Friday, October 15, 2004

Darkness before the dawn

I've gone and hit a wall of sorts at Simmons - whereas I had spent most of the summer obsessing over whether or not I should complicate my trajectory through library school with a six-course graduate program in History, at the midpoint of this semester I find myself absolutely enthralled with my seminar in historical methods and utterly disappointed in the Intro to Archives course I am taking as part of a three-class concentration in Archives Management. Whether it's a function of the professor (she's terrible) or the subject matter itself is something I haven't been able to figure out yet, but in either case I have little choice but to ride out the term as best I can and figure out what to do next in the spring.

Now it often happens that in the course of taking classes that I really throw myself into one of them and adopt an indifferent slacker attitude to the others, as it just seems human nature to end up with a favored subject. This time however I am experiencing a real honest-to-goodness antipathy towards this Archives class, which makes me fear that my experience with the concentration is going to be less than pleasant overall. The trouble is, though, that if I were to abandon the Archives Management program, I would also have to drop out of the History degree as well, as the latter is only offered as part of a dual degree through the concentration.

So here I am, in the mirror opposite of the dilemma I had imagined during the summer: far from being the anchor that weighs me down this term, my History class is what's keeping me intellectually excited and on my toes, while the Archives course I had been looking forward to is playing the role of the semester's spoiler. What to do then? Cut my losses at the end of December and shift myself out of the Archives Management program (giving up the chance at a second Master's degree as well), or grit my teeth and hope for a better Archives instructor in the spring?

The fact that there's a nifty History seminar next semester about the history of the book might be enough to convince me to give the Archives Management route another go. Besides, then it's only one more course to round out the concentration, after which I'll be more or less free to spend my last two semesters at Simmons taking all the electives I feel like I'm missing out on right now. I know that a little patience is sometimes what's called for in situations such as these, as those weeks have a tendency of slipping by quickly and relatively painlessly if one can only forget about the big picture (which only serves to psyche people out) and keep the nose to the grindstone.

A question, though: why the hell would anyone want to put his or her nose to a grindstone? I've always wondered about the origin of this peculiar phrase. Phrase Finder, an online reference of common phrases, seems to think that it comes from knife grinders' workshops, where the "workers would lay flat on their fronts and held the blades against the grindstones". Still trying to figure out where the nose fits in there, though, as right now the only mental pictures I'm capable of conjuring up are of gruesome industrial accidents, as in:

"Poor Geoffrey. If only he hadn't kept his nose to the grindstone..."

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