The exams and papers are graded, the final grades are posted and sent off, and now I can officially check yet another semester of my long and accomplished list of semesters-I've-finished-as-a-student.
And although I'm fairly sick and tired of still being a student, I have to say that the steady progression of 15 week periods is not all that bad of a way to watch your life pass. Unlike most American professions, where the five-day-a-week grind is punctuated only by a fleeting week of vacation here and there, the life of an academic is punctuated by a nice 1-3 month break between times when I have to officially show up somewhere. Which is not to say it's a vacation. Those weeks and months in between "fall" and "spring" are still work time, but they're my work time. No classes to get to. No papers to grade. No office hours to sit in, knowing that no one is going to stop by, at least not until I run out to get a cup of coffee.
The end of this semester feels different, though. I only have one more fall and two more springs as a "student." When I think about how quickly this last year has flown by, I wonder how it's possible that in just one year more it will be me sitting nervously, waiting anxiously for someone, anyone to want to interview me. That in just one year more, I will forgo Christmas Eve for pre-interview preparations. That in just a few months I will be drafting the application letter and teaching statement.
Being the good Virgos that we are, J and I talk about the next year and a half compulsively. We imagine what type of place we'll move into next. We wonder out loud together and silently to ourselves who will get the better job--the job that will be the deciding factor for the next who-knows-how-many years of our life. We talk through the various locations we are willing to move to--North Dakota, definitely out. This coming year has been a long time coming.
So another semester is done. But this one seems different. Semesters usually follow semesters without much difference. This ending feels like the end of something bigger. This is, for all intents and purposes, the beginning of our last year as students. With any luck, in just over a year, I'll be able to start watching a different type of semester come and go.