It’s A Marathon, Not A Sprint

Tuesday was “the day”. I had given the Dickens presentation the day before and it went well. But today was the the Catherine McKinnon presentation on porn, yes, I say porn, and also the final journalism presentation. I got up early and hit Baker Street by 8 o’clock to find a magazine stand and my classroom example of porn……. I don’t even want to discuss the kind of disgustion in porn magazines these days or the level of discomfort I had looking through them. I settled for playboy….it was at least tame compared to some of the others.

With a quick swig of coffee before class I was off and running. Freedom of Speech first. And class sort of took off. I began by posting the Playboy centerfold on the white board and then introducing Catherine McKinnon as the legal scholar who decided that when we protect freedom of speech in the case of pornography, we throw women “under the bus” and with it, the amendment guaranteeing equal protection under the law. It sparked a room full of raised hands and a very lively debate about a woman’s right to choose to be in porn and whether or not pornography qualified as freedom of speech. The class was electric and a lot of fun. For the first time I really felt like I understood what our teacher wanted. This was it.

Journalism was next and our presentation on the BBC went o.k. The biggest problem with the BBC topic is that nothing about it was “sexy.” Others in the class had chosen serial killers, pedophiles, celebrity scandals. Ours was just the BBC. We did a pretty good job on it The research and the time was there. Taylor and I could have used one more day to polish the presentation, make sure the technology all worked and that we were on the same page about who would say what when. But overall, considering our action-packed Monday, things went o.k.

While a big chunk of the things on my plate were accomplished by noon, in some ways the workload was only beginning. After a quick lunch I hit the library and began to organize my freedom of speech chart…..separating out 58 philosophers by their arguments and their underlying assumptions. Once again technology or my lack of a handle on it, got in my way.

I had actually worked on this chart for some time on an earlier weekend, but it was organized in excel and that was not the way to go about it at all. I spent more time formatting than working on the substance. Thank G-d for Taylor who set me up in Tables in Word and things got exponentially better from that moment on. I spent the entire afternoon and early evening on the chart…literally from 1 to 7. I don’t think I remembered dinner.

We had a mandatory community reading lecture, our last one on Amazing Grace and then intern presentations from 7-9. It was the wrong night for this. Everyone was feeling the pressure of what they had do. And everyone had something due. The lecture itself was amazing, it was on the economics of slavery and pretty painful to hear. Bottom line, slavery was economically advantageous and that is why it went on for so long. The intern presentations followed and were o.k. I think most of us were distracted by all the work that we had to get done so it made it hard to stay engaged.

At 9 o’clock when the presentations were over we flooded out of the room and hit the library or our favorite study haunts. For me, it would be a long night.

I lasted until 4 am and got almost all of the chart complete. At the same time I was taking notes for my final Freedom of Speech paper, also due Thursday. I felt pretty good about what I’d done. It meant that Wednesday night wouldn’t be too painful, the night before everything was due.

I got 3 hours of sleep and went back to the computer center at 7am. I finished the chart just before 9 and made it to class. Surprisingly, I wasn’t all that tired. I’d hit “acceptance mode.” The only thing to do was to keep going.

Classes were o.k. Lunch was quick. But I couldn’t face the library again right away. I wasn’t tired, I was wired. But I wasn’t in a place where I could focus on more work. I wished I was. I could have knocked out the last paper and had the evening all to myself. But I hadn’t had all that much sleep since Sunday, it had been an intense 3 days, and I needed to do absolutely nothing for a while before I hit the books again. I spent a good part of the afternoon with Paul in the brasserie downloading pictures and sharing a cup of tea. It was lovely, and one of the few times we’d gotten to talk over the course of our trip.

I finally went to the library about 4. A bunch of my friends were first beginning to work on their charts and at first I thought about joining them, but really needed to hit the final Freedom of Speech paper. In my one act of rebellion, or perhaps my own election of Freedom of Speech, I chose to write a creative piece rather than write the argument for the grade I wanted piece that Dr. Kirk requested. To be honest I, the person who hates writing papers, had written 7 papers in 5 weeks. This would be the 8th and I just couldn’t face another serious legal argument about why I deserved a grade and how the philosophers we studied might figure into my values and future approach to life.

I started the paper about 4 and with a break for dinner was done by 9pm.
I had a gut feeling it wasn’t exactly what Dr. Kirk wanted, but it was what I wanted to write. For five weeks I’d followed every rule and this was my one act of slight mutiny. Besides that, I thought it ridiculous to write a paper about what grade I wanted when the teacher openly said she didn’t believe in grades to begin with. At the least, my paper wouldn’t be boring.

The library was packed. I hadn’t seen that many of us in there since we’d arrived 5 weeks ago. Chris, one of my friends, was hit with a bad sore throat and had tons of work to do. While I’d vowed not to be the “grown up” on the trip, I did have the medicine and knew where to find tea so I helped him out. That was the one time over the entire trip that I felt like a mom. It was a little conspicuous but it was worth it. He needed the help.

It was an incredible feeling to be DONE! 9:30 was a pretty early time to be finished with printing and final edits. I wanted to go out and celebrate, but everyone around me was facing a long night. I wasn’t sure I was up for going out by myself with such little sleep. I probably should have, just to see London at night. But instead I wasted some time with email, checked up on some things. And eventually made it back to my room.

Liz, my roommate was working on her final paper. It was one of the few nights we were in the room at the same time. I spent it reading the newspaper while she worked. It felt like college.

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