Saturday, February 7, 2009

All Bleeding Eventually Stops

2. All Bleeding Eventually Stops

In one of the administrative offices at my graduate school they posted a not-so-subtle sign which read, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on our part.” Well, so much for sympathy. You’ve missed a deadline or failed to read your graduate catalog or never picked up the “Requirements for Degree Completion” and…what? This delays the awarding of your degree by a semester? A year? You get kicked out of the program? What?
First off, don’t set yourself up for these sorts of problems. Read the information they give you. Mark important dates on a calendar and, …wait for it…look at your damn calendar from time to time! Talk to fellow students, and to teachers, to keep up on rumored changes. Go into the office occasionally to read the announcements and memos posted there. Talk to the office staff. Know their names. Let them know you when you don’t have a problem and you don’t specifically want something from them. Notice things. Be polite.
My wife was a paramedic for ten years before returning to college for graduate degrees in Art History and Textiles. She’s always particularly amused when academics talk about an “emergency situation.” Is everyone breathing? Is anyone losing blood? How much blood? When you’ve restored absent heartbeats and saved dying babies, budget shortfalls and plagiarism hearings don’t seem so life-threatening. Even in a true emergency the paramedics’ proverb holds true. “All bleeding eventually stops.” The patient will either get better or die. And everybody dies, eventually. For paramedics, you do what you can the best way that you can, and after the call is over you go back to the station house, get your equipment back in order, and clean up. Some days you smile and brag, other days you just sulk and grumble. You cope.
Certainly some mistakes have disproportionately high costs, and no one should have to live a life of constant sorrows, but what really constitutes an emergency to you? Perhaps what you have is actually just an annoying, inconvenient, or notably stupid situation? I thought so.

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