grad gangs

This week I’ve been battling oncoming sickness, insatiable sleepiness, and stressus maximus working on schoolwork. It is not my usual overthinking that keeps me from settling on something until the final hours are upon me, forcing me to work standingpacingscribbling vertically, but dead space where ideas should be. I had a rough draft due in class, and despite trying to write all week, I turned in something murky. I tried to write myself out of the muck, but my ideas just got muckier. Now I feel as though I need to restart the process and select a different topic. So it goes.

Typically I find cooking or cleaning or driving useful for sparking ideas, even ones that don’t go anywhere. Long walks are good too, the kind where you focus on your strides until you can feel that rhythm internally. During my undergrad, long walks across MSU served as pages for stage setting mock ups, poems, trips I wanted to take, and sketches of crafts. Unfortunately I don’t have much time to myself anymore. Living at home has felt like the Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!): living at home is such a drag. Not because I want room for volume and social gatherings; rather, I would like quiet space to read and write. I’ve taken to idea generation (or at least thoughtful consideration) while showering or driving. This week in the car I listend to Essential Vonnegut. I didn’t realize until listening that I had never heard Vonnegut speak before. He sounded straightforward, forgetful, good humored, rough from Pall Mall inhalation, tender, optimistic, interested in a great many things without expertise or claim to be so. It was fantastic. I listened to the disc twice through. What struck me most about these compiled interviews with Walter James Miller, was Vonnegut’s emphasis on getting yourself a gang. He stated, more than once, the absolute necessity for human beings to be in social groups of extended family. To hang out, share, collaborate, and love each other.

This struck a chord. I feel like I’ve been struggling living at home because I don’t have a gang of graduate students to share with. Technology permits the existence of a gang on the web, to eliminate restrictions of place, but finding/building and keeping the gang breathing isn’t something I’m sure I know how to do. Being a graduate student at a heavily commuter based university, I think, makes this gang difficult to have. Does it fall upon faculty to establish an infrastructure? I don’t think so. But how do we find each other? How do we cross department borders that keep our studies separate? A call to collaborate? I want a gang-an EMU Written Communication gang, a Professional Writing gang, a class based gang, a gang with common scholarly interests-some sort of group to share ideas, interests, assignments and support with. I think the graduate studies experience would feel a much better fit if I didn’t feel so isolated. I can’t be alone in this feeling of isolation. So, how do we connect our isolated islands of scholarship/creativity/general foci of pondering? How can we form grad gangs?

One thought on “grad gangs

  1. this would be a great post for gradhacker.
    write for us:

    i think that multiple departments on eastern’s campus have student orgs within them, little mini-gangs, if you will. at first i thought this was silly, especially when you are sharing classroom space with the same 5 people several times a day…but it makes sense. it makes sense for the reasons that you shared, and it makes sense because a gang can offer the less structured, more student owned (more autonomous?) space. it could end up providing mentorship, connections, networking, and even the possibility of a collaborative blog or something (like you were talking about in your post on a snail mail project).

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