'm just stressed. Everything is stressing me out right now.
Even little things. The mail stresses me because I'm always thinking in the back of my mind that there could be a letter from one of my schools in the pile on the floor. The cat has been stressing me out -- for some reason, he's been extra needy, extra frustrating, and likes to wake me up in the middle of the night meowing and mewling. My living situation, which goes through cycles of being okay and being wacky, has been punctuated by loud neighbors, lack of hot water, parking woes, and weirdness from the local hoodlums and scalawags. Actually, a couple of weeks ago, I went out to my car in the morning and discovered someone had written "OUTLAW" in big capital letters in the snow on my back window. I have absolutely no idea what it is supposed to mean, if it's a good thing or a bad thing, or if it's even friendly or not. Curious, curious, and a little bit stressful.
Of course, school is a sore spot for me. I'm still working through the tangle that is my MA final project. Originally, I was going to revise the seminar paper I wrote for my "Queering Citizenship" seminar. Unfortunately, one of the professors I was really wanting to work with has gone on sabbatical. I haven't been able to find a replacement that jives with my wants and desires and my director's wants and desires. I may just have to change topics entirely. I just don't know what to do. But I have given myself a deadline of this weekend to just decide and move forward. Now, I just have to sort out my last, two classes. I was originally going to do an independent study on Tolkien. But, to be honest, I just don't have the heart for it right now. I think I'm going to arrange something with my writing mentor, something a little less taxing, readings-based rather than full-on writing, maybe on British playwright Alan Bennett, whose new play The History Boys is very good. My other class, ENGL758: Intersections of Race and Sexuality, is going to kick my ass. The first day of class, last week, went all right; the class is being team-taught by two very good professors. However, they cautioned that the class was deeply steeped in theory and criticism and that students really need to have more than just a smattering of both to do well in the class. I think I can keep up, but it does freak me out a little. I'm reading stuff that I have never read before and sometimes don't really understand. It is a little overwhelming, and I present on a little bit of it this week.
Right now, I just want things to get back on track, to go smoothly, and for me to really enjoy my last semester without the spectre of stress or insecurity or anxiety always spoiling the fun. I'm going to try to take it as it comes and just do my best. Hopefully, I will get the hang of the new semester soon (unlike my flailing and gnashing of teeth of last semester). On some level, I think I might just be tired. Passion fatigue and all. I'm ready to be done. Senioritis at its worse. Fear of success, fear of failure at its worse. It is time, then, to lighten up. I did have one interesting adventure this past weekend. A group of "the guys" last Friday wanted to go out. Guys night out type of thing. They asked me along, if I was interested. There was talk of going up to Baltimore, maybe going to a strip club. I wasn't sure that it was the kind of night that I would be "into." Generally, for me, stereotypical displays and performances of heterosexual male masculinity and sexuality (which can be curiously collaborative in a way that misses a certain homosociality of it all) can be uncomfortable, even distressing. It is not the sexuality itself, per se, but how it is acted out that can be weird for me. I decided to go. I had nothing to lose. Plus, it would be a different experience. And, all in all, it was a pleasant night. We ended up at a little place called Nightshifts, tucked away in an industrial part of town. They guys sold the place as a neighborhood bar that just happened to have naked women in it. Unfortunately, Nighsthifts has revamped its image; it has gone Vegas. The interior, though not quite finished, is carpeted, with fancy chrome and glass and neon, and attempts really hard to be swank. Besides the main "stage", the women dance on "satellite" stages. They're souped up tables, actually. Seats around. Cold marble tops. The association of woman on a table, woman on a counter and food on a table, food on a counter is intentional. There wasn't much of a buzz at the "club". It was strangely quiet and serious. I don't have a problem with the whole stripping thing. Women (or men for that matter) can do what they want as long as its consensual, equitable, and satisfying. But, there is something a little creepy about the way some of the men at the club stared -- I mean stared -- at the women; it was purely consumptive, almost predatory. You would think that such a venue would be rolicking, festive, titallating, a place where you stand-up-and-hollar. Alas, it was pretty unimaginative and lackluster (something you can see in the eyes of the dancers themselves). The fantasy, it seems, has been lost by the place. so, the guys packed up their one dollar bills and we took ourselves to the bars at Power Plant. After looking around, we ended up at Baja Beach Club of all places. From one bastion of heterosexuality to another. One word: college. Fratty boys, playas, sassy women, slutty women. Men in board shorts, women in bikinis. Cheesy DJ. It was hot and sweaty. The guy's decided to drink. I decided to be the DD. It was all right. We closed the place. I drove everyone home. I can now check a few more things off the purity list.
That's about it. That's my world right now. More, I'm sure, later. In other news: Happy Groundhog Day.
WEDNESDAY. 10:20 AM. Gong xi fa cai, Kung hei fat choi, which translates to "Congratulations and be prosperous!" Xi nian kwai le, which translates to "Happy New Year!" Happy Year of the Roster! (Or for those that are little more riske--Happy Year of the Cock!) Forecasts are a little bit better than last year. If you're interested, take a look at the following links:
My office chair is uncomfortable. Everytime, anytime, which is quite a lot of the time actually, that I spend sitting at home in my office, I think to myself, "Damn, this chair sucks." I bought it at IKEA on sale. For all intents and purposes, it is a good chair. But, it sits tilting slightly forward so I always feel like I'm about to fall out, tip out of my seat. I don't want to up and buy another chair, but I may have to. After all, I do spend a great deal of time in it. But enough about such trivialities. On to other trivial things, in bullet form no less:
• The past few weeks have been chock full of stress, stress, and you guessed it, more stress. I have been running around trying to keep up with school, with reading (which has been amounting to several hundred pages a week), with teaching, with advising, and with trying to map out my last semester at Maryland. The whole latter part of January and first part of February had been filled with anxiety dream after anxiety dream after anxiety dream. Of course, this only added to my general malaise and stressed-ness.
• Work is all right. The start of the semester is always pretty quiet. Advising has been a minimum. But now that my caseload has been set and emails to my students have been sent out, I will undoubtedly have full appointment days shortly. Life at Letters & Sciences is still good. A couple of people have left the department and that is sad. But I still like my job and my office and my students (even though they sometimes frustrate me to no end).
• Teaching is all right. I am teaching one section of English 101 and one section of UNIV100 -- just like last semester. I cannot believe it is my last semester teaching at UMD. Crazy. I counted up all the sections I've taught. This semester marks the thirtieth section of English 101 under my belt. Crazy. I have been running around saying that Freshman Writing really needs to give me a plaque. Really. I'm not kidding. I deserve the "Lifetime Achievement Award for Teaching English 101." That's over 600 students. That's over 3,000 papers graded.
My current 101 students just got their first formal papers back. They were not happy. But first grades are always a little startling, a little disappointing, a little disconcerting. I do wonder, though, if I've been at the game too long and am just expecting way too much from my students. Is there such thing as expecting too much? I want them all to succeed. But I want them to do it with compassion, grace, style, attention to detail, and of course with common sense. You can see my overall comments on their first paper at our class blog.
My UNIV100 students are all right. I'm not sure they're quite "into" the class yet. It's a predominantly male class. It's small. It meets only once a week for 2 hours. And it's a 1-credit course. So, I think there's the notion that a class on "the university and the student" is a bird course, one that can be breezed through. But I told them on the first day that I wanted them to take the class seriously. The work is scaled to a 1-credit class, but that doesn't mean it isn't work or it isn't important. The class has a blog, too.
• Classes are going well. My theory class on the "intersections of race and sexuality" is kicking my ass. I am reading, reading, reading all of the time. And I am reading really hard, thought-provoking stuff. In the past few weeks, we've read Freud, Eve Sedgwick, Judith Butler, Frantz Fanon, Foucault, Mason Stokes, and more. I am having a good time. It's a lot of work. And soon the actual writing for the class will begin.
My other class is an independent study with my writing mentor and friend Michael Olmert. I am going to do a self-paced, readings-style exploration of an early 20th Century British writer named Charles Williams. Williams was a contemporary of and a member of the Inklings, who boast J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis as their paragonic members. Not much is done with Williams. Williams is known for his religiousness, his christological fantasy (much like Lewis). His books and plays and essays are actually difficult to get a hold of. I've ordered a few things from Amazon, but will probably have to use what holdings we have in the school's library. It will be an interesting read and excursion.
• I have finally sorted out my Master's project. It has been an ordeal for me and probably the main cause for all the anxiety dreams. The MA program at UMD has a thesis and non-thesis option for graduation. I am doing the non-thesis, which requires me to take ten classes (instead of eight) and to revise a paper written for a seminar (700-level class) I've taken. My first choice was my "Birth of a Cyberqueer Manifesto" paper I wrote for my "Queer(ing) Citizenship" seminar last spring. But, then I had committee issues. Then I decided to switch to a different paper, my paper on Mordred, that I wrote for my Arthurian seminar. After some hemming and hawwing and some tossing and turning, I finally decided that the digital studies stuff and the queer studies stuff is what I really wanted to do. (Not that I don't love the Arthurian stuff.) So, I decided I would rather work on the cyberqueer paper and overcome my committee hurdles than to work on a paper I wasn't as into but for which I had a good committee. So, I've met with my writing project director. She thinks that the paper is in pretty good shape already. We're shooting for a good, deep fiber revision by the end of March, and I'll defend somewhere around April 1. Now that that has been settled (somewhat), I am a much more relaxed person.
• Of course, I have not heard from any of my PhD programs yet. That's a whole different ball of stress. Soon, though. Soon. I freak out whenever the mail comes to the house. I hate waiting and not knowing. • I have tried to keep diverted from the stress. When I'm in school, at work, or teaching, I pretty much don't think about the "what ifs." But when I'm at home, in the car, or hanging out by myself, I get anxious. I try to do other things. I have been trying to get out a little bit more. I really need to get out of the house, get away from WoW.
Two weekends ago, my friends had their yearly "Anti-Valentine's Day" party. In its inception, it was a way to sort of to resist the whole pink-and-hearty commercialism and pre-packaged love "celebrated" by the culture at large. But, I think it slowly just became an excuse to get together, to drink, to have jello shooters, and to fondle each other in ways disallowed in any other social context. Plus, how can you have an AVD party when most of the participants are in relationships and are schmooshy all night? It was a fun night. I drank quite a bit (and I thank my friend Jesse for being my designated driver). A little bit of my night was captured by a videophone. It's a little bit embarassing. Pictures here.
Last week I ended up going out twice in a row. It takes me back to my San Francisco days. Last Thursday, some of my coworkers were going out and invited me along. We ended up going down to Dupont to Apex for College Night! It was fun. I had forgotten what it was like to go out to a "mainstream" club. I hadn't been in the Dupont scene for a long time. The crowd was mostly college men, a few women, and I was suprised by the number of military boys out (which led me to formulate a taxonomy on military gay boys). I had a good time having a few drinks, hanging out with my workmates, and dancing. We stayed out way too late. We didn't get home till after three in the morning. But it was time well spent, I think.
The next day, Friday, was spent recovering enough so that I could go out Friday night, too, for the month's installment of Guerilla Queer Bar. None of my usual usual GQBers could make it. I managed to corral my friend Jesse in going with me; so I took a straight man to a queer night. It was fun nonetheless. This month's mission: The Rhino Bar & Pumphouse, which was voted one of the top twenty dive bars in the country and is a self-professed neighborhood bar with a sports theme (not to be confused with a sports bar). It's a neat place in the heart of Georgetown. A little bit old town, a little bit English pub, a little bit pool table dive. It was fun to be out. Jesse and I met up with the usual crowd; my friend Casper was there, too. We drank. We people watched. We mingled. There was also a contingent of military boys at the bar (much more usual at a predominantly straight establishment). They were very cute, if not a little protesty-too-much that they were straight. The DJ played really cheesy music -- bad wedding music cum gay anthems of the 80s & 90s cum glam hair metal -- but it got everyone on the tiny dance floor. The marines even got into the spirit of things (way into the spirit actually: two in particular that danced together with synchronized 80s moves). It was a successful "invasion." Again, we got home late. But it was worth the trouble of hauling ass to and from Georgetown. Jesse and I didn't go home right away from the metro. We actually stopped in at the coffee house for a while. For a while turned into a couple of hours. We didn't actually go to sleep till after 4 AM. Crazy.
• I've started my Sunday mornings at College Perk again.
For the most part, I'm just trying to get through the days. Have fun. Enjoy myself. And try not to worry too much about the things that are going on, the things that are changing, and what my future might hold. I am a little freaked out by the fact that I could be moving in less than a year. The uncertainty of what I'm going to be doing, where I'm going to be is a little unnerving. So, to cope, I am just going to take it a step at a time.
That's about it for now. Enjoy.
© 2005 Edmond Y. Chang. All original material. All rights reserved.
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