Category Archives: academic discord

there’s a hole in the bucket

A simple blog post. Is that really too much to ask? I manage too many websites now. Gone from none to too many in too short a time. Things just used to be simpler. I can’t write exactly what I want to say because that would be bad for my professional image.

Building a more professional image is why I moved from my old space on Blogger to this new fancy website I created, so intentionally tarnishing it would be folly, right?

If I do get to the place where I write a dissertation, I want to do it on something I want to do it on. Does that sound stupid? I had started going down the path that the market wanted me to go down, and maybe that’s why I have faltered. That and maybe I get distracted and bored too easily. I want to do something that is interview based, that draws on my work in sociology and folklore. I want to interview women about marriage. I was reading an article the other day that discussed the plight of American singles and it mentioned this 2009 study that examined single women’s perceptions of their social environment. I want to do something like that. I can feel myself being excited at doing something like that, at bringing stories that make people reflect on themselves and on the way things are to life in non-textual ways. I think the field of composition’s quest for social justice can be a bit too much for me. I never really wanted to save the world. I always just wanted to tell interesting stories. Someplace in my conversion narrative, I started adopting the crusading desire to uncover systemic hegemony. I am still interested in that, but it’s not the only thing I am interested in.

I am also interested in health, cooking, being outdoors, having a family. I am less interested in writing articles than I am in teaching. I am less interested in teaching than I am in being the boss, of coordinating things, of administrating. These are some of the things I was trying to find out in the Conscious Career Course I blogged about over the summer, which actually didn’t exactly work out for me for a variety of reasons but which did give me some ideas regarding how to go about parlaying my strengths and interests into a rewarding career.

Many people would like to see me finish the PhD, myself included. If I don’t though, I am versatile and adaptable. I am down to earth and realistic. Even though some may disagree, I am pragmatic and sensible. I’m smart, patient, detail-oriented, and tech savvy. I could do any job. After looking at the tens of thousands in student loan debt and hundreds of thousands of words I’ve accumulated towards the pursuit of a doctorate, many will say it is incredibly irresponsible to abandon it. Perhaps they are right. But what takes more courage?

To hang on to the ship as it submerges, hoping that you can float to land before drowning? Or to wrench off a chunk of the vessel that can serve as an impromptu raft, salvage a paddling implement, and start rowing?

Not rowing just yet, and still not sure the ship is really sinking. But keeping a weather eye on the horizon? You bet. Until that storm hits, though, I have an exam reading schedule to get back to.

 


Print Friendly

antiseptic

It’s been so long since I’ve written that WordPress has another update available. One of the main reasons for my absence has been paralysis. I have had a lot on my mind, and something that has been coming up to the forefront has been my persistent uncertainty that the life of an academic is the life for me. Expressing this doubt is very taboo while still desiring to be counted among the ranks of academe, but maybe this blog would benefit from some honesty.

 

This kind of straightforward consideration of what exactly I will gain from completing my degree will most likely be looked upon by my superiors and even my peers as an unwise admission of my instability at this point in my career, but this is such a large issue in my life right now, and one of the underpinning principles of my field is that writing promotes thinking and understanding. Hopefully I can help this come to fruition. Another guiding principle, though, is that a writer should know her audience. Since anyone can access this blog and I don’t really know who may be reading, I feel like sometimes the writing here takes an antiseptic quality, sanitized of all real worry or doubt and concerned mostly with putting my best foot forward for when I go on the market, an endeavor made so formidable by everyone who has gone before that anything which may put my reputation in jeopardy is regarded with suspicious paranoia and is generally quickly cleaned up or hidden.

 

I have been trying to read for my exams now for about 8 months. I have read so little that I almost can’t believe it. I feel so overwhelmed by the process that any intellectual progress (or any progress at all) has ground to a complete halt. Putting that down into words is difficult and embarrassing. The monster of doubt is asking me if I really want to publish these sentences or if I should discard this draft and make an appointment with a therapist instead. But I know I am not the only one. I know that these feelings are pervasive and that they have the power to cripple bright, promising people under the weight of prohibitive tradition, and perhaps one of those reasons is because so few of us feel at liberty to disclose just how trapped and confused we feel.

 

The schedule and pace of academia doesn’t work for me. I feel so absurd saying that, since what we have are big, open spaces to design and accomplish big, complicated tasks. Saying it doesn’t work for me feels like an admission that I am poor at managing my own time. But yet, this seems to be the truth. I do well with a busy, structured schedule. I’ve never been very good at creating such a structure on my own. I feel like a failure, a product of a hegemonic system which can’t function well outside the parameters that I have been brought up to value. But I can’t deny what has been happening to me: as I move further along in higher education, I have become worse, not better, at managing and meeting deadlines. I have experienced disappointments that I would have never allowed to happen in my younger years, when I seemed to be able to successfully juggle many more tasks and work a full time job to boot.

 

I’ve been talking about quitting since the second year of my master’s program. I have put this decision aside countless times as I struggle with what it is I really want out of this pursuit. I’ve created deadlines by which I said I’d assess the situation more, and those deadlines have passed (like so many others). The inertia is killing me. I want to take my exams, but mostly because I am supposed to take them, because it is the next step in the process. I’ve been elected the Secretary of the GSO for the next academic year, so I feel compelled to stay for that experience, but I need to ask myself whether I can do this for another 12 months of my life. The answer is always, “You Have To.” All of the constraints I’ve set up mandate that it must be so. But is this what I really want?

 

I have enrolled in a six week Conscious Career Course to help me explore my options and to talk with other people who find themselves in a similar situation. I am hoping that this will have a positive impact on my outlook and will empower me develop a plan should I ever go through with pulling the plug on grad school and turn my attentions elsewhere. The first meeting is June 12th. It’s possible that the course, which also claims to help put academic pursuits into perspective, might even inspire me to get my ass moving on my exam reading. I do think completing the PhD would be a success. I am just not sure whether it will be essential to the career I ultimately choose, which makes me question whether all of the suffering is worth it.

 

Even admitting that this experience contains a healthy dose of suffering is another one of those sentiments that seems to beg for a swab of antiseptic, to be doused with a solution that will stop the growth of the negative bacteria that threatens to devour what I’ve worked so hard to achieve so far. But I’m going to let it fester here on the page, going to admit that big parts of me are suffering because of the path I have chosen. Eventually I’ll have to move out of this position; let’s see if I can maybe write my way out. I plan to use this space to document my progress through the course. Might as well, since it hasn’t been being used for much else lately. Ergo, tally ho. Let’s see if I can get to healing these wounds.

 

Print Friendly