Why do I hate the middle of a semester? I love the energy and expectancy of the beginnings. I even like the end with its small redemptive graces. But the middle. Grrrrrrr.
The middle is the slough of despond, the grind, the reality principle. The middle makes me dread a stack of middling papers that I would take as a challenge were it September. It's where I encounter the students who have spent weeks looking for the ideal point where they can do just enough to get the grade and not one joule of effort more. By the middle they have found that longed-for sweet spot and parked it.
By this point in the semester, too, you've used up most of your best stuff and exhausted your charms. Now you become peevish and uncharitable with late assignments and slapdash work. The middle is a muddle, it's mediocre. It's half-way, half-hearted, half-assed. And an old poem about the middle comes suddenly to mind:
There’s nothing particularly peculiarAbout this particular school year,
Unless you count what mattered once:
The thinning hair, the flatulence,
The moles that disconcertingly persist
Like memories of an opportunity you’ve missed;
Or the clever hopes that rise and sink
Between the first and second nightly drink:
When you can almost convince yourself that nothing’s been lost
And nothing’s been sold.It’s just middle age that’s somehow grown old.