Hesitantly Going Where Everyone Has Gone Before

One word in the title of my last post has set my mind off on a warped journey into the past and future. Bear with me while I set up a little experiment.

When I was in one of my last seminars of grad school, we all had to present our Master’s Thesis topics to the other students. I remember there being a lot of mutual disinterest during those sessions. You’d think grad school would be stimulating place to be – a lot of educated people with similar passions discussing important themes – but, in reality, the students were extremely competitive. They formed little factions with the Cultural Studies crowd all scoffing at the “classics” of the privileged and therefore politically offensive “canon”, while the Literature crowd ridiculed the really awful writing of modern mainstream bestseller fodder. The Creative Writers walked around with their heads in the clouds and the one Linguistics student just took a lot of notes. They all knew secretly that they were being educated for one job and one job only: being a college professor. They also knew there were many students for few such positions and that a lot of them were going to be working in bookstores. And what about all those important themes? Well, looking back, it seems to me I spent the vast majority of those two years talking exclusively about sex and death.

Don’t get me wrong – I loved grad school, but I am not sure I would have liked the place if my strange circumstances hadn’t provided me with a little emotional distance from the feuding factions. You see, I was actually already living in Austria at the time and teaching at a university here. I was on sabbatical for 9 months so that I could go back to the States to finish my degree. Not for any professional reason, really, but simply because I had always planned to do so and my husband was willing to hold down the fort while I was away. I also thought it would be a unique chance to reconnect with my home country – to not be a foreigner for a while.

That last part didn’t work out too well. A few weeks into my studies, I was small talking with a fellow student on the elevator ride to our class. He asked me a few questions and then suddenly interrupted my answers with “Oh! You’re the Austrian!” I was really taken aback (and in my mind, I protested loudly: I am not! I’m as American as you are!) But that was not the biggest distinction in my fellow students’ minds. There was also the fact that I spoke German fluently (the foreign language requirement being a big hurdle in their studies for most of them). My worst crime, however, was being employed. “You have a JOB?!?!” That one freaked everyone out. I could see them thinking: Then what are you doing here??

So, I was in the seminar, listening to the topics of my fellow grad students’ theses. They were all over the place and the only commonality was that each topic was self-centrically chosen, my own included. (I compared the literature of exiled authors to those who had emigrated voluntarily.) There was the guy who was doing a Jungian analysis of some poor slob who would surely have regretted publishing anything had he known what this guy would make of it. His talk was so thick with psychoanalysis-babblespeak that most of us understood zippo. Then there was the guy who was writing his thesis on the topic of “Shit”. That one summed itself up. One female student was writing about the amazing and inspiring works of her favorite author and idol, who just happened to be the professor giving the seminar. No one liked that girl. Including the professor. The most memorable topic by far came from another female student: “The Emotional Politics of Public Confession”. She was tracing the development of literature becoming more and more self-reflective and self-revealing – in a word “confessional”. Increasingly, authors were “coming out” and saying “This is how I am. Now forgive and accept me.” The more she talked, the more interested I got. Considering the fact that this was in the earliest days of the internet and pre-dated self-publishing and blogs – this woman was downright prescient.

Of course, it was the title of my post yesterday that got me thinking about all this again.

Is that what we bloggers are doing? – confessing? To be honest, I haven’t seen my own that way, but . . . how can I be certain?

I could use the scientific method to test this question.

Step 1: Make an observation.
Step 2: Ask questions about the observation.
Step 3: Form a hypothesis and make predictions.
Step 4: Test the hypothesis and predictions in an experiment.
Step 5: Analyze the data and draw conclusions; accept or reject hypothesis, modify if necessary.
Step 6: Reproduce the experiment until there are no discrepancies between observations and theory.

Steps 1 and 2 have been done already. Steps 5 and 6 can only be done after I post this. So here is Step 3 (the hypothesis):

If I confess something here in this blog and it feels different than my previous posts, then this blog is not confessional in nature. (Except for this post of course.)

That leaves Step 4: Make a confession and publish it. Let it be known that it took me a long time to come up with one. Being a happily law-abiding heathen, I have no experience to draw on. But here we go:

Despite my education, I am a Star Trek fan. A real one. I could even imagine going to one of those conventions someday in a Star Fleet uniform. I find Star Trek stupidly comforting – escapism at its finest. I have watched every episode of every series multiple times. Actually, seeing as how I am confessing here and should tell the truth, I have to amend that last sentence. I have heard every episode. I mean, there isn’t a lot of visual stimulation or tremendous acting going on, so once you know how the actors look and sound, it is not really necessary to watch them. I usually play Snood, or Tetris, or do Sudokus, or knit while listening to Star Trek episodes and just glance up at the screen once in a while. Way back in the day, I watched on Sky TV. Then Sky TV turned private, so the picture was scrambled, but the sound was still fine. I continued to “watch” and didn’t find much of a difference in the experience. My husband would find me doing this sometimes. It worried him.

There. The deed is done. Now, all I have to do is click on “Publish” and wait. See if I feel any different. See if people forgive and accept me.

“Helm, Warp One. Engage!”


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