Friday, July 13, 2007


Friday the 13th, Still in Recovery

I haven’t gotten up this early in years. Something about being in graduate school… it sounds almost a cliché, even to my own ears, it seems like my almost every story has to be clarified by its placement in time pertaining to the event—a story begins with “before graduate school…” or somewhere in the middle an awkward clause sticks itself in, “you see, this was during the throes of graduate school.” Or there’s now, the aftermath, this new world of possibilities, time to be social, time to cook, time to sleep.

Writing these words, it’s before 6 AM. My bedroom windows face all directions other than East, but when I first opened my eyes I saw crimson staining the edges of the trees and buildings that cover what would otherwise be the flat Midwestern horizon. This is the closest I’ve been to sunrise in over three years. The Spring before graduate school, after I knew I was accepted, I was still enrolled in a what I am going to call my graduate school aptitude testing era. It was self-imposed, I had signed up for one and then a second drawing course at the University, to make sure I really could do this architecture thing, that I found it sufficiently intriguing, engaging; that I was good at it. I remember getting up in the pre-drawn to draw a particular structure for the class. I wanted to draw the building in all possible daylight blankets. I watched the sun’s predawn Technicolor show reflected in the shiny metals of the museum’s cladding, only occasionally stealing glances of the real thing, which was mostly obscured by the looming brick boxes of the neighboring campus buildings. During the first year of graduate school, the eager year, I would wage my battles against time and exhaustion sometimes by allowing sleep before the assignment was finished, and then forcing my body out of REM-less slumber in the wee hours to finish whatever it was that that moment’s pressing deadline dictated. But I do not recall seeing the sunrise during any of these night-morning work sessions. I perhaps captured my 150 or 200 minutes of sleep exactly at the time that the earth rolled over and squeezed the sun’s strong rays through the thick oblique of atmosphere. Perhaps, the show was there for me to enjoy in my semblance of wakefulness, but I was too deeply tied to my glowing screen of “millions and millions” of colors. As graduate school grueled on, and my eagerness wore thin and then through—eagerness is not quite the inverse of exhaustion, but there is a dependent relationship—I found that I could not rouse in the mornings without an elaborate dance of the snooze button followed by massive doses of coffee.

I am calling this current era my recovery period. I am still guarded about my sleep. Having been deprived consistently of a necessity for so long, one becomes prone to overindulgence. I have read such things about the starved, the thirsty. My grandmother hoarded things until the day she died, having suffered the loss of everything—home and every last thing in it—during the Great Depression. Even with five houses in two states, all piled to the ceilings with all sorts of useful and potentially useful items, she continued to feel insecure and packed away stores that just might be needed someday. For the last few weeks I have been emulating my grandmother’s behavior, but with sleep. I go to bed early and sleep late. If I wake up early, I stay in bed, endulging in the softness of sheets and pillows, stubbornly shutting my eyes to the day. I don’t yet know if today is an anomaly or a return to normalcy. After all, my deprivations were voluntary, and though they felt anything but they were indeed minor. Yes, on the grand scale of world suffering, graduate school ain’t jack.