Graphic by Megan Eloise/The Gazelle

GAF and Be Merry

For those unfamiliar with John Masefield’s poem Laugh and Be Merry, the source of my little appellative quibble, here’s a brief synopsis: Life isn’t so ...

Nov 14, 2015

Graphic by Megan Eloise/The Gazelle
For those unfamiliar with John Masefield’s poem Laugh and Be Merry, the source of my little appellative quibble, here’s a brief synopsis: Life isn’t so bad. Chill out. God loves the world. Humanity rocks.
Or at least, that’s what I’d like to believe when I wake up each day and stare at this annoyingly affirmative poem on my wall, put up in a moment of extremely determined positivity. Is it possible to be “proud to belong to the old proud pageant of man” when I have overslept again and barely made it to my meeting with a professor in a Starbucks-induced haze, only to find that my first freshman paper, the one I had been working on for the last two weeks, has received a — shudder — C minus?
Every Indian gene in my body was jolted into alertness as I scanned the heavily red marked paper that lay before me. I was not used to failing or constructive criticism of any kind, especially where my writing is concerned. As an International Baccalaureate Literature Higher Level student, I had strolled into the classroom and out of the library three days later with a sense of complete accomplishment. I had written the greatest dissertation on Noah’s Ark since the disciples themselves.
“Pfft,” I thought proudly as I watched my classmates struggling with the assignment, spending hours with the Global Academic Fellows at the Writing Center trying to explicate each action of the medieval theatre. They must be ye olde fools, really.
I was already having visions of my professor praising my insightful analysis in class, perhaps even taking me with her to the next literature conference in Denmark. There the scholars would obviously also be so impressed by my writing that a hushed silence would fall upon the audience after which they would break into raucous applause – or at least as raucous as a group of scholars on medieval theatre is likely to engage in.
That was until this particular morning, when I realized that the only old idiot was yours truly. As my professor kindly explained what she wanted out of my work in the fifteen minutes allotted for our meeting time before she had to meet with another similarly deluded freshman, all that rang out clearly in my head was “C-MINUS C-MINUS C-MINUS” flashing in all its glaring, shameful redness.
I practically ran out of the office and into the writing center of the library, panting at the information desk like the relative of a patient in the Emergency Room wing of a hospital. Which is what I suppose I was – except my writing was the patient that was bleeding a red C-minus profusely and had to be stitched up soon if it were to survive. The lady at the reception desk understood my urgency perfectly; she must be accustomed to frantic freshmen murmuring unintelligible pleas for help.
“Please have a seat, the GAF will be with you shortly,” she said in that calm voice that grown-ups seem to monopolize.
He came, he read, he conquered. In four weeks, an A-minus was born.
No, I’m just kidding. Meeting with a GAF isn’t magically going to turn your paper from a C to an A. However, as contrived as this sounds, they do have the superpower of experience – all of them are college graduates, so they know what it’s like to go from being an overconfident freshman to a defeated entity in a matter of seconds. They will listen to your concerns and not give you that incredibly professor-like spiel — the one about the importance of thesis statements and writing lexicons — without first explaining in incredibly simple English what college writing is about and possibly even why we are writing in the first place. That helped me a great deal, because Cores can seem quite intimidating in their abstractness — especially with their bold, looming titles like Money, Laughter and On Violence — all of which, though undeniably interesting, also contribute to my existential crises.
GAFs slow it down, they chill it out, they get boogie with the paragraphs and make you understand what explicating even means. They are the easily approachable in-betweeners who seem to know the answer to everything — my questions to them have ranged from  “What is Brechtian Distanciation?” to “Why Pina?” to “How do I turn this camera on?” to “Can you teach me how to sew?”
They are fellows in every sense of the word — their openness and even their youth decreases the distance between the intimidated student and the intellectual professor who has been published in 500 scholarly journals and is much too world-renowned for one to approach with their silly questions. The very nature of the fellowship makes it seem like the GAFs do not need to be impressed, they are merely here to help the babies of the community and nurture our writing as theirs was nurtured by Academic Fellows before them.
I cannot imagine this campus without these casual yet enlightened sources of knowledge — seriously go learn how to sew, GAFs Julie and Emma in the Art department are brilliant at it — occupying the Academic Resource Center or wiping the tears of a student with their crumpled up essays.
My cappuccino from the Nescafé machine may never taste the same without this atmosphere of skepticism and hope.
So GAF till the game is played and be you merry, my friends.
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