Starting the Week Off Right

So far, today has been another morning filled with productivity. I was up at 7 and read for the diss for over an hour, took a few notes that will jump start me tomorrow morning. I also wrote my lecture for this online class I’m teaching (y’all know I got a couple of side hustles), and finished setting up the classroom for that course. I’ve also washed and folded two loads of laundry, checked in on my other online class, and straightened up the office a little. I do plan to take the rest of the day off, because this week is already filling up fast with meetings, coffee dates, and other academic ephemera.

Oh, and did I tell y’all that my Mac crashed the other day? Thankfully, I kept my old Dell from back in the day and it’s a viable solution for the next few weeks. I am definitely replacing the Mac, but I’ll need to wait until a little bit, ’cause you know, money don’t grow on trees.

All in all a fair start to the week, and I’m really committed to keeping to my schedule  this semester. Grad school is sucking the soul out of me, and I’m the only one who can do something about that. 

Here’s to a productive semester!

Advertisements

Baby Steps

Today was the first time in a long time where I’ve felt like I’ve done some good work on the dissertation. I cleaned up all of the footnotes in chapter one, and did a little editing. I also mapped out my next steps and wrote out two pages of notes for the davenport section. I also started an online (Facebook) support group for dissertation writers, and hopefully folks will actually participate. We shall see. Either way, I feel like I’ve actually done something, something that moves this project forward in a meaningful, albeit incremental way.  I’m excited about what I’m doing tomorrow, and I had to force myself to stop working tonight. That’s progress right?

Notes on a Holiday Break

So much has happened over the past few weeks, that I barely know where to start.  I’ll just jump right in and if this point seems disjointed and random, that’s probably because that is what my life feels like right now.

First, the good news: The semester ended well and I’ll be teaching Intro to LGBT Studies in the spring and LGBTQ Identities in Popular Culture this summer. I’m excited about both courses and I’m itching to put my Black lesbian feminist spin on both of these topics.

My daughter graduated from college on December 9th, and the whole family celebrated the occasion for at least a week. She was also offered a job (albeit part-time), where she completed her internship, so she’s now an assistant editor at a pretty posh little magazine in the South. I had her sign her first issue ’cause I know she’s going to be famous someday!

IMG_0773

After spending three weeks with the fam, I met up with T. in Chattanooga to meet my new “in-laws” for the first time. I was a bit nervous at first, but I had the best time with them and they welcomed me with open arms. Literally. EVERYBODY I met hugged me. I got to tell you, that’s one of the things I love about being in the South with Black people, we aren’t afraid to show you that we love you.

On to the bad news: My mom fell ill while I was home, and after she was admitted to the hospital with possible pneumonia, we found out that she had had a minor heart attack. How the heck did she have a heart attack and no one knew??? She said she probably passed it off as indigestion and I believe her, but she also had a stroke last year with hardly any symptoms.  We’ve got to keep a better eye on her, and she’s got to tell us when something hurts! I won’t theorize here about Black women being “strong” and keeping our pain to ourselves (you can look it up for yourself), but I do believe this is part and parcel why she kept so quiet about not feeling good.

My mini-vacation to Edmonton with T. was cancelled due to the weather (I missed my flight) and her flight was delayed for two days.  This wasn’t such a bad thing, but I probably won’t get back out there until mid-March.

IMG_0843

Finally, I’m in a love/hate relationship with my dissertation right now. This probably deserves its own post, but I’ll just say that I’ve struggled this past semester in ways that I had not thought imaginable. I’m nearly done with the chapter I’m currently working on, but just couldn’t seem to break through my writing fog until today. I don’t know if it’s the dismal job market, current ennui with my topic, or the current state of academia writ large, but I’ve been rethinking this whole Ph.D. thing for a few months now.  I came into this thing fully aware of the risks, but since I’ve been in academia I’ve seen what seems to be a full-scale assault on academic freedom/dissent, the adjunctification of academic labor, as well as come to realize that not everybody working in Women’s/LGBT Studies is as feminist as they claim. Still, I absolutely adore my home discipline of American Studies, even as it comes under fire for its correct decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

I’m no baby (no offense to the babies out there), but I started this thing at 40, having enjoyed a decent career in corporate America. However, academic in-fighting and posturing, arm-chair activism, and the never-ending hierarchies sometimes leave me wondering if I made the right choice.  In other words, if another person tells me I’m “just a grad student” one more time, I’m going to punch them in the throat. I’m 44 years old, I’m not “just” anything. Only in academia are you expected to give up life and limb for paltry pay and the privilege of being at the bottom of the academic heap. The undergraduates are treated with more respect. I have not experienced this in my home discipline, but I most certainly have in other areas of the institution with which I am currently affiliated.

But on the other hand, I have the extreme privilege of watching my students “come to consciousness” and knowing that when they leave my classroom, they are better equipped to deal with the issues they will most certainly face in the real world, and that I’ve helped them to think more critically about their role in maintaining or disrupting the race, class, gender, and sexual systems of oppression that impact all of us. On more than one occasion I’ve been blessed with a hug or a kind note of appreciation from a student.

I also love my research project, even though there are days when I want to toss it across the ocean and never look back.  I’ve finally finished transcribing an important interview, and I feel ready to move forward. I received good feedback on this chapter draft from a trusted colleague, and I feel like I’m headed back toward the land of productivity.

IMG_0292

I’m still mad at academia right now, but not because I feel cheated or because I might not get the job I think l I’m entitled to. It’s because I think we can and must do better, and I’m not sure that we will. In this digital age, why are we still holding on to peer review processes that take upwards of 18 months to complete? Why are we still admitting students into graduate programs for which we know there will be no jobs? Why have we allowed contingent labor to become the primary means by which we educate our students? Have we decided that the only way to hold on to whatever semblance of privilege we have is at the cost of educating our students? I know that as a 44-year old Black lesbian, I am not supposed to be here. That I am is in itself an act of resistance and an affront to all those who wish to silence me, and evidence that the work that I am doing is valuable and necessary.

So I must press on. Weary but determined to get what I came for.

Why I Love My GF

So, after our usual morning chat, T. asks me what my intentions are for the rest of the day. I tell her about the tons of grading I need to do, the laundry, packing for my upcoming trip, conference stuff I need to get started on, yada yada yada. She then asks me: When are you going to do YOUR work? Meaning of course, the diss.

Welp!! Right after I post this blog.

I’ll see y’all later in the week. I’ve got some writing to do!

S.O.

 

A Day in the Life, or This Diss Ain’t Gonna Write Itself

Today has been a whirlwind of dissertation writing, online course setups, and grad student housekeeping. This morning, I  added two pages to the diss. I know that doesn’t seem like much, and it isn’t, but they are two GOOD pages. After being unable to produce anything substantial for the past few weeks, I feel good about this progress, and I’m starting to think that my mojo is coming back. I’m actually excited about the section I’m working on, and I can’t wait to pick up the books I ordered to see where they might fit in this part of my research. Those of you who are academics know that scholarly writing is HARD, and I won’t rehash the myriad of reasons why, or the fact that there are days when I can barely pick up a book to skim, or look at a draft of the chapter I’m working on. All of this is par for the course for most academics, and I’m no exception.

Still, this last writing desert felt different; I was seriously beginning to question whether or not I really wanted a spot in the Ivory Tower, or if the Ph.D. is truly a means to any end other than itself.  I’m not frantic or overly paranoid about job market melodrama or the “crisis in the humanities;” I came into this program at 40 years old knowing full well the risks involved. I’ve always had a back-up plan or two or three, so that’s not my issue. I won’t feel like a supreme failure if an academic job doesn’t pan out; I’ll take my Ph.D. and move on with my life. However, there are aspects of academia that I find rather distasteful, and I’m kind of “over” being underpaid, over-worked, and under-appreciated. Don’t get me wrong, I recognize the extreme privilege of my status as a highly educated Black woman, but I’m also keenly aware of the fact that these days, that might not count for much.

To counter a bit of the negativity that is threatening to take root in this blog entry, I want to share that I absolutely love teaching. Every semester I’ve had students come up to me and give me hugs, telling me how much they miss my class. I’m also one of only three people on my campus that can teach the new Intro to LGBT Studies course that we are offering, and how cool is that? I’m on track to finish the Ph.D. in five years, which is well above the national average of nine or ten for folks in certain humanities fields.  I love my project, and I have an extremely supportive and generous dissertation committee. I also have a really smart and dedicated group of friends who keep me grounded and expect me to get the thing done.

To be perfectly honest with you, my life is pretty golden right now, and I guess writing a little of this down has helped me to get off my pity pot.  I think that pity pots are ok for a few minutes of self-reflection and general gnashing of the teeth and ripping of the garments. However, to languish on the pot too long is certain death, figurative, if not literal. I’ve seen what death in a graduate program looks like: it looks like the folks who are still thinking about going on the  job market “next year” after ten years in a Ph.D. program. Or the folks who can regurgitate Lacan or Butler or Kant at the drop of a dime, but who have no original ideas. If this is the life they’ve chosen for themselves, so be it, but I promised myself when I came into this program that I would not become one of those people. As a 44 year-old Black woman, I can’t afford to be. I’ve also decided that when I’m dean (don’t you like how I’ve gone from cranky Ph.D. student to dean in a few sentences?), that I won’t allow this kind of tom-foolery in any of the programs that I’m responsible for.

So, enough with the pontificating, let’s get this party started. This diss ain’t gonna write itself.