I wrote those words as a lead-in to the first essay I drafted for my first workshop as a graduate writing student here at Sarah Lawrence. What strikes me about them now is how relevant they remained for most of my first year. Here I was, 25, in yet another new environment, lost trying to find myself. I lived alone in a small apartment just north of Bronxville (thank God for my dog) and I spent most days moving kind of catatonically between classes and the restaurant where I worked (and where everyone was miserable), trying to navigate the maze of angry New Yorkers that is Westchester.
Though I felt like I was growing as a writer (the classes and workshops have been every bit as worthwhile as I’d hoped), as a person, I felt stuck. Taking advantage of New York City is tough on a budget, and having a social life is hard when the people you engage with throughout the week could live anywhere from Jersey to upstate New York, and most of them have full or part-time jobs, lives to attend to outside of the classroom. And, while the graduate studies program makes a very concerted effort to involve its students in a Sarah Lawrence community, the resulting community [diff word?] is definitely one independent and apart from the rest of campus.
I don’t think that the undergraduate community is at odds with the graduate one; I just think that the difference in time and place of life for the respective members makes mingling a challenge. Every effort I’ve made to become involved in some facet (theater auditions, the poetry festival, T.A.ing) of Sarah Lawrence outside of my grad student bubble has been welcomed, though it doesn’t always pan out. Schedules and priorities, experience and goals dictate the places and activities on which any student can expend what little excess time and energy they have left. While I’d love to go to more shows or check out one of those “Stitch and Bitch” sessions, realistically I’m too worried about my most recent job application or thesis deadline.
Plain and simply, graduate school isn’t Asher Roth’s college and I think that no matter where you are, be it a tiny place like Sarah Lawrence or a huge university, grad and undergrad are two different worlds that just happen to occupy a same space. What they do get from and give to each other, especially at SLC, however, is a certain dynamism. The creative energy that pulses between the two worlds is palpable and inspiring. As a (now) second year grad student, though I am on campus less (fewer classes, more thesis-ing), I get much more of a sense of intimacy when I am there. Perhaps this is simply because of the familiarity that grows with time, but I think that it has more to do with an acceptance and understanding of what I want to get out of my tenure at this place. Two years is fleeting. I’m not looking to set down roots; I’m looking to stretch my wings. So far, it’s been quite the workout.
[Featured Image by Hey There Spaceman]