Perpetual Student Itis

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not me, but wearing my favorite color (I'm sort of coveting her outfit and her student status at the same time)

Yes, you’re right: not only is that not a real disease, it sounds really dumb. But still, it’s an affliction of mine.

No, not the way Wikipedia describes it. Apparently being a perpetual student means continuing to take classes for years without working toward a degree. I never had that issue. Perhaps the disorders need to be renamed in order to distinguish them. Perpetual means “continuing forever” while another word like perennial might better convey the students who only spend a few years at it. I’m definitely in the perpetual camp: this is a lifelong thing for me, not just a phase.

I went straight from high school to college; not only never took a semester off in college, but stayed for summer term almost every year; went straight from my undergrad degree into grad school (and was so bored the summer in between since I’d gotten so used to summer school); loved grad school more than I thought was possible; died of boredom during the couple years I stayed home after grad school; shouted hallelujah when I got hired by the community college to teach (if I can’t be a student, at least I can still be at school regularly); and have been scheming how to uproot my family while I go through a PhD program sometime soon, after which I plan to be a full-time professor for the rest of my life, never retiring.

Other signs and symptoms?

  • feeling green with envy when my sister describes the cool lectures and forums and other fascinating college gigs she’s participating in and saying to her, “No way! I want to go hear about how Inception relates to Jungian philosophy!”
  • considering my access to the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) through the college library’s subscription one of the best benefits of being faculty
  • loving those continuing ed catalogs and wishing I could take every class from Architecture to Zoology (excited to someday have all kids in school so that I can take advantage of the other greatest faculty benefit: free courses!)
  • hating that I’m an ignorant American who only speaks one language (and wanting to rectify that by running off to some country — any country — that primarily speaks a language other than English)
  • wanting to know enough Spanish to read Don Quixote or enough French to read Les Mis, etc; willing to learn dead languages like Latin just to better understand other things 
  • itching to write research papers, even eager to get started on a dissertation someday (and staring at my students in disbelief when they tell me they can’t think of anything they want to research — seriously? they aren’t freakin’ excited to go learn something they’ve always wanted to know about and then challenge themselves to frame a new perspective on it in writing? does that mean I’m weird?)
  • being addicted to the library hold system; having my library card number memorized; having a quick-click button for the library’s website on my internet browser; having a tendency to check out more books than I can read at once but not being able to stop myself because I’m excited about all of them
  • disliking predictable movies and other simplistic entertainment because I want intellectual stimulation even when I’m relaxing (see this post from March)
  • inheriting the gene for Perpetual Student Itis from both sides of the family (for example, having a dad who left his family of five kids for a few months so he could go on “study abroad” to Alaska for a semester, sleeping in a tent and bathing in freezing cold streams with a class full of environmentalists; also, my maternal grandparents both having master’s degrees long before it was even the norm to get any college degree)

So, as you can see, this is definitely something to be taken seriously. No known cure exists, so all you can do is keep the cravings at bay. Which is why I’m probably due for a trip to the library today to pick up the herbal remedy books I have on hold.

My poor kids are also very susceptible to catching it from me. Hubby sometimes threatens them with “no college” just to see at what age they’ll start reacting in horror at the very thought. I’m predicting that’ll happen sooner than we think.

Can anybody relate to any of this? (Well, besides my sister, who is already depressed about her upcoming graduation.) Am I off-the-radar weird?

Leave a comment!

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13 responses »

  1. Oh yes! I know how you feel! I LOVED college. I went 7 years (though only got my BFA) but enjoyed every art class I took. I still take classes at SLCC sometimes. I love not just college, but learning new things like new art programs and stuff. Knowledge definitely is power 🙂

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  2. Random tangent thought — but have you read THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN? It’s about how the OED was written/created. It was an interesting story and I’ll never think of the OED in the same way.

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  3. I hear you! Although I think I am one of those people that is stuck forever in college without ever graduation (and my husband too… but that’s a story we won’t get into).

    Mostly I am just jealous of how well my SILs are at GRADUATING and moving to higher degrees, etc.! And also I covet that cardigan (I would wear one everyday if I could), but mostly I covet your degree.

    I don’t itch to write research papers or be a professor of any sort, but I do LOVE to sit in classrooms and listen. I also have an INSANE obsession with school supplies. I don’t use mechanical pencils, because I love using freshly sharpened PERFECT pencils (you can’t use just ANY pencil of course, you have to find the right ones) with grips and matching erasers to boot.

    I miss school… bad day to read this post as I was just trying to figure out if it was worth it to go into more debt, so that Justin could stay with the kids and I could go to school too.

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    • I’m so sorry, Steph. It’s so hard to feel stuck with little kids. I did have one folklore professor, Jackie Thursby, that I really admired for raising all her kids and then getting all her degrees after that and going on to be a professor. It was nice to know that I didn’t have to be in a hurry: I could always wait and go through college once the kids are grown. I hope that helps you feel better, too. Or I could send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils to cheer you up! 😀

      And maybe someday we’ll live in the same city and we can trade off watching each other’s kids.

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  4. I am beyond the opposite. I love to learn and do well in school when I am motivated but I never felt challenged. I get so bored, especially with lecture style classes. It is not something I like about myself but it is true. I am completely amazed when people make the choice to become teachers… really? It was so boring. Of course I did attend schools is Arizona, the worst state for education in all of America.

    I want to get a PhD someday but I doubt I will manage it. That is so much school!

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    • I can relate to some of that, too, like not feeling challenged (I went to school in AZ, too!). I guess I’m lucky to have a personality where I would challenge myself. For example, any time there was a creative component to a homework assignment, I usually put 500% effort into it, going well beyond what the teacher wanted. I like being a teacher because I can use creative activities and discussions instead of lectures. 😀

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  5. I knew I wasn’t the only one… I worked hard in the real world for about 14 years after graduating,with disappointing results. But, I had to find out what I was missing: not much. Now I am back to school to stay. Obviously this is tougher if you have kids, we don’t. I realized that you only need to take 1 course to be considered a student. This also doesn’t rule out working, rather it puts work in a context because it’s not the only thing going on in your life…It’s easier to get health insurance as a student. Over @30? Live off-campus. I think I am onto something here, keep an eye out for the book…

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