Back to School

Writes the soon-to-be 31-year-old as she enters her 3rd year of her doctoral program and her 19th year of schooling overall.  I wish I could find the article Amy’s husband Abs sent me a year or two ago about all the difficulty highly-educated women have in finding long-term partners, a phenomenon well-documented in the sociological subfield of gender & occupations.  Another finding: highly-educated and/or professional women who do marry are more likely to marry educational/professional peers than their male counterparts.  And that women still manage the bulk of the work at home, that men have more leisure time than women, etc. etc.  I apologize, I’m digressing, and could piss myself off in no time if I keep this up.  Just sitting here at my desk in the Phd office, getting fired up to be back at school and awash in depressing sociological studies of inequality!  Wahoo!

In the four months I’ve been haranging you with the Redstar Perspective, I think very little content has originated here at MIT.  I’ve been consumed with New Orleans, living and working and commuting to/from there.  Now, as August wraps up and I find myself in Boston, I am checking in with the Institute (what we call MIT, what do you think, pretentious?), and getting ready for one of my favorite seasons: back to school!

You’ll likely be hearing more from this academic outpost as school kicks in just after Labor Day. I am TA’ing the core Masters’ class, and can’t imagine I won’t have tales of over-anxious, hyper-smart, uber-motivated, lightweight not-very-fun Masters’ students as they roll in with their two years work experience and expectations of multi-ethnic grassroots revolution amidst beautifully designed green spaces and boulevards lined with social-purpose businesses.  I’ll be studying for my General Exams this spring, and will certainly need to post to break up the monotony of reading 6,000 pages of theory and research in the next ten months.  I will need a lot of support during this trying time, and will expect many comments filled with encouragement!  Keeping company with our IT guy Mike’s iTunes library of almost 10,000 songs will not be enough, though so far it’s gotten me through long stretches at this corner desk next to a window overlooking the unending roadwork on Mass Ave.  (Gotta be a job creation strategy on Cambridge’s part…)

It’s hard to describe MIT in a holistic way to people who imagine (rightly) that it’s filled with brilliant physicists and economists and the socially awkward who think nothing of planning communities on Mars (meetings monthly in the basement of the Aero-Astro building), throwing a party to welcome time travelers from the future (last fall, featured in the NY Times), and hopefully making better use of the large nitrous tanks lining the hallways of different science departments than merely using them for their lab experiments.  There is an academic intimidation hierarchy alive and well here, in which people I met outside the Institute assume I am as smart as I assume are the econ and poli sci PhDs with whom I occasionally share classes.  Not to mention the rest of the brainiacs I merely pass in the halls.

I have described MIT as being like New York City – a 24/7 place unlike anywhere else filled with characters and individuals who can luxuriate in a relative anonymity, left alone to pursue their own peculiar interests.  But this is like me saying that Boston and New Orleans are similar because they are both Catholic, parochial, and run by corrupt political machines.  The similarities only go so far.

So perhaps over time the Redstar Perspective will provide some entertaining insight into this funny little land this side of the Charles River.  First Jewish intellectuals then onto Wall Street, my academic career has taken some interesting turns.  And yet there’s still so much to learn!


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