The Passing Eye

It’s Monday morning, Martin Luther King Day. Our internet access is out, so I’m sitting and drinking my usual cup of morning tea and checking my email on my iPhone, and thinking about the week that’s about to begin.

I’m looking around the house for hurricane lanterns as the other side of this particualar storm bears down on me. The eye of the storm showed up just before Christmas, as classes ended, as I submitted my application for a fellowship at the NPR mothership in DC, as we cleaned our apartment and headed out to Arizona.

Hurricanes are a trite metaphor, I know, but for an academic year with a “break” in the middle, they’re pretty apt. Last semester had some truly dark periods in it, as I scrambled to find stories. I’ve never been a great time manager, and what few skills I had were blown in tatters off their flagpoles in October; the rest of the semester involved a lot of frenzied shouting and running around. By the time Christmas, New Year’s, and Twelfth Night came near, I was exhausted, physically and emotionally.

Columbia undergrads (hell, every school at Columbia save for the J-school, as near as I can tell) get a full four weeks of break, but as the administration is fond of telling us, we’re in the midst of a two-year program which has to be crammed into one year, so niceties like “getting January off” are denied to us.

Still, even as I’ve grown anxious over how much work we’re getting done on our Masters’ Project (a 25-minute video piece about veterans returning home with PTSD and the range of treatments they’ve had over the years), January’s definitely felt a little like a respite. I’ve seen more of Kate, my dad came visiting for a long weekend, and we’ve been cooking more and watching more movies. We’ve had Kate’s car down here with us in the city, so bringing back groceries and kitty litter has been easier on our backs, despite requiring finding parking spaces.

Wednesday, however, we have an all-day session at school with Chip Scanlon, who’s an accomplished journalist, an alumnus of the school, and (apparently) a big Getting Things Done advocate. The session’s about writing, time management, and getting spun up to the pace necessary for the second semester.

Thursday and Friday mark the beginning of our workshops – in my case, Radio Workshop, in which we’ll be producing a weekly All-Things-Considered style newscast every Friday afternoon, and changing our roles every week. One week a reporter, the next a producer, the next a host, and so on. Thursday evenings, 5-7, and all day Friday.

Next Tuesday evening, 7-10, my seminar, National Affairs Reporting, starts. We’ll be working on how to report on subjects at a national scale. During the semester we’ll take two trips: one to Albany, and one to Washington D.C. – on the last day of class, our professor serves wonton soup.

Next Wednesday, my elective, News Editing, 5-7 p.m., on better editing of our own work and others’. My RW1 professor assured me that while the work is occasionally tedious and always painstaking, there’s always work as a line or copy editor. Me, I’d just like to be better at looking at my own work critically.

Unlike the first semester, where every class I took was mandatory, I chose all three of these. We’ve been told repeatedly that the time requirements of the second semester will be greater than the first, but since the classes are ones we deliberately asked for, the work feels better.

Layer on top of those three our overarching Masters’ Project, which will need to be written, editted, and turned in on March 22nd, the last day of what the rest of Columbia calls “Spring Break.” Put on top of that the job-hunting which will presumably start in earnest once our projects are turned in, and the occasional substitute newscasting for WFUV (which will be a useful item on my resume, I’ve been assured), and my part of our cooking and cleaning and cat-annoying…

It’s been a nice period of relative quiet, despite multiple trips to Trenton, Camden, and one this past weekend to Syracuse. Tonight we’ll have dinner with our BFFs in Queens, Wednesday evening I’ll go to New Jersey to see Teller’s (of Penn and) production of Macbeth, and then I’ll really and truly be back into the maelstrom.