Saturday, March 31, 2007
Of course, after Richard, or Cool Language Geek, said that you really need to study a language in a class to really learn it (which I know many people would say is not true, but I agree with him instinctively because I suck at those self-paced things -- I need the social pressure of looking like an idiot if I don't study), I didn't buy any of the language kits. We're going to check the reviews online, SO and I said as we left the bookshop.
But I was totally possessed by the vision of this great language geek who could call up so many languages, comparing their vocabulary at will. I was just saying that I wondered what he was doing when there he was. Sitting at the bus stop bench, a shopping cart of belongings filled to the brim.
"My other cart is a Mercedes," he said as we walked past.
"Of course it is," I volleyed back, smiling.
OH! I've never wanted to give someone $20 more in my life. I've never felt so much like giving someone money would be an insult. I wish I lived here in Urban Home City so I could invite him over to my house. What does one do? He's like an older shaggy professor-type living, I'm assuming, on the streets. He knows five languages! Is that where intellectuals outside the academy belong in this country?
And as I sit down now, trying to get my head back into my dissertation, I wonder about this man, where he is now, where he'll be on the holidays. He should be teaching languages, helping people to bend their mouths into the new shapes different languages require. Why isn't he? Why is it that I get to labor over Chapter 4 and he gets to. . .I don't know. I don't know anything about him. But I hope many things for him, for the stranger in our midst. He doesn't seem unhappy. He said he was Jewish. I hope he has somewhere to go on Monday night.
And of course, this is not helping me dig back into Chapter 4. ARRRGGHH!
I went out in the sun, figuring some sun and flowers would help me get some ideas about shaping the damn thing. I only got antsy to get to the hotel and get to work. So SO and I went. I sent SO out for things so I could have some time alone. I worked. Things happened. I figured out how the damn thing should start. By the time SO came back, I had written some pages (that will need to be revised, but you gotta start somewhere).
And my mood totally changed. I could so much better deal with the thirteen-year olds guffawing and being stupid, the cat owner who never takes the cat to the vet, the college graduate talking shit about Asian students in a way that I deplore. Of course, the wine helped. A lot. But if I hadn't gotten some work done, forget it.
Friday, March 30, 2007
So I met with Peppy Advisor. I have to admit, much as I look at her askance right now because she is my diss advisor and therefore The Enemy, she is a lovely person who I just enjoy talking with. But I simply MUST remember to not make commitments about little things like due dates when I feel so full of energy that I can conquer the world. I have to remember I may not always feel that way. Why can't I remember that there are those days when it takes so much effort just to do normal things -- and that they will come again? (I didn't think they'd come this soon. Waaaa. Yes, I do realize that there is probably some medical term for this like ultra rapid cycling. I stopped seeing the therapist who suggested I get tested for bi-polar. I like my mania and my denial very much, thank you. Besides, what's better for a dissertation crunch like mine than a bit of mania? But I think running late so I couldn't get coffee and a bagel is now taking its toll. Also, icky acid reflux from, perhaps, taking my morning pills without a chaser of food? Whine, whine, whine.)
Anyway, what I'm saying is that now that tiny speedbump of a writing project I've been working on is now scheduled, with due dates for those little dashed-off notes that they insist such projects be written with. Whole draft of Big D is due to PA between May 1 and May 7. WHAT??????????
Yes, you heard me. Chapters 3 and 4 are due in three weeks, then revisions on what she's looking at now, PLUS those chapters that ARE NOT YET COMPLETELY WRITTEN are due in, basically, a month. Where's the bar?
So last weekend and this week when I thought working 12-hour days was so I could have a nice relaxing weekend with The Fam and SO was totally wrong. I was working 12-hour days so I could graduate in August and go to Adventure U. Maybe this is why I'm grumpy and so was a bit pissy when SO wouldn't let me get a word in edgewise when I was trying to tell him that I would be delayed getting into Favorite Airport and instead he had to tell me about how it took him an hour to get from the garage into the terminal. Maybe I'm just a bitch. Maybe I'm just a totally normal dissertator who can't deal with all this shit.
I'm so grumpy I can't tell whether this is significant: I heard a little girl saying to her mother that she "left spiderman bag there, left spiderman bag there" and so her mother left the other toddler and the stroller with Child #3 with Dad and went back wherever "there" was. I looked at the father and the two children. He seemed happy enough -- clearly one of those dads who are into being with their kids. And I looked at the mother being dragged off and considered how every trip must be an event for this little family of five -- and I probably had in my head my Sweet Friend (one of my favorite people in the world) with two children who totally understands being totally crazy busy because she is crazy busy with her own kids -- and I thought not me. I just don't want my life to be that.
I know there are people who manage to have kids and also have a dynamic career. But I'm a tunnel vision person. I'm not sure I could balance it. Maybe that's the lack of caffeine talking. Maybe that's the blinded-with-work dissertator talking? Why think about such things now dammit? I just hate everything anyway. Hate-Filled Dissertating Friend totally pleased me yesterday because she was in fact incredibly hate-filled. Fairly oozing with it. Misanthropes unite!
I should probably check about getting on a plane soon. Considering the lunacy of The Fam, I can't decide whether I'm going to or coming from absurdity. Course I don't know if I'm coming or going anyway. I know one thing: I'm working. And that's all there is to know.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
But instead it's still in the 9ams here and I have gassed up my car, taken my rent check over to the management company, gotten coffee, done the dishes, put my winter sweaters in a bag so I can find shirts to wear in my drawer when it's ranging between 50 and 80 degrees, and done the wash. I'm waiting for my clothes to dry so I can go and meet with Peppy Advisor about my peppy dissertation and not-so-peppy (more like harried and freaked out) timeline. (Note to self: write timeline somewhere other than in diary -- PA might actually want to see it without the skull and crossbones and doodles of doom.) Clearly the anxiety of getting the diss done so I can go to Adventure U is affecting me at all levels. Plus, I'm leaving town tomorrow morning and am busy every moment until then, so basically I'm doing the wash so I have clothes to pack. Now, I thought waking up in time to get laundry done before the Peppy Advisor meeting was probably not going to happen. I didn't think my body would flip out and refuse to let me go back to sleep at a staggering 6AM! That's just not right.
True Confession #2: Yesterday, I tutored in the morning, tutored in the afternoon, then before tutoring in the evening I went and had a drink over at a bar. (I figure if I don't exist, they won't notice I'm happier than usual.) WSF says I need three-martini lunches. SO thinks I should be drinking more, though I don't think he meant before going to work. WSF says I should be smoking more. (I gave up not smoking for Lent. I did manage to have a cigarette last night in the beautiful night that reminded me there is something deeply spiritual and magical about nighttime in general, especially a balmy night with the trees starting to flower and the moon seeming to follow you down the street.) But dear readers, do yourself a favor. Do not drink and then go back to work tutoring students. Not because I don't think you can handle an alcohol-laced cup of coffee. Because you'll find yourself having such a good time helping students with master's projects and resumes that you'll find yourself still sitting there an hour after you're supposed to go home. That's just not right. Tutoring for 7 hours in one day is not right.
True Confession #3: Remember how when I was sick and at the Caffeine Corporation I had overheard a barista lamenting his art school application letter of intent? How I wanted to help him but decided I'd keep my nose out of it? Well, guess who is going over to the Buck of Stars during her only free time of the day to go and help him with his letter of intent. It's as if now that I've got a job I feel I should spread my Englishness over hill and dale. Or maybe since I'm not in my own classroom, I have to grab at opportunities for teaching. Not right. I'm telling you. Not right.
In other news, yesterday I saw a person (gender unidentifiable) who was walking across the parking lot wearing an old-fashioned spaceman's helmet. The white kind with the one small horizontal bubble of glass in the front. So basically what I'm saying is that I saw an alien walk across the parking lot as I was going to buy a salad. See why I had to have the drink? I just don't get what's going on. The next thing you know I'll be waking up early. Oh wait. . .
I have not worked on my dissertation. Barely worked on it yesterday. Am stuck in an ethical representation conundrum that I should probably just go ahead and write out in hopes I can turn it into part of the subject of the chapter. Going to Urban Home City tomorrow with SO. Have much muchness to do today, including meeting Hate-Filled Dissertating Friend and working in the afternoon-evening. Talked to one of my favorite people in the world (not WSF, a friend currently without smart and appropriate pseudonym) and she asked if I were still in a funk. I told her I was too busy to be able to tell. And that's the dumb truth. Too much to do to funk. Even to do the funk. That's not right. As is waking up at 6 and then starting to run late for my meeting. OY!
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Clearly, since I don't exist, I didn't have a terrible night last night leading the Cool Class (resistant students, not as productive and interesting as it could have been) nor am I filling in for people at the tutoring center for a staggering six hours total today.
Of course, the other way to look at not being on the list of GTAs in my department is that my colleagues already look at me as an assistant professor. But when I looked at the assistant professor list, I see that no one has bumped me up. (Or course, then I would have to find out what the deal was with my paycheck.) It's not that my colleagues are just getting the jump on fall; other GTAs from my cohort on the way out are on the list.
Last night, when I realized that I work in a department for which I don't exist, I called up WSF. Of course, the psychic link was working, and he was calling me at the same time. It turns out he's not coming back until the end of April. I don't know what to tell you. I'm just completely deflated. Crushed, really. He makes living (or whatever it is I do) in Grad City fun. All I've been doing since he's been gone is working. When I hang out with others, it's to work. Since he's been gone, there's no one (except dear sweet SO, who got an earful from me last night) for me to narrate my life to. Which must explain my total upsurge in hysterical blogging. And hysteria more broadly. I blame the existential earful (makes me think of some deep meaning to earwax) I gave my mother on WSF's absence. Also the fact that I've been processing things, like really scary but totally psychologically-obvious dreams, with my Fabulous Similarly-Neurotic Friend, going straight into her office and lying down on her couch as if she were my therapist. WSF would keep me in line. Which leads me to one inevitable conclusion and one despairing question. One, a roadtrip is in my future. (No, I'm not sure hunkajunk is up to it. Oy.) Two, what in hell am I going to do at Adventure U without him?
(Warning: boring but necessary narration of life coming up.)
So Monday, also known of the Day of Gah!s, I actually did get together with Hate-Filled Dissertating Friend (so sweet -- she brought in a printer and said nothing about the fact that though I weigh a thousand pounds while she is training for a half-marathon, I was the one who bought both a packet of nuts as well as a Twix Bar, because, of course, a Twix bar is the one candy most like food, which those of us who have found themselves roadtripping late at night know -- many a Twix Bar has passed as breakfast). We worked for an astonishing three plus hours. Amazing. I was dead tired, but still managed to pump out some free-writing drivel on Chapter 4, for which, my timelining warns, I need to have a draft in two weeks. (Roll eyes. I just can't stand it. I really want to die with PhD after my name, but come on. If I die now. . .sigh.)
Then there's the matter that I suck and cannot manage to 1. get anything done on time, and 2. manage to not fill every single slot of time so I feel totally overscheduled and hemmed in by my own damn life. If WSF were here, we'd have gone out drinking last night (with half-price appetizers after 10) and then gone to Blockbuster, where he'd have made me laugh so much that I almost peed my pants. Maybe that's what's missing. Laughing so hard I almost pee my pants.
So on the schedule today is tutoring, meeting with Incompleted Student with whom I've been alternated between being pretentious and despairing (must watch propensity to 1. dole out wisdom I don't have and couldn't follow if I had it, 2. tell him totally inappropriate things about me because I don't have WSF to confide in, and 3. tell him that the whole world is an absurdist paradise and to damn it all to hell anyway), weary tutoring, and more weary tutoring until it's too late to do anything including laundry.
I blame the fact that I am now the most boring and sleep-inducing blogger ever on the fact that WSF is gone. He would keep me on my toes. At least I'd be able to steal his best lines.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Can I just say that a weekend of dissertation crunching makes me grumpy on Monday morning, especially when other people come in with their tans and burns from being out in the stinking sun!
All work and no play make EE a dull girl. All work. . .
I am printing the beast out. At least, it's taking a satisfyingly long time.
Did I mention that I'm leading Cool Class on Tuesday night? No, of course I didn't, because I basically put it out of my mind all Dissertation Crunch Weekend. Must work on that stuff now. Right now, in the hateful morning, before Meeting 1. Gah.
Did manage to put my Introduction in some kind of order. That is, the last four pages (mostly keywords and some questions about lit reviews to be done) are in note form, but there are fifteen real prose pages, so I think that's enough for someone who hasn't written the whole thing yet. (I mean, come on! Who writes the Intro before they've written their chapters?! Who knows where they're going before they get there? So I feel pretty on top of things.) Uh, do I have a timeline? Not yet. Crap. Must work.
But first must exult in page counts. You understand, don't you, that I have to officially exult in the page count -- as in I really did work my ass off this weekend. (Not that I did it all this weekend, but just getting shit advisor-ready is big.)
So, indulge me or ignore me:
Introduction: 15 real pages, 4 pages of notes
Chapter 1: 45 pages (already seen by Peppy Advisor, but I think it will look different in context)
Chapter 2: 43 pages
Drum roll please.
A whopping 103 prose pages! WOO HOO!
(mostly crap-filled, but who cares!)
Sunday, March 25, 2007
- Why am I tinkering and adding a conclusion to Chapter 2 when I should be working on the Introduction, which is a vast state of un-readiness?
- Why do I now really want a tuna fish sandwich? (Okay, that one was easy. It's Dr. Crazy's fault. Though I really should write at least one post soon where I don't reference her. She's going to thing I'm a blogstalker. Which I am. At least I am one of her posse.)
- Why is reading about other people working on their dissertations and writing projects so much more fabulous than actually working on my own, considering I actually do occasionally like my topic? (Cool sites I have found lately and recommend: Adjunct Whore's Narratives, Eating an Elephant's dissertation advice, and Minor Revisions.)
- Why did I give my mother advice when this traditionally causes trouble? (She called me as I was getting ready to leave the house. Basically, she doesn't want to get up out of bed in the morning, every little thing is weighing on her, and she has no perspective on when people are being unreasonable. I told her the clinical term for that is depression. I also told her that she needs to get a project, because she is a major project person, has been all my life, teaching herself cool and weird things like languages and how to write songs and everything there is to know about Crete. She says that she thinks these things may be escapes from whatever really is wrong. I said that what if whatever "really is wrong" maybe can't be fixed, that the problem with psychoanalysis is that it makes you think that you'd be okay if only you could fix your problems. Meanwhile it makes you feel like shit about yourself for being all fucked up. And instead of stopping there, having totally insulted the therapy that she has depended on for her sense of self for her whole life, I then went on for some existential musing, which is not what I ever should be doing with my mother. I told her how life is essentially meaningless and one has to make, not find, meaning. Being depressed is just coming up for air from however you're spending your life and realizing that life has no intrinsic meaning and needing to take time out to reassess how you're spending your life. Theorists on happiness, I said, though really I meant Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, found that people were happy when they had flow experiences and lost self-consciousness and a sense of time. Maybe her projects are what life is about after all. Need I say she didn't want to talk about it anymore? But I was on a roll, because the whole thing became a philosophical treatise for me. Where do I get this shit? And when, oh when, will I ever learn to shut the fuck up. She just wanted me to sympathize, for god's sakes! I need WSF back here pronto. Clearly, I need my usual existential philosophical outlet. I think the fact that she started the conversation by saying in her mouse voice "so I guess I won't see you" when I said I was going to The Fam's for the weekend was what started it. She lives 360 miles away from Urban Home City. If she wanted to arrange something, why ask me now?)
- Why after recounting that whole story do I still want a sandwich or a salad? It's hot and sunny outside -- why am I not in it? Why am I working? Why do I have to go back to it right now? Oh yeah, because I wanted to hand PA a big wad of dissertation crap. Couldn't it rain? Please?
Saturday, March 24, 2007
All the same, I'm determined to work. Okay, determined is too strong a word. I know I should work so that I can experience the moment of triumph of handing 100 or so pages to my advisor on Monday.
Also, I'm going to Home City (weird to call it home, since I haven't lived there in over ten years, but I was born and raised there) next weekend, so I can count on getting exactly zero time to myself there. SO is going. It might be nice to remember that I'm a human being rather than a Dissertating Machine. Then again, sometimes the drama there makes me crazy. (The clash of their drama with my drama and the story my step-mother feels compelled to trot about her moment of decision to NOT to get a PhD in her beloved major when she encountered a bitter grad student -- not a good scene.) But it will be the first time that the extended family will have met the SO -- the culture clash there should be fascinating. Makes me tired just thinking about it. Then there's the explaining and recounting about Adventure U. (Though I am very excited and a little scared, telling this story gets old.)
So I should work. But it's such a nice day. Of course, Mr. Tabby is sprawled across my arms purring. Seems impossible that I should feel as itchy to go out as I do. I called my favorite Cool and Similarly Neurotic Friend, who has been pinch-hitting as my partner-in-crime since WSF is gone, but I think it's a clash between my slightly extroverted NFP and her more decidedly introverted NFP. (Yes, Myers-Briggs. Laugh if you want to. It helps me cope. Helps me explain myself to myself. Yes, I am that self-involved.) Then again, she does get together with friends more than I do. But she went out last night -- and probably has better things to do than sit with me in a coffeehouse while I write my intro. She's probably at the frigging lake too!
So last night I nearly did an incantation for dissertation be gone, but then I thought better of it. Imagine this: it's 4AM, the cat is happily sleeping, for the first time in months it's hot in the bedroom so you've turned on the ceiling fan which you'll probably not turn off again for the next five months -- and are you sleeping? No. You are tossing and turning. You're possessed, the intro writing itself in your head. You're tired dammit, and your head is spinning. Don't you want to scream dissertation be gone? But. What if it left and didn't come back? So I wrote the section headings for the intro on a post-it and must've finally fallen asleep, because the next thing I knew it was almost noon.
Fascinating life I lead, no? I woke up and started reading posts about working on the dissertation. There is no doubt I'm going to go nuts -- it's just a matter of when, where, and for how long. But I'm going to get my ass out of my apartment and in public where I can't pace and mutter and sit here and then there and then turn on the TV and then turn it off again. In public, I have to appear somewhat normal. I might be the person across the coffeehouse that you suspect is crazy as she is muttering to herself and staring out into space and grunting. I'll know you because you'll be laughing hysterically at my ridiculousness.
Friday, March 23, 2007
So today I woke up late, but ready for my weekend of business. Since I'm meeting with Peppy Advisor on Monday, I really want to get an outline or some notes of the undone chapters together. I really want to sit there with PA and a file folder with the stapled chapters and then some notes on the others.
(A friend of mine wanted to chat about his dissertation for a while, so he brought his chapters all printed out and stapled. It looked so impressive. You know, because he had, like, chapters. Printed out. And stapled. You know, as if he had actually been doing something. As if he were, I don't know, like uh, writing a dissertation. I can't explain it, but it was as if seeing the stapled pages made it real. Though people ask me about the dissertation and I type shit out onto my computer screen, the connection between my typing and the bound copies in the library seems pretty illusory to me. Printing. Wasting paper. This will make it real. A friend just sent me the article from the New York Times about the couple who is not using toilet paper so the guy can write a book about living environmentally. Apparently, I'm counteracting all their noble efforts.)
So here I sit in what I've referred to before as the blog chair. Purring cat on my lap. I'm going to work for three hours. On. The. Dissertation. I'm sure there will be plenty of updates this weekend. And frantic checkings of Dr. Crazy's world too, since she is also having one of those weekends of hellish work. At least she has the possibility of a date. All I do is grouse at the SO on the phone and then apologize on IM. Have I heard from Witty Sardonic Friend in North Dakota? No. But really if you looked up happiness in the Earnest English dictionary, you'd see a picture of me unshowered in the blog chair, tabby sprawled across my arms making it difficult to type, my hair all freaky as if there had been a rave on my head that I wasn't invited to, cup of coffee at my side. Of course, in the really happy section, the coffee wouldn't have grounds floating on the top because SO would have made the coffee and be plunking on his laptop doing godknowswhat nearby. (I like to think he'd be looking at porn. But he'd probably be reading stuff on community-building and good corporate models and Belgian beer.)
**Update around 5PM, when most people are done for the week**
So now I've really finished the first real draft of Chapter 2, having filled in sources and quotes that I had left blank last night. I've also taken a shower, since there's the remote chance I'll find some money in the seams of my couch and go out to get something to eat. From very close to my front window, I can hear the happy voices of children and other happy people, a ball bouncing, cars, of course, and some poor allergic person sneezing. It must be a beautiful day out there.
Done with Chapter 2 for the time being, I think I'm going on to Chapter 4. And it's back to square one: free-writing. What do I want this chapter to be? Done, of course. Back to the grindstone.
**Update around 11PM, when I should definitely not be working**
I futzed around with some notes for Chapter 4 and then realized I needed to do some reading. But I didn't do it. Instead I started to read something else, stopped, and, feeling all weird and nutso, crawled into this weird position in order to figure out what I should do next. Fall asleep, apparently, because that's what I did. I woke up a couple hours ago, went back into Chapter 4, started playing with ideas for timelines (since that IS the purpose of the meeting with PA anyway), and made a decision: I'm going to hand her a big wad o'paper. I'm going to give her the intro and Chapter 2, even if I only have empty section headings in the Intro. I just need her to be able to see the whole. We won't have time to really think about what I should do about the structural problems (I think two chunks of Chapter 2 have to go in order to make room for the voices of the field), but at least I can give her some stuff to read in preparation for that discussion. Meanwhile, I can be cranking on Chapter 4, which so far seems to be going well. I read some Words of Wisdom that really helped me work today. If you're writing a dissertation, do not pass go, do not keep reading, just get over there!
I really should do something else now, like watch a movie, but I strangely don't feel like it. I am going to though. I guess this is what it feels like when that itchy-must-get-dissertation-done bug finally hits. YAY for dissertation bugs!
Thursday, March 22, 2007
But really I felt full of hate when I got up this morning to fill in for others at the tutoring center. And when I slogged across campus last night in one of those midwestern downpours where the sky just inexplicably opens up and decides to dump on you. You can practically see the sky changing its mind and then stopping. But not before I got to where I was going, looking like a drowned rat.
I had dinner with another dissertator, and she said she was also full of hate. She says she's going to get us rose quartz to get the good love energies flowing. I think her beer idea was better.
Meeting with advisor on Monday about timeline. Which means I have to come up with a timeline. Oy! And since I haven't been able to get any work done with this crazy week, I'm still trying to clean up Chapter 2. Which is why I'm in a coffeehouse on a Thursday night plunking on my laptop amid all the studying students listening to Siouxsie and the Banshees (post-punk rules!). Suddenly I got a bee in my bonnet to get to work instead of watching Casino Royale for the third time in three days. But tomorrow I don't think I'm going to leave my house. Unless my power gets turned off, which is a possibility since I have no money. It looks like I'm going to have to borrow again. But things must be looking up, right? Instead of borrowing against student loans, I'll be borrowing against my job's paycheck. Woofuckinghoo.
I told you I was full of hate.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Warning: Web-Surfing Can Be Dangerous to One's Job Excitement or Rambles on Professionalization and Tenure
I'm still sick and not getting on a plane, so I've been websurfing. I was over at Flavia's, reading about book reviews, which sent me over to Horace's, and then I found myself in this discussion about tenure over at Tenured Radical's and Lumpenprofessoriat's and suddenly I found myself thinking about tenure. As in me getting tenure. Now I realize that I should be worrying about my dissertation -- hell, I should be working on my dissertation -- but I'm sick and it's Spring Break Woops and damn it all to hell anyway. (I was reading academic blogs to get me in the mood actually.) But then I found myself over at Professor Zero's, reading about professionalization. And that's when it all sort of crystalized for me why I'm worried about tenure and how professionalization fits into that.
At Grad City U, those who are funded teach 2/2 as instructor of record. Which means that making significant academic progress can be hard. Most TAs are just struggling to get everything done. In fact, many TAs I know have (too often subconsciously) had to choose between being the good teachers they want to be or being the productive publishing scholars they want to be. (Others think there is something wrong with them that they cannot balance it all, but that is another story that has to do with how people go crazy in my department because they think that actually saying that the expectation to do it all is unreasonable would mark a personal failing. There's some lingering sense of appropriate professional hazing that makes grad students accept crazy-making expectations there.) This means that graduates do not often come out of Grad City U with stellar publication records. Making graduates more attractive to teaching schools. Which is fine, as long as everyone is honest about that from the outset.
One thing that has happened in recent years is that the number of fundable TA years has dropped. So people need to get through the program more quickly. I have no idea about the background of that decision. But what's happened is that a number of us in more or less traditional fields have ended up not really being ready to go on the market with the dissertation more or less done by our last year of funding. (People warned me that I wasn't "really ready" to go on the market, that I was going out "early," that I should try it just to check it out. Well, what the hell choice did I have in my last year of funding? Is adjunct work going to pay back my student loans?) Some really devoted and wonderful faculty at Grad City U are trying to address this readiness-for-the-job-market issue by increasing the amount of professionalization that occurs early in the program. And this is what's got me worried, I think. If we focus early on the kinds of things that will get grad students hired -- publications, especially -- then we might be inflicting that "me first" attitude that Tenured Radical was talking about fostering among pre-tenured faculty on grad students. Certainly, early professionalization in a grad program can thwart the kind of intellectual exploration that led someone like me to move from one field to another (a big switch that affected my program at every level -- if I had stayed in my first field, my dissertation would've been done by now, but it wouldn't have been half as interesting). And there are so many kinds of professional activities that I never heard about in those Intro to the Profession courses (even PFF!) but that I have learned a lot more about in the Blogosphere, such as book reviews and peer review and editing.
So what does this have to do with me worrying about tenure? If we do as AAUP and Lumpenprofessoriat advise and include all post-PhD years as time to tenure, then I have six years to professionalize up! (Not that I haven't been working as a professional all this time. In fact, my service record is a little heady. It's publications I need to focus on.) Which means I should think not just about accessing Adventure U's resources in the most interesting ways (to me) possible, but I should always think about what I'm going to get out of it and whether I'll be tenurable elsewhere. As an interdisciplinary scholar, thinking about tenurability of my research projects worries me a little. My research ranges a bit. But I should just assume that I will never choose to be at a place that doesn't value my research and see it as tenurable. But all of this does kind of take away from the fun I was having earlier of looking on Adventure U's website and saying: in the fall, I'll be there!
- Woke up at 10:30AM.
- Bought two sizes of envelopes so I could send off submission to Totally Awesome Magazine.
- Went to doctor and nearly fell asleep on the paper-lined treatment table in the flimsy cotton cover-up the nurse told me to change into so that the doctor could listen to my lungs. When I opened my mouth and said "aaaaahhhhhh," the doctor asked me if I usually had large tonsils. Temperature: 100.0. Diagnosis: throat infection. Prescription: three different kinds of pills, rest, force liquids.
- Went to post office to buy stamps and send off submission to TAM.
- Bought and ate chinese chicken salad I had been craving.
- Did a little publicity for next week's workshop.
- Covered myself up in blankets and daydreamed and slept until 8PM.
- Delegated changing airline tickets to SO.
- Drove SO nuts by being disagreeable and whiny so that he won't miss me this weekend.
- Booked flight to Urban Home City with SO so that we meet in Layover City, my favorite airport because of this great bistro.
- Got annoyed when I found out that not only has my job with Adventure U hit the department grapevine (during Spring Break, I might add), but my MLA roommate, who I haven't seen since the flurry of excitement began, was told by Totally Obnoxious Star, who is the right-hand man of Wonder Boy Professor, who, judging by his curt reply to my news of triumph, doesn't like me anymore. (Okay, maybe too much to read into one email.)
All right, written out this way it makes a little more sense to me why I'm so tired. I really feel though that I haven't done anything because all day I was planning to work, but then kept on doing little things that tired me out instead of the one big thing that is worth doing. (Dissertating, though watching movies comes in a close second, which I also didn't do today.) Fuck, I didn't even blog! Maybe tomorrow will be better. After all, I have drugs now.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Instead, the cough that I thought was from smoking too many cigarettes over the weekend exploded this morning into a sore throat, itchy watery eyes, dull headache, and grumpy disposition. By evening, my left ear started that dull ache that tells me we're in for the wild ride of an ear infection. So here's what I really did today:
- Picked up car and forked over money I didn't have.
- Went to Caffeine Corporation and read for an hour before admitting that I really couldn't concentrate. (Creepy Guy was there AGAIN! But the reason why I couldn't concentrate was because this other barista was talking about writing a statement of purpose for art school. As a way-too-earnest English student, I nearly volunteered to help him. Then I decided that it wasn't my problem, and I should just leave the poor guy alone.)
- Complained to SO over IM about being ill, warning him that maybe I wouldn't go visit on Thursday if I still felt as crappilicious.
- Complained with WSF's Poet Friend about the terrible state of poetry today.
- Moaned on couch while watching reruns of fave BBC comedy.
- Moaned at computer.
- Moaned on couch some more, this time without watching fave BBC comedy.
- Complained to SO on phone about being ill, again warning him that I wouldn't come visit on Thursday if I still felt so crappilicious.
- Intermittently stressed about all the work I'm not doing.
I hate being sick. I'm a big baby. Everyone I know has been sick in the last month, and I thought that while I may be rundown, I must be stronger than I thought since I didn't get sick. Obviously, it was just waiting for me to slow down long enough to notice.
Monday, March 12, 2007
(Wrist to forehead) Whatever shall I do with myself now?
Apparently, fork over $265 that I don't have for a new alternator for the POS car so I can get around Grad City until August. This is ridiculous. On the one hand, I have this job in the fall like I'm one day going to be a real person who can pay my bills (maybe even on time!), yet I'm still at the point that I'm juggling one thing against the other and borrowing, borrowing, borrowing! I'm so glad this graduate-student-hell/ not-being-a-real-person is almost over. (Interesting tidbit: I told Senior Scholar I'm TAing with that I resent having a crap car and not being able to pay my bills because I was a real person with a job once. He said he hadn't been, had gone straight through. I don't know what to make of it, but it seems to explain something important about the difference in expectations. I'll keep picking at it and make something of it.)
Anyway, all this is mitigated by the fact that I actually did get some work done today, inspired by the dedication of Dr. Four Eyes and Dr. Crazy, both working hard and blogging about it. Well, first I had important things to do like taking a nap with my head under the covers after coming home from sending WSF off. Then after that, the cat decided he wanted to sprawl on me (practically on my face) and since he had curled up under the covers with me I had to let him sprawl on me for an hour. Then I was inspired to get up and enjoy the 70 degree weather we're having.
So I walked (car not ready yet) to the Caffeine Corporation. Creepy Guy was working, but I refused to be daunted and sat in the big chair for hours upon hours. And that's where I started cleaning up all the shitty first drafting of the second section of Chapter 2 (on paper, rather than on computer, which doesn't feel as much like work), fielding calls every two or three seconds (making working fun), and reading the final chapter of this psychoanalytic book that I felt I had to check out. (Note: two out of three of those things were work!)
To psychoanalytic theory, I just want to say UGH. I've never been a fan because 1) FREUD, and 2) I just don't think that all people are so similar. (I'm just not sure I want to transform my hysterical misery into everyday unhappiness. My hysteria is much more entertaining.) Anyway, some of my fave scholars do use p-a theory to do some really interesting things, but. . .not me. There's this key term I use in my dissertation all the time that has a specific and somewhat different meaning in psychoanalytic theory from the way I use it. Some people in my field have drawn from the p-a stuff, but I think I've figured out that the definitions are different -- overlapping, but different. At least, I hope so. I figure if I'm getting to that point where I feel like I have to clearly and carefully define my terms in my diss as this and not that, addressing this conversation but not that psychoanalytic one over there, then I must be getting close. To something. Like whatever it is I'm trying to say in this dissertation.
All this to say, I worked, but didn't stress about it. I didn't even remember that was possible. WSF was amazed that I was working (instead of crying in despair, no doubt). SO told me he wanted to read a chapter. (HA!) All I know is I have a whole big apartment to pack after this diss is in the can. I gotta get moving on it. My secret hope (shhh, don't tell my advisor) is to have a shitty shit-shite first draft of the whole damn thing by the end of the month. Here's what I'd need to do in the next three weeks:
- Write shitty draft of intro
- Clean up Ch. 2
- Expand 20-page Ch. 3 to 40 pages
- Write shitty draft of Ch. 4
*WSF, who coined the term Spring Break Woo Hoo, tells me that the Hoo is Optional. In honor of his leaving me alone in the desolate wasteland of Grad City, I'm humoring him. But I think he's full of shit. Maybe I should just call and tell him.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
So instead of getting up and showering and being a person today (sans car, I might add), I've managed on this spring-forwarded day to make coffee and drag myself to my chair where I've spent the last who-knows-how-long reading blogs with my feet up.
But this is actually a huge step up. And here's why: last night, I sent an email to Adventure U saying I was accepting the offer. Then I crawled into the fetal position and stared at my books like a cornered dog. (Which of you is going to have to go? I wondered.) My shoulders were two big knots up around my ears. My jaw is still sore from apparently gritting my teeth, tension bulging out of my face. After what seemed like forever getting in touch with my deep inner panic, I decided that I really needed to do my Relaxing Yoga Tape and then have a cup of the Relaxing Tea a dear friend bought for me. (She thought that since I got the offer that I no longer needed such things! HA!) After yoga, I felt so centered and calm that I decided to forego the tea and just go to bed. (It was 2:30ish AM.) Obviously, I should have had the tea with a bourbon chaser, because I was tossing and turning until 4.
When WSF called this morning to cancel blueberry pancakes (I told him: now I have no reason even to get out of bed), he told me that jitters were normal and that this is why people smoke cigarettes and drink. Since I'm already up to three fancy cocktail cigarettes a day (I'm not a smoker) and have been drinking enough in the celebration that everyone keeps insisting I should do, I really want to see if blogging the anxiety works as well as blogging the lost but some of my worries are unbloggable. Suffice it to say, I'm having to remind myself that I'm adventurous. That I never did all the cool things I wanted to do when I was in my early twenties, so I'm doing them now in my more fretful thirties. And there are real-live responsible grown-ups with families and stuff who have done this before me, so my worries must be for nothing. I'm not backpacking alone through Uzbeckistan, for goodness sake! Get a hold of yourself Earnest!
Mmmm. Yes, I think blogging the anxiety does work. But now the question is: what do I do with the rest of the day? I had really planned on digesting blueberry heaven as my main occupation today, combining sloth with gluttony, my favorite. Working comes to mind as a possibility, but I think that if I'm going to get into any good work pattern this Spring Break WooHoo, I'm going to have to be slothful and disgusting today, so tomorrow I'll be itching to get back to work. I should only do things I like today. Just what are those things again?
Saturday, March 10, 2007
WSF and I saw 300. This is a total boy movie -- with New Age music, CGI'd blood whipping around in slow motion, and bad overbearing narration. At the matinee we went to, there were so many boys around 18 or 19, I swear I thought I could see them peaking. WSF turned around right before the movie started and said the theater was full of boys with looks of reverent expectation on their faces. We suspect the sticky stuff on the floor of the movie theater was testosterone.
And now? I think it's time for a movie in celebration of Spring Break Woo Hoo! Tomorrow, WSF is making blueberry pancakes. I'm going to have to eat enough to last through the end of the month, so I may have to wait until Monday to start making this a productive Spring Break Woo Hoo.
Friday, March 9, 2007
I got the actual terms of the offer this sleepy morning. Without going into the unbloggable details, I think it's a great deal. It's not tenure-track, but it basically makes for an awesome post-doc opportunity and will, I think, put me in good stead to get a good tenure-track job when I'm done.
I have to find out some things, like office space and computers. But I haven't been able to focus on my work! Or, clearly, construct a coherent blogpost.
(If you want more info, email me at email@example.com.)
Saturday, March 3, 2007
So I was just in the Caffeine Corporation, aka Starbucks, aka My Office. I wanted to slink in, get a latte, and come back home, especially since Creepy-Guy-I-Made-Out-With-Once was working. (This is the problem with Grad City. It's made up of these neighborhoods so that unless you're committed to driving across town the guy you made out with once is going to be smack dab next to the student who thinks you're the devil and the professor who hates you. What's really crazy is when they're all sitting at the same table. What can I say? I've been earnest and driven about more than just my studies.) But then Creepy Guy asked me how the movie was last night, since Witty and Sardonic Friend, whom I saw the movie with, didn't realize that the creepy guy was in fact Creepy Guy and started a convo about the movie we were going to see.
And that's when I got all excited and started babbling non-stop about the flaws of Breach and the real scoop about the Robert Hanssen story, revealing myself to be a freak of nature.
Let me start at the beginning. Last night, I saw Breach, about the FBI investigation of Robert Hanssen, an FBI agent who sold secrets to the Soviets and Russians over twenty years. But the movie arc really focuses on Eric O'Neill, a kid who starts off eager to become an agent and, through the course of helping to bring down Hanssen, ends up leaving the FBI. Chris Cooper, who played Hanssen, was great. But the arc was not so great, making young characterless O'Neill some kind of hero. In fact, this arc was annoying, but I figured that maybe it was just the kind of artistic license that has to be allowed in order to make a good movie arc, since Hanssen seemed to be a very enigmatic character. But because WSF and I are the types who watch the credits even when the dorks at the multiplex bring up the house lights in the middle of them, we noticed that Eric O'Neill was credited as Special Consultant and that a David O'Neill (his brother) was Associate Producer. So WSF and I got suspicious and started looking things up.
And what I found, because I am a graduate student and therefore a research queen, is that there is more than enough fascinating material on the guy to make a fantastic movie, without any input from O'Neill brothers (agents and studio executives, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org anytime). Here is a teaser: a scene where Hanssen's very sweet and religious wife finds out he's been selling secrets to the Soviets and makes him go to confession. Put that next to the fact that unbeknownst to her he videotaped them having sex and passed the tape around to friends.
I have to go write a screenplay now. I think I hear agents calling.
Today is one of those days when I woke up with my forehead furrowed, dreams of being at a book fair where everyone else is busy hawking their books while I lament that I don't have one seeming infinitely preferable to the slog of work that has accrued and must be done before Spring Break Woo Hoo. For the sake of seeing them in all their glory/public accountability/to bore us all silly, I'm listing them out here:
- Dissertating. I want to get Chapter 2 in some kind of order so I can give it to my advisor and be free to cavort in Chapter 4.
- Dissertating Part 2: I want to cavort in Chapter 4 because this will make me happy and because it will be infinitely better to start working in earnest when I feel I already have some notes and schtuff.
- Cool Class. I have to write something to model good teacherly behavior for peer response groups. Then I will have to spend time responding to drafts. I figure I can cannibalize some former work and put it into the draft I'm working on. But since I actually want to work on my dissertation, I feel very mean-spirited about this extra writing. Responding is going to swallow me whole early in the week. Why did I ever agree to TA when I could've audited and not even shown up? Stupid, stupid Earnest.
- Application for Cool Institute is due at the end of the week.
- Entries for Last Grad School Contest of my career are due at the end of the week.
- Some other crap I'm helping someone out with has to be done by the end of the week.
- Need to work on a workshop that a colleague and I are giving so I don't have to freak out about it later.
Okay, maybe that's not so much. Who am I kidding? It's a lot. And I want to go back to sleep just thinking about it. To-Do lists are bad, because they lay out too much information, too much stuff to deal with all at once. But apart from being overwhelmed by the work, I also HAVE to make sure I have a weekend this weekend, I remind myself, because last weekend I was possessed by worry about my interview and didn't rest at all. So I need to do some important relaxing -- not to mention some cleaning, laundry, dishes. Oh god. And one more on my list.
- Writing that makes me feel like I'm alive and not wasting my life.
That's all there is to it. Only my cat has the right idea. He's napping. Surely I should be doing something lovely and indulgent on a Saturday like eating breakfast and reading in bed (a book, not my to-do list).
Especially since what I really want to do is stalk Adventure U's website and tap into my super-psychic powers and send them such powerful signals of "hire me hire me" that they stop whatever they're doing and become convinced that despite a mediocre-to-okay interview, I'm the one they want. This is the worst part of being in the last round before hiring. I know that this is not the greatest job for me. That is, the location is great, and there are really interesting, well fascinating, aspects of this job, but the teaching, the teaching I tell you, is a hard fit. Their program is very structured and values things that I understand but don't really value. But if they don't choose me, it's going to feel like being a wallflower at the Prom and eating alone in the cafeteria with the popular people throwing spitwads in my hair all rolled up into one. Especially because then I will have to tell department people that I didn't get the job, which is one of the very good reasons to go underground and not tell anyone anything while on the market. Going to live with my SO and writing may be the best option (especially since we've had this LDR for a year and still have not lived together), but still not having Adventure U not choose me will likely make me feel like shit. I can't decide whether I should expect that I am going to get the job a la the Secret or assume that I won't a la North Dakota farmer. It's a tough one to call.
We're all under too much strain. Let's all take the day off.
I actually did decide to take the day off, it being Saturday and a day of rest and all.
Friday, March 2, 2007
- Spam that purports to be from an anonymous work colleague sick of hearing others remark about your weight and advocating yet another unhealthy and catastrophic dieting scam. Even when recognizing immediately that this email is spam, the paranoid among us start to wonder what people are saying about the thirty pounds that have taken up residence on our thighs since we started dissertating.
- Spam addressed to people waiting to hear back about possible job offers with subject lines saying "EMPLOYMENT OFFER" are strictly outlawed, verboten, nicht, nyet, lo, NO! Anyone caught sending this kind of email will be responsible for the addressee's ensuing panic attack, not to mention damages for emotional distress when they realize the email is NOT a job offer.
So I've been working on my dissertation. All right, in all honesty I work a couple minutes a day. But that's still working. So I've been working on Chapter 2, which explores the implications of the theorizing in Chapter 1. (No, my diss is not a standard English dissertation, but that shouldn't surprise you.) And, of course, a dissertation is all about the kind of positioning and gatekeeping that Dr. Crazy has posted about recently. But I hate all that positioning-one's-self-in-the-field crap, so I've been drafting the chapter without it, figuring I'd add that crap in after I had the basic sections and ideas laid out. Then I'd worry about positioning when I saw the scope of the whole chapter, I figured. So I wrote and wrote and it grew to chapter length (40ish pages). Then I figured it was time to make those decisions.
Hand-wringing. Whine and double whine. And then I said: NO! I want to write Chapter 4!
And so I made a major decision: I'm writing through. I'll go ahead and clean up the writing and organization of Chapter 2 and send it to my advisor, but I'm not going back and revising or anything. I need to see the whole. I need to work on Chapter 4. And that's the new plan.
Since I decided on it on Wednesday when I started whining to my Diss Coach that I wanted to get onto Chapter 4 already (the fun chapter), I've been working on it pretty steadily. I work for a while on fixing up Chapter 2 and then make notes for Chapter 4. I also looked at Chapter 3 and saw that it wasn't in the kind of shape I had hoped it was, but I'll go back into it and expand it later. Onward!
I think I will be able to graduate in August!
Monday: Why is it that when I call in or go home sick, I instantly feel better, and then feel guilty because I'm not as sick as I could be? But instead of writing that post, I fell asleep for four hours and woke up almost migraine-free.
Tuesday: Senior Scholars make me crazy when they are unhappy with the way students read a text and crush them with statements like: "In English, there are no good readings. Only good re-readings." So why have us read a text you think we are not good readers for? ACK and GRR. Instead of writing this post, I went drinking at the local sports bar and then stayed up half the night watching movies, since, as y'all no doubt know, Blockbuster gets their new releases on Tuesdays.
Wednesday: I rocked the house on Wednesday. Not only did I help a number of cute boys with their homework, but between appointments I was working diligently forwarding my New Dissertation Plan (more on this soon). I'm not sure why I didn't write about this. I think I came home and watched all the extras on the DVD Stranger than Fiction.
Thursday: SNOW DAY! I woke up to my cell phone alarm (yes, like Harold Crick's watch) and realized that the power went out in the night. I was lying there listening to the deafening sound of all my neighbors oversleeping. How incredibly dependent we all are on electricity, I thought. Then I reported the outage to the power company and went back to sleep. When I woke up in the afternoon, I was antsy. Something about having it snow all night and being told that I should just stay in all day (especially the school relenting and having a snow day) makes me want to hop in my car and toodle around. I don't know why this is. A deeply contrary nature, I guess. Actually, workers at the local grocery store report an upsurge in business on snowy days, but not on rainy days. My North Dakota friend wouldn't drive that day. So instead I insisted on getting him the milk he said he needed (though he still wouldn't make me pancakes -- creep) and paying my rent and getting coffee drinks I didn't need. My love of clearing the snow off my car and driving 10 miles an hour down my totally underplowed street is all the weirder because I am originally from the kind of western big city where we call the twice-a-decade white stuff that comes from the sky snow instead of what is really is, which is frozen rain. You know. The kind of western city where we tell our co-workers in complete earnestness that for the weekend: "we're going up to the snow." For the first couple years I lived in Snowy Midwestern Graduate City, I wouldn't drive in the snow. Now I can't be stopped. It's all very odd. I didn't write that post because I finally planned a visit to my beleaguered and overworked SO in Obnoxiously Yuppie Sunny City and then I started reading Paradise Lost. Yes, Milton. Go figure. (It's action-packed! Who knew?)