Monday, April 27, 2009

Woe is me, no more!

If there were a word to describe how I feel right now, it would be RELIEVED.

Yes, there is still a week and a half left till the end of the semester. This week and a half includes, but is not limited to:

  • Two and a half chapters of Hebrew homework. Due this Wednesday.
  • A Hebrew final exam next week (comprehensive, what joy!)
  • A 15+ page paper on Ima Shalom (cringes). Due next Tuesday.
  • A 10-ish page paper on cultic images in Babylonia + what the architecture of Babylon was meant to represent outside of physical enormity. Due Friday.
  • A 5-7 page paper on my thoughts of the Talmud class and problems with seeking history from texts used in class (Josephus, Bavli, Yerushalmi, etc.). Due next Wednesday.
Now, this list looks much more begrudging than it feels to me right now. Ask me in a week how I feel, and we'll see. Essentially I have to be done with all of these things by Wednesday. I've split up the next week and a half so that I can successfully allot my time, since I seem to have a problem with that. Yes, I've waited until the last minute to write everything, but that is the Chavi way. I have thoughts and genius swirling in my brain and at the last minute I sit down for a 7-hour writing marathon to complete a single paper. It's how I roll, and it works. It won't always work, but for now, this semester, it will have to work. 

But the relief is birthed from having attended and presented at my first Academic Conference. This time around, it was the Society of Biblical Literature, and although it wasn't as exciting and thrilling as I had expected or hoped for, it was a good entrance for someone like me into the conference circuit. I saw what kind of feedback and questions were iterated, and I got a chance to check out the competition at schools like Boston and Yale and Harvard. As I read my paper on the Golden Calf, I saw holes in my argument, missing tidbits of information that I know in my head but somehow didn't end up in the paper (how'd I miss that?!), and I now know that I have some editing to do. I'm presenting the topic to an undergraduate ancient Near East class on Wednesday, and I'm hoping that it's not so much me talking at them as with them -- I seek a dialogue of epic proportions where some nerdy undergrad suggests something or queries something I had yet to consider, perhaps resulting in some massive dissertation someday. 

But overall? I was relieved to get that talk over with. And suddenly everything else just doesn't seem that bad. I put way, way too much pressure on myself. I'm one of those golden children of the differentiated and excelled tracts. I was dissecting frogs and writing computer programs in the fourth grade, and I spent much of my sixth grade year coasting through school with a bunch of other braniacs going for donuts and discussing taxidermy. The difference between me and a lot of these people now, though, is that I really had to and have to work to keep it all up. I'm not a genius, by any means. I did brain teasers well, excelled at my times tables, was an expert at Origami at the age of 10, and graduated fifth in a class a high school class of 525 students. I spend a lot of time wondering if this was the right route, if this whole academic devotion was really what I was meant to do and then when I'm sitting in a car reading about Babylonian cultic objects and telling Tuvia about it and explaining the finer details of kings shipping their idols to avoid plunder, well, it's those moments that I know this really is the right path. I just have to remember who I am, where I came from, and where I'm going. 

So, relief in mind, I'll start in on my papers and Hebrew homework. I have more to write about the Senegalese food we had for Shabbat, meeting a Jewish woman from Norway, and Tuvia's sister's baby shower. But this will all come hopefully after at least one paper is written. Maybe sooner. Either way? I'm feeling confident and good. With the help of friends, loved ones, and the end being near, I'm prepared for just about anything.

As a quick quip, though, there is no Hebrew word for "baby shower." I always knew that baby showers aren't very Jewish things, as it pushes the hand of G-d and beckons the evil eye. But I thought maybe there'd be a word for it! Alas, there isn't.