Repacking the school bag

Alternatively titled: Nerdiness and I go waaaaay back

My mom and I often joke that I am destined to be a perpetual student. I like to tell Apparent Dip that I married him with the idea that he would become a millionaire and allow me to go to school for the rest of my life, but it turns out that I made a major miscalculation. As he likes to tell me, geologists–particularly those in academia–don’t really make that much. Sigh. So instead I live the life of a nomadic grad student (although I might be coming home to roost in English once I hear about the M.A. program here). This suits me just fine, actually, because despite all the kvetching about classes and writing and applications and lack of money, etc., etc. etc., the fact remains: I’m doing what I love. And I am reminded about this every time a new semester/quarter begins. I love academia (not everything, mind you, particularly the idiotic bureaucracy that seeks to stymie my every move, but the grand idea of academia–that I love).

When I was a kid, the beginning of a school year was always exciting. In an abstract sense, it represented a fresh start. In a very tangible sense, it meant new school supplies. My parents got a kick out of the fact that I would pack and repack my bag in the weeks leading up to school. I would sit in my room happily color-coding my folders and notebooks (History? Blue, definitely. Math? Black. Science? Green), and lovingly packing my pencils and pens. A bit obsessive? Most likely. And although the ritual has changed (nowadays the pencils are mechanical with .7 mm lead and the pens are my new fave, the Pilot G-2–particularly as they make it in a .38 mm tip with black ink), and I don’t buy as many new school supplies, or pack and repack my bag, I still go through the motions to some extent whenever I order my books ($240 and counting baby!) and try to solve the never-ending question regarding the best methods for organizing notes and research materials. And let me tell you, computers make my organization-loving heart go weak in the knees. I’ve been playing around with a lot of software lately in an attempt to get a handle on the electronic mess that I call a desktop and here are some of my new favorite toys:

  • Devon Think: This database system is really quite powerful (and made for Macs) and I’m just getting started so I have by no means explored all of the options. I’m using it to store my pdfs thematically to allow for easier access (I also have all of my pdfs organized alphabetically by author).
  • Scrivener: I’m attempting to move away from Word, and I stumbled upon this nifty program in the process. I wasn’t sure how useful it would be, but I’m really enjoying it. I don’t use the full-screen mode because I just can’t block everything out–I need a certain amount of background “noise” (be it actual noise or just open apps and windows on my desktop) to stay sane. But it has helped me to break free of an older, unproductive writing mode and move toward a more free-thinking catch-the-thoughts-as-they-come kind of writing.
  • Toodledo: I discovered this through K8’s blog. I keep a paper version of a to-do list/calendar with me (currently the Moleskine weekly calendar), but this is a great way to organize myself whenever I’m at a computer (and, as it’s web-based, it works at home on my Mac as well as on my work PC). Plus, it works with Google Calendar, which is how Apparent Dip and I stay organized in regards to each others’ schedules (or we would, if we would remember to write things on the calendar in the first place–hint, hint, AD).

Classes start on Monday (Tuesday for me), and although I would really like more of a vacation, I find that excitement bubbling up again. Never mind that once the semester is underway I will discover that I haven’t organized myself as well as I would like, or that I have somehow managed to lose of my pens and pencils by the end of the first day and am inevitably reduced to the indignity of stealing them from AD until we go on our next date at the office supply store (Where the hell do these things go? And yes, we really are that lame. But take heart: we go on dates to the grocery store as well. If you saw our grocery store, you’d understand.). For now, as Anne of Green Gables would say, everything is a fresh page with nothing written on it yet. I even ordered a new bookbag!


7 responses to this post.

  1. Enjoy your new semester! I don’t get as excited about the start of the new semester now that I teach and don’t take classes myself — but I remember the feeling well. There was nothing better than going to the college bookstore and bringing home stacks of books!


  2. Dorothy: Thanks! I’m really looking forward to this semester for some reason, I think because I know there’s a really good chance it will be the last one in which I’m without a program. And I hope you have a good semester lined up as well!


  3. I’m the same way as you about school supplies. 😀


  4. I love the beginning of the year. It’s so exciting and full of possibility, yes? Have fun!


  5. The Pilot G2 changed my life! Okay, maybe that’s an overstatement but I do like them. It does seem like the ink runs out mighty quickly though, that is when I hold on to them long enough.


  6. Eva: It’s actually a good thing that I lose my pens and pencils so often–it gives me an excuse to perpetually shop for school supplies!

    Andi: Thanks! I’m really looking forward to this semester, if only because it might be the last semester of unfunded, nonmatriculated work.

    Ian: Hooray, another G2 addict! I admit I’ve strayed at times, but something keeps me coming back…although perhaps it’s merely the fact that I lose pens all the frickin time. 🙂


  7. Posted by Queen Mother on January 14, 2008 at 8:44 am

    I agree that your organization prior to the school year may have been a bit obsessive – but what the heck. You should also remember that as a child you loved to put everything “away” in a million little boxes, bags, envelopes etc. When Harleyman and I were packing to move it was like excavating a tomb. Every time we opened one of the little boxes that were in your stash it was a trip through time. Sooo much fun to view the history of your life. Someday when you are famous for having over 20 PhD’s someone will delve through your multitude of various books, bags and pens and wonder at the great ability to organize, but somewhere along the line be sure to leave a note where to find the key to your great mind because that is, to me, where the real treasure lies. Love you.


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