Done.

Hey y’all. I successfully defended my dissertation this morning. Just call me Dr. Sista Outsider! 🙂

Love and light,

S.O.

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Summer Plans, Or Nah?

Summer is upon us, and while some of us are off to do fieldwork, working on articles for publication, visiting family, or whiling the days away on nothing at all, I’ve decided to devote this summer to completing and starting a couple of new projects, as well as having a bit of fun.

  • First on the list is wrapping up this dissertation. I am so over grad school and its attending melodrama, and I’m just ready to move on with my life.  I’ve mostly enjoyed my experiences there, and I am grateful for the friendships I’ve forged and the lessons I’ve learned in graduate school. But it’s time, y’all. It’s time.
  • Related to the grad school shenanigans is the cancellation of my summer course due to low enrollment. I was pretty hyped about teaching this course on LGBTQ identities and popular culture, but I do believe that this is a blessing in disguise. My diss completion timeline just got a boost,  and I’ll have time to work on some other writing projects I’ve started. More on this later.
  • The JOB SEARCH.  I’ll go on the academic job market this year, but I’m also looking for alt-ac and post ac jobs. A girl’s gotta have options, ya’ know?
  • I don’t want to reveal too much about all the pots I’ve got on the stove right now, but I can share one thing:   I’m thinking about starting a podcast on Black lesbian literature and writers, past and present. What do y’all think? Would any of you listen? Be a guest on the show? I’d love to hear your suggestions. I’m in the planning stages, so email me if you want to talk about it.
  • Me and the Mrs. are heading to Florida next week to celebrate her birthday and one year of relationship bliss. We are looking forward to the R&R!
  • I’ve just come back from a couple of weeks with the fam, which is always a blast. I didn’t get to see many of my friends, but not for want of trying.

This is about the extent of my plans for the next couple of months. What are YOU doing this summer?

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

WAR EAGLE!!! Or, the Best Thanksgiving Break EVAR

So, this post is going to get real silly, but bear with me people, it’s that time of semester. First things first: My first attempt at AcWriMo was a partial success. Ok. it was a big fat FAIL. Although I reached two of my goals (finishing the conference paper and working on my current chapter), I didn’t finish the chapter, nor did I start the next one. I have to admit that things started off well; I was reading and writing like a BOSS! However, right around the middle of November, (NWSA time), things started to slow down and I was never able to regain traction. I’ll try again next year, and I’ll make sure take into account the conferencing and job hunting I know I’ll be doing again.

Now, the good stuff! Me and T. had a wonderful Thanksgiving break together. We spent most of the time at a bougie hotel in Indy,  where we had easy access to shopping and good food. It was also our anniversary week, and T. surprised me with gifts several days in a row. The first little gift was like 12 pair of awesome socks. Let me explain, I LOVE cute colorful socks and I’m always complaining that I need more. So the first night we are in Indy she gives me like 12 pair, seriously. It was so cute and you know I was wearing them the rest of the week.

And then this happened:

IMG_0729‘Cause you know, I needed a brown purse. 0_0   I also received a new office chair, (mine had a permanent “lean” which would on occasion have me on the floor), a beautiful sapphire ring with matching earrings and pendant, and other goodies.  I got her two pair of headphones (one kinda fancy, the other not so much), and her other “big” gift is on the way.  I’ll be so glad when I’m able to do as much for her as she does for me. We both like nice things and like to give, but I tend to be on the receiving end more often than not these days. I work three jobs, but you know it’s still hard out here for a grad student. That will change soon, and I’m looking forward to it!

The only downside to last week was that she caught a nasty cold. But you know I’m Nurse Ratchet, so she was on the mend in no time.  My mom says I’m a terrible nurse, but I don’t think so. As long as you do what I tell you, we’re fine. 🙂 T. didn’t care for my no nonsense style of treatment either, but she definitely felt better sooner than she thought she would. I’m now taking that same hard line with myself, since of course, I caught the cold as soon as I returned from break.

The most exciting part of our break was the amazing Iron Bowl that we were able to watch together (we sometimes have to stream the games on our computers because she can’t get all of the channels we have here in the U.S.), and it was the best football game I’ve ever seen in my life! Y’all know I’m a basketball girl, but I’m also an Auburn graduate, so SEC football is a part of my DNA, like it or not. We took Alabama DOWN, with one second to go. In case you missed it, here’s a clip:

We had so much fun watching the game and celebrating after, and you can best believe that I was giving my Alabama friends hell for the rest of the night. I believe my Facebook cover photo is still the game scorecard…

Anywhooo, back to work, sick or not. I’ve got some writing to do!

 

Working Day and Night, Grad School Edition

Y’all. The past two weeks have been the craziest EVAR. I’ve applied to ten jobs, graded 5011 papers, written two new syllabi for courses I MIGHT get to teach, attended countless meetings, written and disseminated the CFP for our conference next spring, added a few pages to the diss, watched a train wreck of a job talk (great example of what NOT to do if I get a campus interview), and I don’t even remember what else.

All that to say that I haven’t had much time to update my favorite space on the web.  🙂

I’ve got to get back to the grind, but here’s a little something to let you know what it’s been like the past couple of weeks:

 

Back to Life

So, I’m back from fall break and feeling the burn. I had a wonderful time in Edmonton with my gf, but it’s time to get back to the grind.  It’s hard. One of my academic soul sisters told told me a couple of years ago that it takes about five days to find your rhythm again after a break from the quotidian. Being the taskmaster that I am, I soundly rejected that idea, thinking I only needed a good night’s sleep and my list of things to do to get back on track.  Weeeelllll, that’s not quite how it works, at least not anymore. In other words, she was right.

While I don’t need five whole days to get myself together after a break, (and by break I mean more than three days off in a row from my regular crazy busy schedule), I do need at least two. I need one whole day just to get my body right from driving or flying, both of which now take a toll on me that I didn’t experience in years past.  I need another day to get my house in order, ’cause I don’t know about y’all, but I need my space to be just so before the magic can happen.  And by “just so” I don’t mean perfect, I just mean I need clean underwear and coffee; i.e., laundry and grocery shopping.

So, now the real craziness begins: I’m on the job market, trying to finish the diss, teaching, chairing one committee and serving on two others, as well as presenting at NWSA and participating in their WoC Leadership Program this year. Oh yeah, and my kid is GRADUATING FROM COLLEGE IN DECEMBER. Yeah, ALL that.  Even though I can’t afford to take too long to ease back into this semester, I have taken this afternoon regroup and map out my plan to get everything done for the next few weeks.

Sooo, back to life for me, and here’s a little aural inspiration to get this work party started: