"090909" | saturday | september 9, 2009 | 9:09 am
It's been over three long months since I have written anything here: I have been away. More mentally,
emotionally, and intellectually than physically or geographically. It seems like a gulf of time between now
and then, between the start of fall and the end of spring. I cannot believe that I left my site, my blog for
so long. I think this is probably one of the longest hiatuses in the history of my site. I don't know
why it happened exactly. I know that it was partly due to the fact that I wanted to try migrating
the site over to an actual blog platform like
WordPress. (I didn't like any of the templates.
And I don't really have the time or the energy to learn how to build a template.) But the majority of
why I haven't been writing is because I have been writing -- anything -- at all. Writing right now
has been a bit of a curse. I feel like I'm more than just blocked. I'm all mixed up and paralyzed
right now. My dissertation has come to a dead stall. And because I'm stuck there I'm stuck in all
of my other creative, expressive endeavors. I suffer and so my blog suffers.
Fortunately, some instinct for self-preservation and self-motivation and self-creation takes over after
any extended period of "blah," and I start nudging my way back into working, writing, growing, and changing.
It's still just a trickle. But some progress is better than nothing. It's all about finding the
rhythm, the routine agian. I hope that if I can get back on the horse with these personal projects,
which are really low stakes, then I can find some confidence and energy for my academic and
Here's to a promising start: I decided that I will keep on keeping on with my site until I actually can
find a blog platform that I am happy with. And in the spirit of starting fresh, I have updated the
site's color scheme. It's bold, deep, sharp, and strangely in line with the mood of my current days.
I like it. We'll see how long it lasts. In the meantime, here's a hasty recap of months missing:
I really can't believe that it's been so long since I last wrote. My
last entries were back in May, back around my birthday. And then that
was it. Radio silence. Suffice it to say a lot has happened since then. Again, some of the sudden
hiatus can also be attributed to the fact that the end of last quarter was a really busy, really
stressful time for me. I had a major deadline of turning in a draft of at least one of my dissertation
chapters in order to meet the normative time deadline for funding. I am sure I went over this,
but basically, I came into the program with four years of guaranteed funding. Normally, it is five
but I came in with my master's. And even though I have only been at
UW four years, I am considered a "fifth year" because of my
MA degree. Anyway, this past school year was my last year of funding. The upcoming year, as a "sixth year,"
I would be put into a pool of those needing funding. Throw in the financial crisis, massive state budget cuts,
and a dwindling appreciation for humanities programs and what you've got left is a lot of grad students
scurrying and scrounging for money. So, to try to make things "fair," the department installed
normative time deadlines for completing certain degree milestones like taking exams, prospectus approval,
and dissertation chapters. In order for me to be competative (something I hate needing to have to
worry about), I needed to get a draft done at the very least.
The quarter ended in the first week of June. I got my chapter draft in before the deadline. It's a
total mess and needs a lot of work. I literally cobbled together a bunch of different ideas, readings,
pieces of past papers, and attempted to frame its wanton unruliness. I think there is some merit
to what I wrote. I like some parts. I like some ideas. But it's far from being a "done" chapter.
I also wrapped up my high school novel
class. I had some really good students, but overall, I think the class could have been a lot more
engaging and interesting. Teaching literature at eight o'clock in the morning and trying to get
kids to let go of their high school preconceptions and prejudices was difficult. I still had a good
time. I still thought it was a good idea. And I got a lot out of the experience, which is success
in my book.
The end of term also brought a cavalcade of university functions and obligations. I mean it wasn't bad.
Just busy and tiring. I was honored by the University for my
Excellence in Teaching Award
(here's the official write-up).
First, I attended a luncheon held by the school for teaching award recipients and members of the
award committee. Then, I attended the actual university-wide recognition ceremony where I got a
fancy framed certificate and a medal! If you want to see Provost Phyllis Wise give me my award,
Finally, I was invited by the Department of English to speak at graduation. It was a great honor. At first
I wasn't going to do it, but my department chair thought I should. How can you say no to that? So,
I got to dress up in regalia. I got to sit up on the stage with all of the professors. And I was the
first guest speaker. I only had five minutes or so. So, I kept things really simple. The first part
was sentimental: I told the students that they needed to make sure they continued to be curious about
the world aroudn them. The second part was practical: I advised them that no matter what they wrote,
no matter what job they had, they had to read everything out loud. Then I proceeded to tell my number one
best student error story. I had a student once who wrote a paper about the disposal of nuclear waste
in the US, whether it should be disposed of in a centralized facility or remain decentralized. There
was a quote in their paper that was supposed to read: "Nuclear waste spread across the US is like
dirty socks strewn about a bachelor's apartment." Unfortunately, what they actually typed was: "Nuclear
waste spread across the US is like dirty cocks strewn about a bachelor's apartment" (my emphasis).
This got a lot of uncomfortable laughs. But I immediately followed up with: "I wrote in the margins, 'OH,
MY GOD!'" And that got them laughing. All in all, it was a success. People kept coming up to me afterward
saying how much they enjoyed my speech. (There was report of one complaint from a parent who did not
find the story appropriate for public.) It was one of the hardest things I've done -- and I'm usually
comfortable speaking in front of audiences -- mainly because it was in front of like a thousand people
and I didn't want to fuck up people's graduation experiences.
The bulk of July was spent prepping for and teaching ENGL 108 for
Summer LEAP, a live-learn transition
program for incoming freshmen athletes. I've been with the program for several years. This was my second
year teaching, co-teaching with my friend and roommate, Jane. And like previous years, it is really fun,
really tiring, and really challenging. I always have a blast; I always feel like I'm learning how to be
a better teacher. And I really like working with this particular population of students. The four
weeks were intense and intensive. We taught every day. We usually had grading every night. And on
Fridays, we would take the students on field trips into the city. It's pretty much all I did
for the entire month.
Much of August was spent recovering from July. Much of August was spent trying to get back into
dissertation mode. And much of August was spent just wallowing, stressing out, trying to not let the
"PhDepression" wipe me out completely.
To be fair, my life and my world are generally pretty good: I have had a very full and productive (in
different ways) summer, I am in a great relationship with Greg, my social life is generally cool (I think in
part because I really don't worry about it as much as I used to), I got to visit with my sister a little
when she came up for a visit, I am still doing my best to exercise and eat well, I am still playing
World of Warcraft, and I adopted a cat.
Pigeon is technically my friend Jamie's cat. Jamie needed to find a new home for Pigeon. So, Jane and
I decided that we'd foster her (indefinitely). She's a very sweet, very playful, very vocal, and sometimes
very needy little furball. But she's added some life and energy to the apartment. And she's offers
companionship and comfort to both of us.
So, the general state of things is fine. But, alas, as with most things when it comes to graduate school,
the dissertation has really got me down. Like I said, though, I'll figure it out. I mean I want to
quit every single day. I keep thinking that there's got to be better things to do, easier things to do.
I am half-tempted to just find a fun job and live out my life. But I know that I really do want to
finish the degree, close this chapter, and hopefully make it as a professor. I am hoping that the
school year will give me some structure back to my hours, days, and weeks. It's really nice to have all
of this "free" time, but I tend to just feel anxious, feel guilty that I'm not producing, or just feel
disappointed and depressed. So, with the new school year, I'll have things to work around, things
to distract me, things to cheer me up. I hope.
That's it in a nutshell. More soon. I promise.
read footnotes |
• • •
last month |