Tying Up Loose Ends & the Logic of the Gap Year

Hello again, you encouragable optimists who still check this website for new updates despite how few and far between they have been.  I salute you!  Despite the fact that my thesis isn’t due for another couple weeks I already feel as though I’m on the downhill side of the MAPH program.  In fact, the tipping point came exactly when I turned in the first draft and I got the response from the adviser.  Now, that’s not to say that I haven’t been working on my thesis diligently for the past two weeks, but it feels like what I’ve got yet to do amounts to polishing the rough edges for additional clarity, adding necessary footnote disclaimers, and plugging in a few citations to places where readers can learn more about a given position.  As such, the peak on the horizon that needs to be scaled before graduation has actually been a whirling kaleidoscope of projects:

1) Find a house or place to rent.  Rent for $750 a month or buy something that we can resell if we need to?

2) Make offers on a house.  Play this thing like a high stakes poker match or make fair and equitable offers?

3) Arrange for repairs on the house (including replacing missing flooring) – Bamboo floors or solid wood?  Intermediate to high quality or cheap and cheerful?  New electrical outlets or live with a few extension cords?

4) Arrange for the movers.  By the hour or by the pound?  Supplement the pros by moving some things ourselves?  What things do we need to have at the house before the truck arrives in a few weeks?

5) Arrange for housing for family visiting for graduation from Chicago.  Rent hotels in the suburbs and drive in or pack everyone into the apartment?

6) Seminar paper for class.  Write another twenty page, publication ready essay or meet the minimums required for the class and call it good?

7) Prepare for teaching course in the fall.  Use the pedagogy class I’m taking as a way to get the work for next fall done early or do the minimum knowing that I have several months to worry about writing rubrics and attendance policies?

8) Oh, yeah, I’ve got a thesis to finish…

There is a line to be walked between trying get every little thing squared away for the future and trying to take advantage of the courses and opportunities available to me while I’m still enrolled at UChicago.  I know that the last couple weeks I’ve been listing toward pragmatic to-do lists and falling away from getting the most out of my time at the University.  I think I finally understand the logic of the gap year.  My initial sense was that proponents of the so-called “Gap Year” were arguing that the MAPH program was so intense and so harried that students were left after nine months as burned-out shells only fit to rest and recuperate on the spare couch in the basement of mom’s house.  I told myself, “surely one could apply for Ph.D. programs in the Fall of the MAPH program or interview for positions during the Spring”  and I was correct.  One can most certainly apply for and even find a position in a Ph.D. program that will begin a few months after MAPH ends.  One can also most certainly apply for and even get a job in academia that will start-up in the Fall without necessitating that one take an entire application season off to work on their character’s Skyrim stats.  However, one will struggle to find a balance between taking fullest advantage of the University’s manifold workshops, classes, conferences, and community of scholars and trying to get all of one’s ducks in a row and dominoes to fall so as to go straight from graduation to the much vaunted “next step.” However, I now understand that the gap year is a way of ensure that students actually get something out of the Spring quarter–without a gap year it is very likely that the only part of MAPH you remember will be the Fall and Winter.  The mind only has so much attention to pay, the body can only be pulled in so many directions, and at some point life becomes triage.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very pleased to have a job,

–that warrants buying a house

that needs a little work,

(before the movers arrive)–

so that after all my family has visited to congratulate me on graduation,

–facilitated by excellent seminar papers,

and my fabulous thesis–

I will have a place to be…


–and do some more great work.



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