Archive for April, 2011
Recently, one of my favorite bloggers said the word “bittersweet” was overused. Of course, she also used it but she explained that she spent some time trying to come up with a different word for that feeling. Her words stuck with me, partly because I became more aware of the word itself, and mostly because it reminded me of a time I used it.
I remember when I finished my master’s degree, the director of my program surprised me at a department event and asked me to say a few words. Taken completely off-guard, I stumbled around for a minute and thanked everyone I worked with and thanked him for facilitating such a great program. Then I closed my short, bumbling speech by saying this was a bittersweet moment for me, leaving a program I enjoyed so much.
This was not the sensation I had finishing the Ph.D.
Completing the defense, and putting the dissertation to bed was total, utter, and complete relief. I was so glad to be out from under the pressure to complete it, the stress of being evaluated, and doing my own research. I felt happy (well, until I learned I was losing a summer class and was going to need another job a lot sooner than I expected.)
But I didn’t feel like I was going to miss working on the dissertation.
I’m pretty much done with the whole academic writing thing. I want to write, I’ve always wanted to write, but I want to write things people are actually going to read. So I’m working on morphing my dissertation into a popular press book. It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’ll be able to focus on the parts I enjoy the most – interviews and talking to people about gaming.
But I digress.
That bittersweet sensation returned this week as I realized I was coming to the end of my time teaching at my university. When I participate in graduation in a couple of weeks, I will be walking with my own students. Several of them are graduating this year, too. This is the one time I’ll participate in graduation with students that I’ve taught myself. My connection to them is stronger than any connection I’ve ever had to other classmates because I feel like I played some small role in their success, even if I was only in class with them for a single semester.
And I know in my mind that this bittersweet feeling will pass, and that this is the end of an era, but that I have new and exciting things to come. (What those exciting things will look like . . . well, that isn’t clear. But I have faith they will show up eventually.)
But my heart tells a different story. My heart knows the larger community I’ve been a part of at this small campus is coming to an end and that I’ll have to start all over again some place new. I am largely ok with that, but each time I leave a place I’ve lived or a school or a job, there is a small corner of my heart that resonates with the word bittersweet.
My mom went into surgery about half an hour ago. Hopefully this surgery will solve issues that were created by a series of surgeries she had a couple of years ago and problems she’s been having ever since. I feel a lot better about this surgery than I have any of the others up until this point. She’s at a better hospital and they did a lot more to prepare her this time.
But I’m still worried.
And there is nothing I can do about it.
It is by choice that I live a fair distance from my family. I love my mom and my brothers very much but there is a lot of self inflicted drama that goes on at home, a lot of pointless infighting and other things that I can’t be bothered with. I am glad to visit but I never fully shake the sense that I just don’t belong there.
Of course, it’s times like these that I wish I was closer to home and could actually BE THERE for my mom. I know I’d be able to do little more if I was actually at the hospital this morning, but in my mind my anxiety would somehow be different it if didn’t have to span so many miles.
Instead, I’ll head into class today and discuss one of my all time favorite books and I’ll keep all my worry bottled up until I can get home and call the hospital to see what’s happening.
Sometimes I wonder if life is lived mostly in waiting . . .
It’s been a quietly productive day today – I cleaned out my closet (something I’ve been putting off for months) and enjoying sunshine and open windows. I’m not the only one enjoying the sunshine . . .
So this post is short on purpose – I am gonna keep rolling through this day and see how much I can get done!
It was closing in on the end of my first year living in New York. I was unfamiliar with this middle season I had heard about but never actually experienced: mud season. After about a week of trudging through sloshy, melting snow, and tracking mud into my apartment, I suddenly understood why people had “mud rooms.” Having spent most of my previous east coast time visiting Maine in the summer, it never made much sense to me that people had separate entry rooms with stand brushes for shoes and racks for heavy coats.
Then it happened. April came and the accumulating snow began to melt and no matter where I went there was mud.
But if felt so good, the rain and the warmer temperatures that marked the start of a new season, one that would hopefully leave me feeling slightly less isolated and homesick. I missed California – I missed home, and the ocean, and “winter” where it was overcast and foggy but I could count on a sunny and warmer day here and there to break up this “cold” season.
The PNW has mud season too, except it lasts a little longer, like the entire expanse of winter. It recently hit me the reason my skin begins to itch for some sunshine about this time of year is because winter and spring here are pretty much the same. Living in a climate where it snows for several months, spring rains smack of relief and warmer temps. When you live where it rains for winter AND for spring and then for some of summer, too . . . well. You can see how the experience isn’t quite the same.
I went out onto my patio this week and refilled the bird feeders and swept off the chairs, pushing the seedlings from the tree outside my living room onto the ground. It felt good to be outside, under some sunshine, and the cleaning was part of my own personal renewal where I am feeling more connected to being at home since I don’t have overwhelming deadlines hanging over my head and a huge project to finish. I’m starting to feel like a normal person, the kind that can plan home projects for the weekend instead of pages of writing chapters or reading texts for a literature review.
So the mud this year, the in-between season, suits me well. I am in-between, too, in that maleable state that isn’t the same as what it was but hasn’t formed into what it will be either. Let the rain come, and I will soak it up and see what it changes me into.
Next week I will teach my last classes for my TAship. It’s funny in that ironic, not a knee-slapper way, that I’ve been so focused on finishing my Ph.D. that I kinda forgot it really does mark the end of an era for me. The three years I’ve been on this campus are the longest I’ve taught in the same physical location since I started teaching. Two weeks ago I visited my adviser’s class and realized more than half of her students were either currently in my class or had been in the last year or so.
I guess that’s what it’s like when you’re teaching at a campus with fewer than 3,000 students. It’s not an insult to say your students “get around.” 🙂
I dreaded going into class today. The last time we had a discussion heavy class, I snapped at some of my students because they were chatting with each other instead of talking to the class. Usually, I ignore such behavior. My pedagogy generally leans towards the idea that this is your education, if you want to piss it away chatting about lip gloss or boys or whatever else can’t wait until after class, so be it. And that works for me until it gets in the way of someone else’s learning. Then I snap. I think I turned it around well enough – I made it an opportunity for normally too quiet students to participate in class but it’s difficult to tell how the students feel once they’ve been publicly reprimanded.
So I felt the weight of that as I headed into class today, knowing that even if it wasn’t a fresh memory for the girls that I ousted into participating it was there for me at least.
It seemed to take us a while to warm up into the discussion but all of a sudden it seemed like my students were on fire. They were spouting off some great thoughts and ideas and I could see a semester’s worth of thinking starting to gel. And one of the quiet students that I snapped at during the last discussion volunteered to participate and shared some really excellent thoughts. I told her so and she smiled in return.
And as always, those are the moments I live for – the moments where it’s clear I’ve gotten through by whatever means what necessary, and that lightbulb flashes on behind their eyes.
It seems people in the academy complain a lot. When I told Chris yesterday that I didn’t want to finish the semester and just wanted my summer break to begin, I laughed and said, “Yeah poor me – I have to work for 75 minutes tomorrow!” (Of course, I spent about three hours getting ready for class but that just doesn’t sound as funny.)
I am not sure why it is so easy to forget those moments, the ones that ultimately make the politics and the job applications and I’m sure my soon to be renewed status of freeway flier. They seem to flit by, especially when I sit down to read another stack of student papers and automatically correct the their/there/they’re mistakes, or two/too/to, and end up piled in some dusty corner of my brain. I am going to try and set my desk up in that part of my brain, where all the moments I love about what I do live, and see if that helps me complain a little less.
From one of The Post a Day prompts:
What do you want to accomplish with your blog? What is it for?
Bonus: Many blogs I see never explain to readers what the goal for the blog is, which makes it hard for people who stop by to know if they should come back. Write a post about your 3 goals for the blog, who you think the readers are, and what you’re offering them in terms of topics or themes.
This post was inspired by another blog you should check out – Knotrune.
This strikes me as a very Western ideal . . . why does a blog have to accomplish something in particular? Why must we always be driven, while writing or producing anything else, to some sort of predetermined outcome?
I started this blog to participate in Reverb10 – my goal at the time was simply to do writing that wasn’t related to my dissertation research and my pursuit of my Ph.D. I needed to escape and this is where I came. It helped a lot and I think I was able to finish on time partly because I had a place to put all those extra words in my head.
At the time, I didn’t know that much about blogging or what motivated people to, essentially, keep online journals full of personal thoughts. Then I saw themes emerge, people writing about what they were going through and finding other blogs, other people, talking about the same kinds of issues. I found several blogs that I wished I had known about earlier, one of the most important being The Thesis Whisperer and I’m thankful for several of their posts that helped me maintain my sanity through the defense.
After I finished Reverb 10, I found the Word Press guide to blogging which provides a lot of excellent advice (including don’t be worried about linking away from your blog, people will come back!) In that tutorial, they mentioned that each blog needs a focus, essentially a purpose or motivation or theme, a controlling idea that keeps the readers coming back for more.
So I’ve played around with some thoughts and ideas I’ve had about how to focus or generate a theme for this blog based on what I tend to write about the most: teaching, writing, grad school, literature, and gaming. But I just refuse to do it. As it says at the top, this is the place where I am thinking out loud to myself. I am not all that worried about other people reading it and that’s not to say that I’m not excited when I see my site stats go up or I get a comment from a new person. I publish this for a reason. I’ve kept countless journals in my life – I have dusty boxes full of them in my closet – and I know what it feels like to solely write for myself.
So in keeping these thoughts in a blog I am putting them out in the world for other people to see and if someone is motivated to comment or come back because they enjoyed it, then that is wonderful. But for now, the main motivation or theme of this blog is just me reflecting on my weird and wonderful life.