more than eight years ago in a cold, snowy december I sat alone in a cafe, trying to make sense of what had happened.
a little later, a fellow grad student stopped by, looked at me, and remembering, asked me how it went.
"well," i said, "i didn't fail, but .." 
i doubt i finished the sentence. we went back and forth in polarised roles, he attempting to be cheerful, me still down.
i wouldn't feel "up" for a while.
it would take a while of forgetting, earning small separate achievements, before i could look back at it without pain and malaise.
that scene from my life came to mind because right now, i have a similar mood .. only less severe.
today was my last day of class .. until August, anyway.
i don't feel like celebrating, though much of me feels so glad ..
i don't feel mournful, but it feels like I lost something .. maybe a chance to have made a great beginning. instead at best i managed a mediocre but trouble-prone one.
all I feel are regrets .. that i could have done better or more, that I put to much effort in pointless things, that i never really understood or appreciated what was really going on, under my own nose and in my own classroom ..
.. that i just had no real sense of "how it all works."
i feel wrong about many things that don't matter, and i don't know how I feel about the things that do.
all this past academic year had taught me is doubt and stress and futility.
on the other hand, those were the same lessons i learned after my first year in graduate school. knowing that i'd be there a while, i worked at it and eventually it all made more sense .. not quite everything, but it got better.
part of me suspects that there is no purpose in life .. in that there is no one canonical purpose. to quote the existentialists, everyone must choose for himself.
i have not determined my purpose yet, but i believe there is one that suits me, in this academic life. it will take time .. but trusting on the pseudo-repetitiveness of life, it gives me a certain illusion of faith.
so i'm down right now. it won't be forever.
 it was right after my comprehensive exam, which was an oral, 1 1/2 hour friendly firing squad of questions. i distinctly remember feeling awful that i couldn't prove certain facts on the fly .. and advantageously yet unfairly, the committee never asked for them.