Sunday, December 4, 2011

Consummatum est

In the words of Dr. Faustus, it is finished - my exam that is, not a deal with the devil or anything like that.

I'm sorry it took me a few days to get my response up here but truth is, I don't really have a firm hold on how I'm feeling about all of this. I'm thrilled it's over, sad it's over, I don't really realize that it's over and part of me doesn't even believe that it was that big a deal looking back. The exam had seemed so impossible and difficult to me initially that I just couldn't even imagine getting to this point. But then when I was sitting in the chair in front of the computer, question in hand and fingers racing it all seemed so doable and not that crazy after all. 

Here's a little breakdown of the questions so that you know why I wanted the "Milton Question" vs. the "Shakespeare Question."

Milton: This question asked us to discuss villains and their impact on Renaissance audiences from 4 plays/texts from the Renaissance period and the only required one was Satan from Milton's Paradise Lost. I chose to also examine Faustus from Christopher Marlowe's play Dr. Faustus, and two of Shakespeare's villains, Claudius from Hamlet and Richard III. 
While we dubbed this question the "Milton Question" it in fact was the only question in which I got to deal with 2 Shakespearean plays, one of them being my ultimate favorite, Hamlet. The Milton question was my last chance to write about Hamlet and I dearly wanted that chance. 

Shakespeare: For this question we had to deal with the presence of "others," those being Jews or Blackamoors in Renaissance texts and discuss the investigation of these figures. For this question I could only use 1 Shakespeare play. I chose The Merchant of Venice, Christopher Marlowe's The Jew of Malta, a story by Giraldi Cinthio that serves as the source material for Shakespeare's Othello, and a novel by Margaret Cavendish entitled, The Blazing World. 
I liked this question a great deal but overall I had dedicated less time to it than the villain one, I didn't enjoy the texts as much as my Milton selections and obviously, no Hamlet.

So here's how it went, it's a short story:

Dana and I met at the library about an hour before the exam, she was still studying (I do NOT know how) and I tinkered with a piece of string while I pretended to pour over my notes. As it got closer to exam time we walked over to the building where we chatted nervously with some other fellow students & friends who were taking the exam with us. I gave my sweet husband who accompanied me a quick kiss goodbye and we were off through the doors that led into the exam room. As we entered the hallway leading to the room I saw that there were other students also prepping for the exam sitting on the floors with books and notes around them looking miserable, as if they were all ready to throw up. I felt how they looked. It was the closest I have been to the kind of panic I imagine people feel when they are waiting in a bomb shelter. We all looked like we were awaiting a terrible doom, as if at any minute all our false senses of security would be blown to bits, and then, a professor of ours opened the door to the exam room - and the bomb hit. I walked in nervously, chose a random computer, Dana sat next to me and then they handed us our questions. Dana got hers first and from the "YES!" she cried out I knew that she had gotten the "Milton" question and that it most likely meant I would get the "Shakespeare" question - the one I did NOT want. I tried to tell myself, "no, it's ok, you could get the Milton one, it's ok" - I don't know why I did that. I didn't get the Milton question, my professor handed me a paper with the Shakespeare question circled, my spirit fell a little but my will took over.
With earplugs in place courteous of a sweet and thoughtful friend next to me I began my paper. I wrote it almost from beginning to end and three hours later printed up what I believe was about a 9 1/2 page paper. It went so quickly, writing-time always does. It flew by, the words poured out and I'm pretty positive I made the points I needed to. 4p.m. came and the exam was over.
Dana and I walked outside numb, not talking, just stunned. I had anticipated that I would cry, breakdown with the burden gone and task completed but I sheepishly yelled out to my husband who was waiting for us and he ran over looking far more excited than I felt. He kept saying, "it's over, it's over, you did it!" Words, words, words. 
He whisked me home to coffee and a quick Seinfeld break that was followed by dinner with my family at my favorite restaurant where my dear in-laws surprised me with their warm smiles, champagne and avocados (thanks again!). Then we headed down to the Grand Californian Hotel for some drinks where many unexpected friends also happened to be waiting for us when we got there. It was an amazing day.

So that's the story and a bit longer than I had intended. I'm still processing this "done" idea two days later, it doesn't make sense yet. 
The most rewarding aspect of all of this so far though, has been the overwhelming support that I have received from my friends and family through phone calls, text messages, surprises in person and the countless times I was told "I'll be praying for you". This was an accomplishment that I have largely done in private and frankly, didn't expect many people to care about. I have been floored by the encouragement that God has poured into my heart through this experience. 
And despite getting the Shakespeare question, my cup runneth over.

(*if you spotted my little hamlet quote or my nod to dr. faustus congrats, you have my respect and the full right to be very pleased with yourself)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

on the brink

Tonight I finished studying. 

Tomorrow I have my comprehensive exam where for three hours I will answer a question that I have been preparing to answer for the last two months and in some ways, for the last seven years. Seven years of preparation and somehow, tomorrow, it will all be over. Somehow, Lord willing, tomorrow I will have earned a Master's Degree in Renaissance English Literature

The last few days have been full of joy when I had anticipated them being full of stress, fatigue, anxiety and frustration. God has given me this incredible peace that has also come with a joy that continues to creep onto my face whenever I think about the exam. I just can't stop smiling. I've had so many little notes of encouragement, phone calls & texts and they all have blessed me, overwhelmed me with gratitude, love and hope. I didn't expect many people to care about this but so many of my friends and family have shown me that sweet care that I am positively overwhelmed by God's gifts to me. This has been a great week and today was the perfect end to these last few months of studying.

Tonight was surreal to say the least. My dear friend Dana and I spent the better part of ten hours studying today. We had a lovely coffee break courtesy of my dear, sweet mother and a for our last break we headed down for some delicious seasoned french fries with ranch dressing and coca-colas courtesy of the Nugget. At 10p.m. we called it quits, packed up our computers, turned in the books we had with us (approximately 20) and walked the long, cold, empty way down to our cars giggling, sighing and silent in disbelief. We are done - at least as far as studying goes. 

But there is still tomorrow. 

Our exam starts at 1p.m. and goes until 4. We both would really appreciate your prayers during that time. Specifically, that we would remember our critics & their arguments, that we would have clarity of thought & structure, that we remember the nice little points we really want to get across, and most importantly, that we both get the Milton question!! Thank you so much!

I'll let you know how it goes!