In graduate school, we were once visited by a former co-T.A. who was now faculty elsewhere. She said, “Enjoy these days — they are the best of your lives!” I took this comment as the sort of formulaic thing Old Bambis have to say to Young Bambis, and left it at that.
Many years later, I would remember that distant afternoon and understand what my colleague had said.
Around the same time the Emeritus Professor opined that I was “in a fancy professional training program.” I took this comment as laconically as I had the comment from the woman just mentioned and thus, once again, missed the point.
A third comment from the era that I understood still less was from another student, who referred to us all as the “walking wounded.” He meant, or so I thought, that we were in our program despite knowing that we would not get jobs.
I did not see myself as joining the ranks of the walking wounded until later.
Many people left our program along the way and I thought of them as having the maturity, material resources and foresight necessary to make other choices. But it seems that another way of seeing them is as casualties.
Our graduate program was known for exhausting people, and for discouraging them. When you add that to the way in which it produced dead and wounded, you can see that it may have been a bad graduate program.
Another student in that program had a husband who pointed out that we were like members of an elite military corps. I understood his point then, but it seems increasingly accurate now.