Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Embracing Athens

Tonight, Lacie and I had people over to her place for dinner. It was a nice mix of people - her friends and my grad school friends.

During the course of the evening, my friends Andy and Seth, who were meeting for the first time, both said they thought I was getting the most out of grad school of anyone they know.

Life in Athens as a grad student can be a very lonely thing. Grad students in general appear to be slightly anti-social, and we always seem to be busy. In addition, several times when I have mentioned that I am a grad student, I have noticed a slight shift in undergrad disposition toward me. It’s like they suddenly worry I’m grading them on their partying.

What separates me from other grad students is that I don’t take it all so seriously that it’s not a fun, enriching experience anymore. I don’t have to be here, but I want to be, and I’m getting paid to be. So why shouldn’t it be awesome?

I’ve embraced Athens completely, its people, its businesses and restaurants, and its history. I’m in love with the cemetery at the Ridges. Though I can’t say I think Athens is a center of culinary excellence, I will say that I enjoy Big Mama’s and Pita Pit and O’Betty’s and the milkshakes at the Court St. Diner.

I have been a little frustrated all year that the other j-school students had no idea what I was talking about when I spoke about parts of Athens. Not only had they not explored beyond Court Street, they hadn’t really explored Court Street, other than the bars.

This past quarter, I finally got involved with student theatre, and I found shared interests to be a much better impetus for friendship than proximity or academic program, neither of which really panned out in the end. The j-school grad students began fall quarter by having dinner every Thursday night, but that gradually disintegrated and serves better as a quaint memory than it ever actually did as a social event.

The student theatre group turned out to be a great source for people I’d want friendships or relationships with. My Facebook is now full of friends I made through this group, and these are people I believe I will keep in contact with for the rest of my life.

I don’t really blame the j-schoolers for not getting too attached to anyone or anything here. We only expected to be here for one year; why would we want to invest that much of ourselves in something other than our education? I have a reputation for telling stories about all of the strange stuff I get involved in, and people sometimes look at me like what I’m saying is crazy, but I can’t live any other way. I open myself fully to the world around me, and I think that’s part of what makes me an artist - that, and my ability to then filter those experiences into text or graphics or performances. I freely began a rather serious relationship with someone, and I allowed myself to fall in love, all with the knowledge that the expiration was mere weeks away, when she was going to move away from Athens permanently.
The coming pain will not be too much of a price to pay for the weeks before.

This is my life, and my time in Athens - though it be an aberration from the rest - is not a break from my life.

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