Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Progress Report and Real Brain Food

Last night I was up rather late working on a progress report that I had to present to my "Rhetoric and the Poetics" class. As the clock hit 12 I decided I was hungry for cold cereal. Realizing that I had neither milk nor Honey Nut Cheerios, I decided to make a Smiths run.

My mind was obviously still preoccupied with the paper I was writing as opposed to the task of obtaining sustenance, because as I walked out of the store this is what I had in my hands:

1 gallon of milk
1/2 gallon of orange juice
4 avocados
2 sticks of deodorant
1 giant tube of pixi stix

That's right, no Honey Nut Cheerios. I don't know how or why I decided against my original intentions, but for some reason the cosmos had directed me otherwise.

I got home with my purchases, and before I had even made it back down to my room from the kitchen, I had swallowed 3 large mouthfuls of pixi stix, taken several swigs of orange juice and was working on an avocado. I got to my room, finished off my avocado, took another couple swigs of oj and got back to work on my paper. And that's the last I remember of last night.

This morning at around 8:30 I jerked awake as "Take Five" played loudly from my phone which doubles as my alarm clock. In jerking awake, pixi stix was strewn across my bedroom as I instinctively waved the tube clutched in my right hand like a magic wand. Rubbing the sleep out of my eyes to try and make sense of my surroundings, I found myself on the floor. In my immediate vicinity I saw my laptop, four empty avocado peel halves, a half-empty carton of orange juice and my space heater casting an eerie orange glow about the room. As I sleepily pieced together what I was doing there, I realized that I must have fallen asleep while writing my progress report. And I was immediately filled with panic.

I tapped the keyboard of my laptop impatiently waiting for it too to wake up. As the screen lit up I looked at my progress report and found that while I'd gotten quite a bit of it done, I'd fallen asleep before finishing it off. I didn't have much time to before class started, so I grabbed the oj, took several long draws and got back to work. I wrapped it up and made it to class nearly on time.

As class went on around me I read over my progress report to see if I was going to embarrass myself when I presented it to the class. In reading it I thought I had done a fairly good job, but the added pressure of having to present/read it to the class made me self-conscious that I'd totally misread the text I was responding to. After all, this paper was fueled on orange juice, avocados and flavored sugar. That sounded more like a recipe for a stomachache rather than sound scholarship.

Eventually the class turned to look at me as I handed out copies of my progress report and proceeded to read it aloud. It actually didn't sound too bad out loud, and the conversation that ensued after I had read it didn't seem to contradict anything I'd said. So far so good, but I still wasn't quite sure it was good enough. I still had to email it to Greg, my professor, and have him look over it.

Now Greg is notoriously thorough when he reviews our work. He's the thesis chair for one of my friends and she is currently very stressed about her thesis because the revisions that he is suggesting she do are going to require a lot more work than she had anticipated. She's easily one of the brighter students in the program, and working with Greg has caused her to say such things as "sometimes I wonder how I ever even got into graduate school...what the heck am I doing here?" and "I fear I am an idiot and everyone's been hiding it from me." Thankfully Greg allows and encourages (read that "requires") revisions of all work that isn't up to snuff, even short progress report essays. This is the second class I've taken from Greg while in graduate school, and this is the fifth progress report I've written for him. Never have I done a good enough job on the first try and have always had to revise. I say these things not to complain, revision always helps me learn more and sharpen the knowledge that I'm gaining, but rather to illustrate the fact that Greg is a very rigorous grader and that no matter how good my class presentation went, that was no indication of what Greg's personal response to my paper would be.

This afternoon as I woke up from my nap on the 4th floor of the JFSB (incidentally, I had been sleeping in the very same chair I was in when the incidents surrounding the famous "onyx eyes" poem occurred), I opened my laptop and saw in my inbox that Greg had returned my progress report. Assuming that such swift response meant revision, I opened the document and found after a few minor grammar and usage corrections the following words:

"Nicely done, Sam. A"

A. No revision necessary. I attribute it to the pixi stix, avocados and oj.


  1. I have heard that avocados are "brain food" before. Perhaps you have discovered a magic combination.

  2. I don't know how you do it, but you do over and over again. How many times has something similar to this happened? How many people are geniuses in their sleep? I can think of only one other—your brother.

  3. I suppose now we know: pure skill minus self-awareness equals success and prosperity. Well done, Esquire.