The first day of school

As I attempt to type this post, my hands are jitterbugging around the keys uncontrollably and my patience is wearing thin.  Today was the first day of classes for the spring semester.  I couldn’t sleep a wink last night just mulling over the possible outcomes of today’s encounters with a whole new set of professors.  After a long night of tossing and turning, I finally resolved to just stay awake for the rest of the wee morning hours.  I said goodbye to my husband, bleary-eyed from lack of sleep and nervous as could be.  I laid in bed for a few more hours until the alarm went off and I needed to start in earnest getting ready for the day.  Hot shower.  Very hot shower.  Brush teeth, take meds, blow-dry hair, get dressed for the cold since it’s freezing here right now.  And then breakfast.  What to have, what to have, hmmm, meatloaf?  Leftovers, the breakfast of champions.  Now a clinch decision, do I or don’t I drink some coffee?  Today, the answer was yes, I think I will have a cup before I go.  Time ran short so I threw what was left in the mug into a thermos and ran, literally ran, out the door and let the storm door bang shut.  It was frigid, the snot-freezing-in-nose kind of cold, and I didn’t waste time brushing the thin film of snow off the windshields.  Now I kicked into high gear, sipped some joe, and drove off to school not more than a five minute drive away.  I’m so glad I’ve got a car on days like this and equally glad that I’m allowed to drive it.  I arrived good and early so as not to be the last one straggling in for our 8:15 am class.  Surfaces and interfaces with Rich Matyi.  I sat there at my desk, coffee in hand, computer booting, just waiting for the festivities to begin.  It’s like a class reunion now, everyone who was away over break is hugging and and fist-bumping like they haven’t seen each other in a decade or more.  Eventually, we all get seated and the class starts.  Rich is an engaging professor; everyone laughs at the jokes and refrains from asking any questions.  Until Dee raises his hand.  This kid is wicked annoying.  Every time I have a class with him, he starts out by asking the professor if we’re going to cover some obscure and only partly relevant topic, just so he can look his smartest for the new guy.  It raises the hair on the back of my neck every time.  If he didn’t box for pleasure I might seriously think about pummeling him in some dark alley incognito.  When he’s done, there’s his partner in crime, Tee, making uncalled for jokes from the back of the room.  This guy seriously thinks he’s funny, but the truth of the matter is that a lot of the time it just shows his total ignorance of the subject at hand.  He’s the kind of person you pity, not hate, because someday he will wake up and realize how truly small he is in the world.  No one else is any bigger.  So he will start acting according to his relative size.  But I like this class so far, despite the rate that Rich is flying through the intro material.  At least the homeworks aren’t graded….

We adjourn and I go to talk to Rich about my inability to stay awake because of my narcolepsy condition.  Mind you, I don’t actually a diagnosis of narcolepsy, but no other circumstance would explain the rate that I fall asleep if not completely dialed into doing something.  He was happy I told him, impressed with my honesty even, and said that he would cut me as much slack as possible.  One victory for me accomplished.

I chatted it up with other first year students in the hour between Surfaces and Interfaces and cellular signaling, my next course.  It’s an upper-level elective but my adviser is teaching the course so naturally I’m taking it and paying extra-special attention to all the material.  But Nadine is at a conference today in San Diego, so Tom fills in for her.  The lecture is pretty basic and there’s no reason to spend more than the required time there.  I’m hoping it will get more interesting a few classes in. 

By this point, I am shaking from the caffeine and can barely hold a pen.  I’m dreading changing the media on my cells later because I’m not sure I’ll be able to use the pipette.  Anyway, no reason to worry right now, because Optics is coming up in a few hours.  I wile the time away talking to a friend who has just returned from India and wants to hear about the goings-on while he was away.  We head off to Optics, where Dr. Denbeaux, a very good-natured, young-looking, senior professor informed us that the course would be attended by both graduate and undergraduate students.  I’m a bit confused by the whole thing, two syllabi, different lecture days, lots of homework and quizzes.  I’m sure he’ll manage somehow, but what about me?  I immediately like Greg’s style and that puts me at ease while he spends some time addressing basics about the electromagnetic spectrum and electron excitation.  The material is comfortable to me, like a broken-in shoe.  I’m sure it will get harder soon enough, but right now I’m happy to be there. 

Last thing for the day: split the cells.  I had put the media and trypsin in the warmer before class so it would be ready when I arrived.  James was back at his usual post in front of one of the computers trying to wrap his mind around a new protocol and his new cell line’s quirks.  I got the flask out of the incubator, turned on the scope and took a look.  Just right.  Not over-confluent and not under-confluent either.  As I dump the media into the waste, the flask flaps uncontrollably back and forth, spraying cells and media everywhere in the hood.  My hands just will not cooperate.  Why did I drink that coffee again?  I chat with James about his time spent at home while the cells cook and then make the transfer and pack up to leave.  2:30 pm.  I’m on my way back out into the cold to drive home.  Day accomplished.  I survived the first day of school of the new semester.

But now I’m home, quite a few hours later, and I’m anxious again.  There’s a quiz in Optics on Monday.  The notes aren’t out yet.  I’m hyped up on coffee, feeling the caffeine humming through my veins.  I’m not hungry because I’ve had too much coffee.  Peter came home and ate his own dinner because I wasn’t interested in anything.  I’m sitting here with my stomach churning its acid without a scrap of food to digest and typing this post.  Even though the coffee should have worn off long before now, my hands still show its effects.  At least I can be satisfied with the first day, as there are countless more to come before this year’s end, and rest easy tonight.  Lulled to sleep by the sense of peace that comes with a mountain climbed and conquered.  Tomorrow, I will be ready for more.

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