Archive for category Silent Writers
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.
It’s a weird sensation, finishing the dissertation. I think somewhere in the back of my mind I never thought it would end. With that I’m also not sure I knew exactly how much definition it gave my life. It was *always* on my mind in one way or another.
It’s been the first thing on my mind in the morning, and the last when I go to bed at night.
And now it’s done. Granted, it’s still on my mind but not in that pressure cooker way it was before – you know, the one where you feel like your brain is going to implode from the pressure? And you can’t wait until it’s over?
A friend tonight compared my depression at finishing to post-partem and my dissertation to a baby. (Well, loosely – I storta threw in the baby part myself.) I don’t think that’s too far from the truth, although in many ways I think the dissertation isn’t a newborn, it’s more like my first child just left for kindergarten. That would be about right time wise. Five years working on this project, and it’s likely I’ll work on it a few more trying to turn it into a book. And now I’m dealing with what to do with an empty house during the day.
(This is actually a really good metaphor because I spent the better part of today wondering what I was going to do with myself.)
So as I was killing brain cells watching stupid TV soap opera dramas (Desperate Housewives. What? Don’t judge.) I decided I knew what I really missed. I miss writing. I miss that push I’ve constantly had in the back of my mind to produce, that urge no matter what to get to the computer and get something out. I didn’t realize it but that push is what kept me going through the dissertation. It wasn’t anything more than simply my desire to write, the one and only desire that has stayed with me for my entire life.
And then I had the best thought of all.
I don’t have to stop writing.
In fact, I have more time to write things I really enjoy.
Now, if I could only figure out what that is, I’d be set.
So I’m going to commit myself to writing everyday for the rest of the month and see what comes out of that.
To be continued . . .
If March 2011 was your last month to live, how would you live it?
I literally groaned when I read this prompt, much in the same way my students often groan when I tell them that peer reviews are not optional. The timing for this prompt couldn’t have been worse – it came in just as I nailed down the date for my dissertation defense: April 1st.
How could I write about not living to see April 1st?
So I resigned myself to skip it entirely.
Then Emerald City Comicon happened and my perspective started to change.
I won’t wax poetic (again) about the event because, really, the perspective change only had a little to do with meeting Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton. It was really about realizing the value of the work I’ve done and how important it is to me.
The thing is it doesn’t really matter what happens on April 1st. I finished the dissertation and submitted it to the graduate school for review. They said the formatting looks really good, and I am ready to go.
And better than simply finishing it, I am pleased with the outcome.
Now that is something I never expected to say. There is a saying in academia, “The only good dissertation is a done dissertation,” and there is a lot of truth to that. 50% of the people that make it to the point where I am now fail. They don’t finish at all and instead of the coveted Ph.D. behind their names they have ABD (All But Dissertation). It’s not an official title in any way but it is a reality for many people who pursue this path.
So I pretty much figured I’d just write my way out from under this albatross and get finished with this degree and then move on. I am not even sure I want to keep writing academically, but that is a story for another post. During such an event filled weekend, where I again embraced my geeky-ness with total and utter abandon, I realized the journey is what is important. I’ve come this far and I’ve done something that makes me proud. Hopefully, my committee feels the same way and they bestow upon me the title “doctor” on April Fool’s Day.
The end of this month could come and I could meet my end knowing that I had spent my time researching something important to me, and along the way I met some great people and made new friends I never would have known otherwise. Better than that, I learned so much about myself in the process, about who I am as a writer and thinker and an academic. Although it’s hardly poetry, I’d like to think that I’ve chosen every word with care and consideration, planning and mapping it all out with the kind of precision that poetry demands.
Even now, having the draft done and getting ready for the defense, I feel parts of myself returning: my desire to cook and bake, and visit with friends and family, and to game just for fun. This new life is opening up for me and I’m looking forward to the next part of my journey, even if I am unsure where my next job is going to be or what that future actually looks like. Just finishing the dissertation is an accomplishment regardless of the title that it will bestow upon me. I told myself early on to “trust the process” and I have that motto emblazoned on the bookcase in my office (right next to my poster of Rosie the Riveter eternally reminding me, “We can do it!”)
So I guess the take away message here ties into a sense of living in the moment, embracing what you have instead of worrying about what is to come. Sheesh. I feel like I have to keep learning and re-learning that same lesson over and over again. I’m sure I’ll forget again.
One month into 2011, what question(s) are you living? Are there any prompts/questions that arose during #reverb10 that are still resonating in your life? Are you living new questions?
My temper has been really short the past few days. It’s odd actually. I sent off the lion’s share of my dissertation to my committee last week, I am very close to nailing down the date for my defense (which might just be April Fool’s Day) and yet I am feeling utterly unresolved. I have little things nagging at me, a new LMS to learn that is driving me mad, and new online classes that started yesterday.
But really, these are small bumps. I’ve got another job to apply for, and two that I am still waiting to hear back from (although the waiting causes some anxiety, especially since I know I am a really good match for one and I’m afraid the Ph.D. might not work in my advantage.)
I think most of this unsettled feeling comes from living in a new question: what next? At the end of last year, when I started working on reverb10, I knew what was next. I had a plan and even the moments during that time when I faltered, I knew pretty much what was coming. Finish the dissertation. Defend. Get Ph.D. Life long pursuit achieved. Have big party. Talk like cave woman.
Somewhere in the last few days a scary reality set in. I have *no* idea what is next. None-what-so-ever. I’ve always been somewhat cavalier about the upcoming changes in my life – I’ve lived as an adjunct before and living as a Ph.D. student isn’t that much different, although a year long contract is a luxury not afforded to many adjuncts. I know I’ll pull something together, the question is what does that something look like.
Part of me is ok with the uncertainty.
Part of me is screaming inside.
Like usual, I am suppressing the screaming part. There is work to be done, papers to be read, and I hope I keep my distain out of the countless emails I send to my online students, answering the questions that I wrote the painstakingly detailed syllabus to answer.
I suppose I should remind myself of all the lessons I learned while I’ve been working on this blog:
As the saying goes, life is uncertain – eat dessert first. Perhaps my dessert should come first, and should be the one thing I can always count on: the knowledge that I’ve persisted this far in this mad life that I love and that is the only certainty I need.
And as I want to wrap up there, I am taken back to another one of reverb10’s prompts – Letting Go. I do have trouble letting go and as glad as I am to be moving on and out of school, I think part of me is struggling with letting go of being an official student in some way. I read on a Ph.D. forum one time that there is a different reaction from people between when you are “working on” your Ph.D. and when you’ve finished it, especially if you’ve finished it and you haven’t gotten whatever dream job or ideal income it was magically supposed to grant you. I think I might be a little bit afraid of that stigma, that somehow it’s so much easier and full of hope to be “working on” a doctorate rather than have finished it.
There is a part of me that fears being done. Much like I got upset with my brother laughing because I am a “professional student,” I don’t want to face the questions that come when I’ve finished and I say, “Yeah I’m teaching part time.” I know I will be fine with it, and so will the people in my life that truly love and care for me. But still . . .
Recently, I found a great blog – The Thesis Whisperer. It’s ironic because I found them so late in my process. One post that spoke the most to me discussed how getting a Ph.D. is really about learning about yourself. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve learned so much about myself and I think this last lesson that I’m learning right here, and right now, is that I need to let go of other people’s expectations and ideas for my life and just live it.
I am participating in a new writing group (or trying to at least since it seems they are more of an east coast group.) It’s called Silent Writers and the call is to write for an hour a week silently. It’s Tuesday nights at 9pm. Usually, I’ve thought about something I want to write about or at least formed some words in my head.
But all my words right now bounce around my head to the theme of OMG APRIL IS EIGHT WEEKS AWAY! See, I am scheduling my dissertation defense for the first week of April and I have a lot to do before then and it’s kinda freaking me out.
So then I saw a couple of posts on a theme: 50 things that make you feel normal. Here is the original and the first one I read. Both are from excellent blog writers and I enjoy reading their stuff very much. In an effort to be more Zen and in the moment which is never easy for me, I am going to attempt to do this as unedited as possible. So here goes:
1. Eating an orange.
2. Snuggling with Jasmine by my side.
4. Having dinner with Chris and catching up on our days.
5. Feeling the warmth of the sun on my face knowing so many people are experience snowpocolype across the country.
6. Missing snow days.
7. Typing/writing my thoughts down free form.
8. Writing for school.
9. Prepping for class.
10. Teaching when I feel crappy and remembering why I am doing this.
11. Wool/cotton blend socks.
12. Fleece slippers.
13. Flannel pajama pants.
14. Drinking water.
15. Looking at pictures from NZ.
20. Sleeping on my back and snoring.
21. The weight of my book-bag on my shoulder.
22. My water bottle.
23. Matilda’s meow.
24. A hug from Chris.
25. The hum from the heater.
26. Watering plants.
28. Buying daffodils at the grocery store.
31. CHEESE. (Wow, I can’t believe it took me this long to think of cheese!)
33. Talking to my mom.
34. Texting Julie or Kathleen.
35. Walking to class, especially in anticipation of great discussions of literature or lit theory.
36. My red coat.
37. Listening to the Glee soundtrack in the car and singing at the top of my lungs without a hint of shame.
38. Tea. (Home brewed from loose leaf only.)
39. Coffee. (Preferably made by someone else and all fancy with cinnamon on top.)
40. Chocolate cupcakes with white frosting.
43. Washing laundry (but not folding or putting it away).
46. Watching The Guild.
48. Loving, physically and emotionally.
49. Gaming and giggling with good friends.
50. Knowing that with all I know I still have so much to learn.