You remember the Seinfeld episode on masturbation, right? I mean, don’t we all? It seems ridiculous now in this day and age that THAT was so groundbreaking…but it was hysterical. And Kramer.
Kramer with the two seconds, then slamming money on the bar with I’m OUT!
About three weeks or so ago, I started my own personal test with myself.
I re-took my comprehensive exam for my Masters degree.
You who have read here awhile, or who’ve known my life remember that the first time I took it and failed…it was just the perfect storm of fuckery. There was no way I was going into that and winning. I didn’t know that at the time, so the failing was perhaps as big a blow as I’d had in many months.
It was during that time that the prophetic words of Bill became my solace.
“sometimes when things are falling apart, they’re really falling into place.”
That failure of the test rerouted me to where I am in my life today in terms of life work. I’m not sitting in a Ph.D program in Stillwater, I’m not on that vicious merry-go-round that is Academia. I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. In an altogether different kind of classroom, yet still advocating for women and girls to find their voice and know without a doubt that girls can, in fact, do anything.
Three weeks ago, I retook the exam.
And I waited.
It would be about a week and a half before I knew anything, they said.
It was a week. A Wednesday. I got the email.
Congratulations, Misti, your committee has decided to schedule your oral defense of your exam. This almost always means that you will pass.
I kept that info to myself for 24 hours before even telling Mark. I told my sister some days later.
Then came the second email.
I’m sorry to inform you, Misti, but two of your outside graders have failed two questions and your committee has decided to uphold that. Please immediately drop this class. You can try again next semester.
I sent an email from my phone that contained the words Fuck It. It may not have been fitting for a graduate English student, but I believe I got my point across.
I refused to let myself respond further until the weekend was over. This was a Thursday night. We were supposed to see the Lumineers in concert that night.
We didn’t make it.
And here I was again. Taken out at the knee. Wondering what was wrong with me, how much more could I take, how much more did I even want to give to an institution that clearly had either just given me a 3.75 gpa without merit, or allowed me to become a statistic of academic warfare within the system.
I cried. I was beyond shamed. I felt…void. I have already racked up many many many dollars of student loans for a degree that it appeared I wouldn’t receive, and that really for all intents and purposes…no longer needed.
My life wasn’t going to change if I had that degree. I have a job that I love, that gives me struggles and joy, that makes me work harder than I’ve worked in years for tiny teensy winning moments that, to me, are the most fulfilling.
I no longer felt like I had let people down as I did the first time failing the test. I grew enough from that experience to realize the reality of the world.
Crisis in Humanities? I’ve seen it. Face to face. It’s the 9th grade girl from Douglas High School who had a friend killed the night before she came to do Girl Scout programming at Oklahoma City University. She left that day asking me questions about how to apply for schools, amazed that it was even an option for her. She said, “maybe I’ll be an actress and a nurse.”
Maybe she will. If she makes it.
So I’d somewhat come to terms with the failure and had started to wrap my head around how to break this news. Again.
Then I got the third email. On a Saturday.
Congratulations, Misti. Your committee has decided to move forward with your oral defense. It is set for October 15th at 1:00 pm.
I looked at Mark and said, “I’m in an abusive relationship with UCO. The last time I was ever made to feel so perfectly inadequate one minute and completely worthless the next, I was in an abusive relationship with an alcoholic.”
I wrote back that I was going to need some advising on exactly what my inadequacies were, and how to approach them in a way that would help me succeed in this process.
I was advised to contact the two professors who failed the questions and get their feedback as well as scheduled office time with my advisor for prep.
The emails to the outside professor were ignored. Until I got yet another email stating, “please don’t contact Dr. P about your exam. He doesn’t want to talk to you about it.”
at this point, we have to start laughing or digging out the voodoo doll, right?
I went today.
I had conversations with my advisor. I know that he’s working on changing this broken system, but as with any kind of change it has not been met with open arms, and there is collateral damage.
Though I may regret posting this today, as we have no idea until I actually get the diploma if it’s true or not…
I have passed my defense. I have my Master’s Degree in 20th and 21st Century Literature.
I got to tell them about my experience. I had the opportunity to lay it all out there, gaping oozing scabby sores and all.
But what I did was tell them how this degree that, on the surface seems useless, has in fact been put into use in my current reality.
No, I’m not in front of a classroom teaching Comp 1 to incoming freshman and working on my dissertation. Yes, I’m at times getting my ass chewed out by bitchy, mean girl volunteers.
But I’m using it.
Because that 9th grade girl?
I got to tell her about this book called Beloved that I read again in this class I took. I got to talk to her about how sometimes the past is the thing that has this grip on us and it feels like there is no other way to go but backwards. I got to tell her that she was her own best thing.
And I got to tell them that, too.
It may all blow up again tomorrow. Or next week. There may well be another email that begins with, “We are sorry to inform you, Misti… ”
But today I got this.
Today, I am officially Master of my Domain.