When I made my annual plea for staffers to write about their reading days, Dan jumped forward to volunteer. Which is excellent, because Dan has an adorable dog, and reading days are always enhanced by the company of an adorable dog. Here’s how things went last week for Dan and Murray.
There are lots of nice things about a day at home reading applications. Sleeping in a bit on a Wednesday is a treat. I also find it easier to focus on reading closely without the intrusion of various other projects. And when the weather reports in New England break out the phrase “bitter cold,” you know it’s a day made for staying in. Bring it on, applicants!
Now about that “sleeping in.” I live farther from Fletcher than some, so getting going at 7:30 feels almost like a weekend to me, though even our dog Murray isn’t awake yet.
Without fail, my first thought upon surveying a stack of applications is “this shouldn’t take too long.” Doesn’t look like so much, right?
A few things to keep in mind: 1. Note that my application pile is considerably larger than the ones in back, which are my wife’s high school English portfolios, still to be graded. To be fair, she’s been working through hers for the past several days, and each represents a semester’s worth of work. But still, my pile is bigger, so I win. 2. You may have heard elsewhere that we read every part of the application. Seriously. We really do. Some files go more quickly than others; while a decision is sometimes pretty easy to determine, many times I find myself picking through an application several times, and sitting and thinking about it for a few minutes before deciding. The point is that this stuff takes a while.
Reading Fletcher applications is fascinating and humbling. In the first few hours of my day, I’ve “met” World Food Programme staffers, Marines with multiple overseas deployments, fair trade researchers, clean energy specialists, a couple of Peace Corps volunteers, and an engineer focusing on post-Fukushima safety regimes, and I’m sitting here in sweats and a hoodie trying to avoid paper cuts. Time for some breakfast, I think.
Reading days are all about pacing. I like to make a bit of a dent in the day’s task before my first reward. On a sub-zero January day, the menu choice is a no-brainer – an egg white, veggie bacon and cheese breakfast sandwich, and a coffee refill. (Coffee isn’t part of the pacing/reward paradigm, if you were wondering. It’s considered a reading day staple food, and therefore is available at all times. This is cup #2). Applicants, I apologize for any errant grease stains I may or may not get on your files.
After another couple hours, it’s time for another break. On these frigid days, poor Murray doesn’t get to go outside as much as he’d like (which, in a perfect world, would be always), but he still needs a stretch every now and then, and so do I. It’s nice to take a breather, and having me energized and alert is to your benefit as an applicant.
Back at my reading station, I’m making progress. While I read about the experiences of Supreme Court clerks, gender-based violence researchers, and youth NGO founders, Murray is hard at work on his own project: sunbathing.
I find it’s easy to lose track of time on reading days. I can get into a groove and not realize that several hours have passed. I don’t really notice that my pile is dwindling, until it hits me that I’m on my last application of the day. Maybe it’s yours?
I feel a nice sense of accomplishment, and in serious awe of our pool of candidates. Murray, on the other hand, is harder to impress. Looks like it’s time to suit up for another jaunt into the frozen outdoors.