Fordham GSAS: Grad. Life: 'Tis the be Sickly!

Monday, November 8, 2010

'Tis the be Sickly!

If you haven’t noticed from my previous entries, I’ve recently been “flipping through” The Chronicle of Higher Education. They have some really great articles, some of which I’ve shared with you all through this blog, and others for which I kept the running commentary in my own head.
While looking through some older articles this past week, while I was sick in bed, I happened upon one of the most interesting and simultaneously hilarious article openings I’ve ever read: “Caribbean spiny lobsters are social animals, but they know when to avoid other individuals of their own species that have a lethal virus, even before the sick lobsters show any symptoms, three Virginia scientists write.” 
Maybe most people won’t find this sentence funny…maybe it’s just the cartoon image of the situation that I’ve created in my brain that makes me giggle (and then cough). You know, something like this: one social spiny lobster (let's call him Fred) crawls down the beach heading towards his bff, spots a strange and sickly twinkle in his friend’s eye, and immediately turns around in fear. As Fred hurriedly scuttles away he shouts to his abandoned friend behind him: “You have a lethal virus! Stay away from me!” 
But all I could think to myself, as I lay sick in bed, was: grad. students need that power. “Why just grad. students?” you may ask. Well, I’ll tell you why.
So you know how, when you’re in elementary school, middle school, or high school, it’s usually ok to stay home sick as long as you get the homework from a friend and make sure you didn’t miss any tests or presentations? So obviously this group doesn’t really need lobster powers.
Being sick in undergrad. is a little worse, especially if you have to miss a once-a-week seminar, or miss your internship. It's harder to make up exams and reschedule presentations. You might have read a whole novel only to miss the one day you’re discussing it, read a chapter in your text book that you needed help understanding only to be left with teaching yourself via powerpoint slides, or lose that $10 internship stipend that you use to buy something that’s not gross cafeteria food.
Being sick as an adult in the “real world” can suck too. You have only a certain number of days you can take off. You may worry about losing vacation days, about what your boss thinks of your weak immune system, or about whether you’ll be pulled off a project or lose a promotion just for missing too many days.
But grad. students aren’t just students—they’re usually working at least part time as well. So, essentially, imagine the last two scenarios combined. Imagine worrying about writing a 20-page paper when you’ve missed the class discussion on the topic and stressing about letting down the people who give you your stipend. The doubled anxiety is enough to keep you sick for longer than you should be! *Deep yoga breaths*
I know stuff is going around right now. ‘Tis the season to be sickly, whether you’re in school, or in an office, or both. But I swear I know I got sick from that guy who coughed on me while I was walking to the train station last week. Yes, he turned his head and coughed directly in my face. Maybe, if I were a lobster, I would have seen this coming.

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