Am I an idiot, and/or going to be shot if I admit that I have, overall, found the process of applying to grad schools to be, well, fun?
I'll admit, the beginning was pretty bad. I had to figure out all of the schools to apply to (easier for me than for some since my interests are not narrow and well-defined and I was not aiming for the tippy-top schools), try to get a handle on their requirements, and write the dreaded Statements of Purpose. There was a lot of anxiety and uncertainty around that aspect of it. And then I had to recruit recommenders and get them the information about where to write to and all of that, and fret over whether they would come through. More stress.
But there have been a lot of fun aspects as well. I've applied to eight schools; that is eight new cities to think about living in, eight campuses, eight fantasy school situations. Thinking about being in graduate school is neat.
I did not (successfully) contact any faculty before applying anywhere, but for two of my schools, I've had several interactions with the directors of graduate studies, and their emails have been very individualized and friendly. For some reason, that's been very enjoyable.
I don't know if I'll get in anywhere. Sometimes I think my obvious flakiness (I have a lot of dropped classes on my transcripts, even in recent years, and I'm 35 and just now graduating from college) will make me a non-starter. Other times I think my intelligence, gender, and ability to speak English will at least get me a spot somewhere as cheap TA labor. But I feel an overall warm glow thinking about this whole process and the various small pleasures it has afforded me.