Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My syntax brings all the boys to the yard

I've written about this before, but May and December are the wackiest months of the year for a student, months that seem positively schizophrenic, as I spend the first half of the month frantically moving from paper to paper to paper, panicking all the while that I CAN’T FIND MY PEN I HAVEN’T EATEN IN SIXTEEN HOURS WHY CAN’T I GET THIS STUPID PAPER FINISHED I WILL NEVER FINISH IT AND I’LL BE FORCED TO DROP OUT AND LIVE ON THE STREETS AND DIIIIIIEEEEE, and then, suddenly, after clicking the last ‘print’ or ‘send’ button on the last paper, all the panic and stress drain out of me and I spend the rest of the month, I don't know, practicing my camera settings by stalking my mother’s dog (December), or going sailing, hiking, swimming, and picnicking (May).

(Though the post-semester relaxation may be a little harder to find this year, as I'm getting on a plane to Vietnam in precisely a week from today. Um, did I mention that I'm doing research in Vietnam this summer? It's going to be a total disaster. I can't wait.)

In any case, I just have one paper left to write until I am officially done with this rough beast of a semester is over, just one 25-page treatise on generative syntax standing between me and a master's degree. (That big, scary oral exam I was freaking out about? I passed, and, what's more, enjoyed it: I had so much fun that I actually asked for another question when my advisor said it was probably time to finish. Yes, I am a freak.)

I am currently delaying writing this paper, mostly because, after churning out three other 25-page papers in the last two weeks, mostly late at night/early in the morning, and sometimes in even odder situations, like on BART into the city so I could apply for a Vietnamese visa, or in a heavily air-conditioned Denny's in California's Central Valley, I have been reminded of the actual facts of my work style: I am, to put it succinctly, a procrastinatrix extraordinaire, and the panic about this paper that I need to motivate myself to write hasn't quite hit yet. Plus, I have hated this class so much, and suspect so deeply that the professor isn't reading my work, that I am tempted to write only a first page and a last page and fill the rest with 23 pages of open letters to my professor:

Dear L,

To be quite honest, I haven't understood a single part of this class since late January. To be even more honest, I'm not sure you have either.

Confusedly yours,



Dear L,

You are such a bad teacher that you have made me disbelieve in your subfield. That's right, after taking your class, I don't even think syntax exists. Thanks a lot.

Nihilisticly yours,


On the off chance that she will read or at least skim my paper, though, I'll refrain, and instead follow the pattern of the last three weeks, churning out rambly drivel in one long, panic-fueled session, typing terrible terrible introductions like "like Gaul, this paper has three parts," and "it is impossible to know," which, frankly, usually means "I don't feel like finding out." Plus, to fit the pattern I'll have to find some strange song to get hooked on: I wrote most of historical linguistics paper listening to the "Tabbouleh Song" on repeat, which means I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere in there are the lines "No we don't need hip hop, house, or trance / Cuz this song about a salad gonna make you shake your pants." And I'm putting the Tabbouleh Song first in the hopes that no one will continue reading to discover that my addicting song during my field methods paper was Kelis's Milkshake. Seriously, how embarrassing is that?

Back to work. And for anyone wondering how I can concentrate with loud techno/hiphop/rap playing--today's song du jour is DAM's Min Irhabi--let me just say: I can teach you, but I'd have to charge. And hey, given the usefulness of a master's in linguistics, that's just about my best money-making option these days.