Wednesday, November 01, 2006

For me? You shouldn't have!

I was on my way to teach today and was walking downstairs and out of our building with another grad student friend who teaches at the same time as me, just down the hall. We came to the bottom of the stairs, and resting on the bottom was a red binder. Walking by it, my Fellow Grad Student (FGS) pointed and said, "Look - a free binder."

I was thinking about this after, and it's something that I do too. When I see something lying around now - whether it be a pen, notebook, or umbrella - I don't think "Oh look - someone forgot that" as much as I think, "Oh good - someone left a _________ for me."

This seems to be an odd mentality. I'm certainly not one to steal and I don't usually take stuff that's left behind (unless it's something really small, like a pen), but it seems to be the way I think about things when I'm not actually thinking about things. And, for that matter, I don't seem to be the only one who's thinking this way.

There's certainly an acknowledged tendency in grad school to appreciate things that are free. Free food is in especially high regard, and some of my friends and I have been known to invade biology pizza parties (we're not in biology but, granted, that was by invite from a prof and the bio department is also in our building.) Even if they're old discards from profs, free books are also a hit. We adore free printing, free paper, and free office supplies. Free transportation is bliss. Free entertainment is lovely where we can get it.

By and large, the love of things that are cheap or, better yet, free is something that I'm familiar with. It's a necessity on a grad student salary a lot of the time, and it's frequently acknowledged and even encouraged. Most grad students I know love all that is free. I have friends who are profs and now making decent salaries who love paid faculty meals to this day simply because they are free. But the idea that everything is there for us (so long as it's forgotten or just lying around) is kind of a scary way of viewing the world, and not something that I really want to cultivate over the next two or three years of this degree, especially when I don't know why it's so pronounced. I'm generally not one to feel particularly entitled, especially just to stuff. While I don't know if this is really something that can be "dealt with" in any concrete sense, it is a way of viewing the world that I think I'd like to be aware of and try to change. Although free is certainly a good thing, it's not everything.

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