I have been neglecting this blog for a few months now. I have never written very consistently on it, but have at least posted at least once a month, that is until September 2012, and then the writing stopped. Mostly due to time, rather than lack of desire. I hope that I write more in 2013, or at least manage a post a month. For now I hope to update you on the last year, and share (perhaps in a separate post) some of my hopes, plans and dreams for the new year.
I am now in my third year of my phd program in Women’s Studies. (See some of my reflections on the second year here). Last year I had a lot of doubts about what I was doing in grad school, and several times during the fall semester considered dropping out. The amount of work seemed overwhelming, I was tired of the politics in academia, I was scared that I wouldn’t have a job when I graduate, my anxiety was pretty high and I felt like I was not good enough to be doing a PhD. Now, looking back I realize that a large part of it was related to grief and emotional stress of having a friend who was sick in the hospital. In January 2012 I went to Mexico, which was exactly what I needed to re-evaluate my life and what I wanted and whether I should stick with the program or plan a new life course.
In the end, after conversations with close friends and with my grandparents I decided to stick with grad school. Ultimately I want to get a PhD for myself and the satisfaction of getting it done. I hope that I will have an academic job at the end of it, and would ideally like to teach at a liberal arts institution, but the bottom line is that I love teaching and as my adviser has said, “There are many different ways to teach in this world.” It was particularly good to talk to my granddad, himself an academic, and realize that these doubts and the stress of politics are a part of academia. Grandma says she remembers talking Granddad through his doubts of completing his dissertation many, many years ago, and they both shared stories of department politics when he was chair of his department in Holland.
Second semester, spring 2012, was a whir-wind. I was a TA again, was taking classes, and writing. At last I began work on my second benchmark, began to feel more confident about my research on gender non-conformity in children and an abstract was accepted for publication in an anthology on gender-fluid parenting practices. Things began to look up academically, though I was very glad of the summer break when it finally came!
Summer 2012 was wonderful; full of new beginnings, building friendships, taking care of children and odd jobs. My friend had her little girl, Josie, in June, and I was at her home birth, watching her three year old while she labored upstairs. It was an incredible experience, and I was honored to be part of such a special occasion and to be welcomed into the family during those early days of Josie’s life. This friend lives very close to me, so I was over there almost every day over the summer. She is also a grad student in my program, and I am so grateful for our friendship and the love and support she gives me. And there is nothing like smiles and hugs from her little ones!
In June I went to England–which was lovely, (see my post about it here) and throughout July and August baby-sat, tutored and worked for a summer art camp for 2-5 year olds. It has been nice to get to know the families in my neighborhood and I am beginning to feel more and more like this is home. Over the summer a close friendship blossomed into a relationship and we have now been together for six months. I am so lucky to have such a beautiful, caring, funny woman in my life.
Fall 2012 began my third year of grad school, and I have to say it is way better than my second year! (My first year was hard because I was getting used to the work load, and then second semester was horrible because of loss. Even so, while everyone talks about the first year being hard, but for me, the second year was the worst). This year I began teaching my own course–I teach WMST 250: Women, Art and Culture, and I had a fantastic class. There were glitches that come with the first teaching experience, but overall I loved it and I was lucky to have an enthusiastic group of students. This next semester will bring its own challenges, particularly since I will have two courses, so 50 students total, but I am looking forward to being in the classroom again!
This fall I also spent a lot of time working on my paper, as well as negotiating the process of working with an adviser, and figuring out the type of writing required for academic research. This is not about writing at the last minute, turning it in, getting an A and being done with it. This is writing, and re-writing and writing again! And it’s not just about the intellectual labor, but the emotional labor as well, of putting your work out there, and receiving critique and having to pick it up and write some more.
While there was a lot good this past semester, it was also very difficult. There was a mix-up in regards to when I was expecting funding and when it actually came through, and so I was in a tight spot financially for a couple of months. I have started a regular baby-sitting job to make ends meet, as well as other dog and baby-sitting gigs when I can pick them up. Along with academic work, I was also juggling a lot of other responsibilities this year in regards to facilitating a queer women’s group, union organizing, and helping create the wmst grad student association. There were times when I felt completely overwhelmed, and I know this next semester is only going to be busier.
Thankfully I have strong friendships, a wonderful girlfriend who reminds me to not over-stress about things, and is there for me when I do, and a wonderful living situation (other than the war I am currently waging with the mice). I am remembering to take deep breaths, get outside as much as I can, run every day if possible, and spend time with loved ones. The work will get done somehow.
And on that note, I had better get some of that work done! Paper editing and syllabus writing here I come.
Cover image: “Calendar” Aleah Phlls.