Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Once upon a time I gave a guest lecture and did not die of nerves.

First, some housekeeping. Literally. The Husband and I were gifted a set of wallflowers for our wedding, and put them up the other day to try and make our dining room look like a friendly space, rather than a bright red, dark hole. Seriously, you guys, it's kind of gothic-ish in there. Or it was, until we put these things up.
Here is how it went down:
Husband: puts tacks into wall
Me: puts flowers over tacks.
Us: small talk.
Me: Stepping back. "Um, did we mean to make a Jesus fish?"
Husband: "It's not a Jesus fish, where do you see a fish?"
Me: "Well, that is the eye, and..." (pointing to the glaringly obvious fish shape on our wall)
Husband: "Shall we call it Moby?"
Me: "That's too obvious. Ishmael?"

So today I gave the guest lecture that I mentioned being terrified about earlier, and it went stupidly well. I learned that lecturing is not at all like giving a seminar, mostly because the dynamic is so different. In my experience, nervousness during a seminar stems from the fear that all of your classmates have a more sophisticated reading of the text than you do, and that they are waiting for you to finish so they can bust it out and make you look stupid. Today, my nervousness had more to do with delivery. Am I covering the most important parts of the material? Are they engaged? Am I being clear enough? Are they understanding me? Do I need to clarify anything? I stuttered at least twice, lost my place in my notes as many times, laughed nervously a ton, and actually stopped at one point to say "can you tell that I'm nervous?" At this point, they laughed. Not the "OMG, how can you expect to teach if you're so imcompetent that you're nervous" type of laughter, either. This was the understanding, "of course you're nervous, you're doing okay" kind of laughter. I felt better. Then we broke into groups and looked at passages and discussed them as a class. The discussion went beautifully- they were engaged and articulate, and at one point they even started debating! I take no responsibility for this, the class that I was in front of were just a set of students who worked well together, enjoyed the material, and all decided to focus and participate. That being said, the experience was super empowering and fulfilling- I can do this!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wine and Books

You have a *happening.* There is awkwardness, or a fight, or an argument, or a something between you and a partner. You get upset, your stomach gets that knotted feeling, the one that won't let you sleep or think, or do anything except worry about the *happening.* You go downstairs, pour a glass of wine, pick up a novel (one that is for class, of personal interest, and relatively light- you tried to read some theory, but wanted to puke). You feel... relaxed?

Is this a sign that the program you are in is the best possible place for you, or the worst possible place? Anyone? Internets.... I know you are out there reading this...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Yes: it is always this busy.

Funny Pictures
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

OMG internet! I checked my stats, and yesterday, there were seven (SEVEN), yes, seven (7!) of you. So I know you're out there, and you're reading the stuff I write (and looking at pictures!)

A few things before getting down to business:
You may have noticed that I seem to love rabbits. This is correct. None of the pictures of rabbits are my rabbits, however. If you are good to me, dear internet, you may someday see pictures of my rabbits (and they are the best rabbits ever). Similarly, deducing that I love smirnoff ice based on that lone picture will get you banned from my blog. For reals.

In news related to school, I had a great talk with a professor today about doctoral studies and comprehensive exams. Before these exams terrified me, and to be truthful they still do, but having an idea of what to expect tames the beast a little, if you know what I mean. She described the exams as this:
*you choose two sub-areas within your discipline to become an expert in (scary stuff!)
*you outline a list of 150 books! For each sub-area!
*you read 150 books. X2!
*you sit an exam that your supervisor writes for you.
*If you don't do well enough they make you write an additional essay.

This information is incredibly comforting (if you are thinking that feeling this way makes me crazy you are correct). Why? Because you get to choose your list of books and then read them- the whole thing is set up such that if you aren't a total failure you inherently know everything in the exam. I am not pretending that this is easy- 150 books is still 150 books. That's a ton of content, theory, and nuance to get through and understand. However, having the material beforehand is a major comfort. Maybe this stems from my grade twelve English class, when my teacher decided to focus really well on some of the texts that would probably be covered, so much that we didn't end up getting to everything. There were questions on my grade twelve exam on texts that I hadn't read (and I read everything for that class). We didn't even start talking about what would be expected on the exam until five days before it. No one bothered telling me that the essays I had been writing, that were getting 10/10 with my teacher would only get me a 3/5 on this exam (perhaps because the teacher didn't know). The whole system of standardized testing will get its own post, but let me just say that my grade twelve english exam is THE blackspot on my academic record.
I digress. The best part about the doctoral comprehensive exams, neigh, the second best part, is that if you don't do well enough they give you an additional essay. This suggests to me (and please, tell me if you've been there and know that this isn't true) that no one right-out fails. Maybe your score isn't as good as it should be. Here, write another essay. And, you know what? I LIKE writing essays. That's right. Sometimes I even love it. The really great thing about this is that you get to read 300 books related to the subjects that you want to teach. That makes for a wonderful background, and, ideally, a diverse one. The very word "comprehensive" suggests that in an ideal world you and your supervisor will devise a list of texts that covers the entire range of scholarly conversation in the area you are interested in, including scholars that disagree with one another, or that you disagree with, which can be very important in academia.
In other news, nest Wednesday I will guest lecture to the science fiction class that I am marking for on this . On the one hand, it is long, and dense, and interesting, and terrifying (this is not the extent of my literary analysis, for anyone who is doubting me right now, merely my initial reaction to the task) . On the other hand, I am interested in gender and feminism, have read the piece before, and will be lecturing to a second year class. Plus, the prof is willing to go over my notes with me the night before, and will be there to supervise/step in if need be. Not that she will need to (yes, she. She is the coolest professor ever, a wonderful friend of mine, and a lady who teaches sci-fi. No, you cannot have my friend group), but having that support makes the whole thing feel... safer. This is all probably mostly indicative of my own anxieties. Yes. Yes, it definitely is.

In the interest of knowing you are out there (because I do):
what has your experience in academia been like?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sometimes I muse about stuff and then post vaguely related photos.

This photo is more related than you might think, but you have to read to the end(ish) to find out how!

The thing that prepared me most for feminism was encountering my own sexism, especially since I already had a big head about not being sexist by the time it happened. It goes a little something like this:
I started working as a server when I was 19. The food industry is full of teenagers, 20somethings, angry clientele, reasonable clientele, a gender hierarchy (cooks=male, servers= female, as always, there are exceptions and will hopefully continue to be more and more exceptions through time), male clients that think they've paid for your time with their tip in ways unrelated to food, and female clients that sometimes send food back. Obviously this list is not comprehensive.
I want to focus on that last category: the woman who sends food back to the kitchen. Or complains about it. Or who is suspicious when something doesn't look right.
Fact: restaurants screw up. Not at all the time, but often enough.
Fact: if you are paying for a meal, you deserve to get what you expected to get for the price you expected to pay, regardless of sex/orientation/skin colour/hairstyle/anyotherdamnthing.
Fact: if ever you get your food at a restaurant and the above is not true, send it back.
Servers occupy two spaces in the restaurant: the dining room, and the kitchen/back area (dealing with customers, dealing with each other). Often is a customer is being silly, stupid, sexist, annoying, or even, rarely, fun, servers will talk to each other about it. Yes, while you, the innocent (eye roll) customer is seated several feet away enjoying your pint and steak. It took me over a year (holy crap is that embarrassing or what) to realize that this trend is not uncommon, and was even quite common in the place I was working at the time (I can't speak for other places, but I assume):
Male customer sends food back. Server is polite to his face, grumbles a bit in the kitchen, sometimes argues with the cook who thinks the food is just fine, sometimes deals with an obvious mistake. Server takes food back out, apologizes, forgets about encounter.
Female customer sends food back: Server is polite to her face (most of the time). Server takes food to back to deal with cook. Server immediately starts bashing "that bitch" to other servers. Server is usually visually more disgruntled than they would be when dealing with male customer.
The worst part about my own participation in this behavior is that it didn't 100% occur to me why this behavior was sexist until my partner at the time and I were eating at a restaurant and I had to send something back. I refused to do so. I said I didn't want to make a scene, when really I was afraid of being "that bitch." I realized that if my partner had the same plate in front of him he would not hesitate to call the server back, and that if he did there might be grumbling, but not anger. I also realized that he was probably less likely to have the same plate in front of him. Servers are not stupid, they know who is stereotypically most likely to complain (maybe this is part of the reason we get so offended when they party we pegged as "easy" turns out to have the same standards as everyone else).
I have since tried to control this behavior, and made a conscious effort to:
*treat all customers equally in all situations
*confront my own anger/frustrations in certain situations in order to understand where it comes from and deal with it so I don't participate in reproducing the same behaviors and attitudes

Reason for the photo/ something funny:
I still complain about my customers, but in a non-gender specific way. This is because servers encounter stupid people all the fucking time. Case in point:

*group of students come into lounge area, order drinks and appetizers.
*I serve them.
*Person approaches me, and asks "hey, can you send a smirnoff ice to that guy in the green sweater. Put it on my tab, but don't tell him who it is."
*me: "I'm sorry, I can't. According to my serving licence I have to check with him that he wants the beverage at all, and also that he is okay with having a drink bought for him by you." (in my head: smirnoffice? I cannot condone this. I cannot condone that the joke is "hey look, you drink like a girl" either, and also smirnoffice is gross)
*Customer "No no no, it has to be anonymous."
*Me: "Sorry, I really can't do that. I realize that no one here is likely to get hurt by this or report me, but I've got staff in the back that are training to manage the new location, including dealing with liquor laws, and I risk a personal fine and a loss of our liquor licence by feeding alcohol to someone who may or may not want it." (<-- all true)
*Customer "are you saying that I can't buy a drink for someone?"
*Me "No, I am saying I can't send an anonymous drink to someone, or give someone alcohol that they don't want. If your friend was already drunk I would also refuse."
This customer proceeded to sit down and complain loudly enough for my manager to hear about how I refused to let her buy a drink for someone (which actually made me look very good in the eyes of my boss).
See? Stupid people everywhere.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wherein there are rabbits and tales of camping and woe.

I have decided that my blog needs more pictures. Thus:

Tada! The most bestest, adorablest bunny ever seen on the internets!
Now, back to business.
Last week I worked, in small bits, on a 1500 word paper. 1500 words is a small amount of words. Tiny, in fact. By Friday night I had a solid third draft that needed probably one more edit before it was ready to be handed in and graded. And then, for The Husband's birthday, we went camping, and everything went to shit.
Let me explain.
My husband is basically what survivor man would be if survivor man was also an engineer. This means that he is crazy, can survive in the wilderness for days with a piece of rope and some beef jerky, and makes spreadsheets for everything all the time, including his camping trips. Yes, I said spreadsheets (he also has a label maker, but we won't get into that just yet). So, for his birthday he decides to organize a mass camping trip, one that is pretty medium-to-light on the hardcore scale because some of the participants hadn't camped before outside of folk fest, which is really more like car camping but with more music and less underwear.
So I wrote this paper.
Then I hiked 8KM, got hammered, slept on a rock, hiked another 8KM, showered, and sat down to edit a paper that suddenly looked like the biggest pile of shit anyone had ever left on my desk. I was embarassed. I was in the final stages of editing this... this... thing. I decided that any decent person would have put the thing out of its misery, and so I did, through a panicked email to my professor that kind of rambled about needing to shape my paper into something that didn't make me want to vomit until my eyes bled.

And do you know what he said??

He said "These things happen sometimes. Put it away for a few hours, return to it with fresh eyes, and see if you can get it to me in two days."

In conclusion:
my ass aches (ACHES!)
I have a shit-pile pretending to be a paper to resurrect and frankenstein the hell out of.
I'm pretty sure I have a fever.
AND shin splints.
I've read more critical theory in the past two hours than I had, on averaged in entire days before this.
I am the luckiest woman alive, with the most understanding professor ever to exist.

Dear Professor:
I hope that when I become a prof (if I survive grad school) that I can be a small amount as awesome and understanding as you. Thanks for helping me feel okay about my perfectionism and anxiety.

a total freaking adult.

On an unrelated note:
I am a masochist. I have decided to participate in NaNoWriMo. Yup. I feel that in addition to all of the stuff I have to do for school and work I should also write 1666 words per day that, if I have the time and energy to edit in December will be a novel of sorts. I think there is an old saying about how if you want something to get done you should give it to someone busy. This is true, because busy people are masochists that have no sense of how much is too much.

Anyways, I will be posting about this, and hope that others will also participate. If nothing else it should be an excellent exercise in forcing yourself to produce more. You know, capitalism.

Has anyone reading (all one of you) ever participated in this challenge before?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Of Wine and Editing.

I mentioned last post about my near nervous breakdown, yes? Well, my mother has taken it upon herself to force me to see a doctor of sorts. She called me the other day (seven times!) while I was at work, sick to death that I had run away or hurt myself (even though I always work Tuesdays) and threatened to take time off, come down to the city, and drag me into a doctor's office. Which will not happened, because I will muster all my moxie and go by myself like the total adult that I am. This decision did not prevent me from drinking an entire bottle of wine before the husband got home and being drunk all night instead of writing my paper. Which I wrote last night and this morning (1200 words!) and will now be blogging about.

Okay, so essay writing 101 (because this, being only 1200 words, was a pretty 101 paper, a nice first real essay for a degree, if I do say so myself):
The biggest thing that I can say about writing essays is: edit. That is all. Period. The end.
A lot of undergraduate essay writing (from my experience as an undergraduate who did this, a lot) goes like this:
read book
make some notes
decide on a topic
hand in.

(where *internet* refers to fooling around on the internet, rather than shopping for topics and being a plagiarist)

I have always worked (as an undergrad and a grad student) as a student marker. You know what? People who read your papers can tell that you did this. Yup. They can tell because the last page is way less coherent than the rest of it, and you leave out silly words. Sometimes you leave notes for yourself in the middle of the paper like *remember to come back here* or *OMG delete this it is terrible!! ;( *. I panicked the first time I marked an essay that had been composed this way, struck almost unconscious with terror at the realization that other people reading my work could tell, too. And then I started editing.

Very basic things you can do to help yourself out:
!.) start your paper at least two days before it is due. Even if you mostly make notes, collect quotes, whatever. You should probably start sooner, but this is a pretty decent amount of time for most undergraduate essays.
2.) finish a "mostly final draft" the night before. Sleep.
3.) Wake up, edit. (you CAN edit sooner if you want, this is okay too!) It is important to take some time between finishing a draft and editing, or else you'll just see what you THINK you wrote on the page, rather than what is actually there, those pesky things like missed punctuation or extra words. The stuff that screams DID NOT EDIT at whoever is reading your work. If you can't give it an entire night give it at least an hour. At least.

Okay folks, off to class to hand in my paper. More later!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The holidays.

Once, over at Hyperbole and a Half she posted something about how most bloggers don't blog over the holidays, and so she posted three pictures of Rick Morenis over Christmas break (which apparently did not count as blogging either, but that is between her and Boyfriend, and none of my business). Anyways, this past weekend was Thankgsiving here in Canada, and so my husband and I went to visit my parents up in the rural area of my province (anyone who can read IP addresses can probably tell where I am (?), but I don't feel like talking about it just yet). We drank too much and ate too much, and not only did I not blog, but I also had a minor nervous break down. My mom has called me six times today to tell me I need to see a doctor, and has threatened to make the five hour drive to the city to force me to do it. So I might just do it. I know I promised her I would.
Anyways, I hear there have been at least 8 (!) people other than me that have seen this. Maybe you are the same person 8 times (!). That would be okay too. Also: maybe you are 4 people twice each(!!). Whatever you are, all of the internet places that talk about blogging suggest asking questions to get more comments (<----this is hinting, right here, because I want to know that some of you aren't me and I am not just misreading my blog stats), so I have a question for you here:
Tell me about your thanksgiving traditions?**
Also, to make up for not posting all weekend and for posting mostly fluff that explains that I did not post all weekend today I will try to make this a two post day, and to make the other post suck less. Yay!

**not really a question.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Death of Picture Books!

This post (two post day- can you tell it is a holiday?) will be link heavy. Get ready.

Check it out, picture books are dying

Or, check out Kate Harding's (*swoon*) post on how picture books are, in fact, not dying

I am pretty sure, along with Kate Harding and others, that this is not the death of the picture book. Remember when CDs came out, and everyone panicked about the death of the book? That didn't happen, though when encarta released their CDROM encyclopaedia that kind of was the death of the print encyclopaedia, so I do understand the persisting fear. Books are great, and reading is good for, and books are... tangible. There is something so very satisfying about being able to pick up a book that is new and fresh, and to be able to put it down again when you're finished. Okay, enough nostalgia about books and stuff. The part of this article that concerns me is the part where all of the bookstore people they've interviewed talk about parents telling their kids not to read picture books because they can *do better* (and also because picture books will not get you into Harvard. My suggestion: don't put them on your CV if you're that concerned) and read texts that are more "difficult." As someone that loves and studies graphic novels, I find this idea very troubling. I think that graphic novels, comics, and, yes, even picture books have the potential and capacity to be eloquent, challenging, and even more difficult than some novels-of-the-harvard-going-sort.

Anyways, it is a holiday, and I don't want to make my brain hurt anymore with all this thinking. What do others think about this?

Things that make me feel nice:

I am currently in a course on affect theory, werein we get to read all kinds of interesting texts on affects (I tried to find you a link to a definition of affect, but kept getting affect= emotion, which is not true. If you are actually interested I suggest Eve Kosofsky Sedwick's "Touching Feeling", or Sianne Ngai's "Ugly Feelings"). I came across this during my reading on envy the other day, and, as the titled text indicates, it made me feel nice:

"Let's say there is a certain model of femininity that I recognize as culturally desirable and invested with a certain degree of power. If from a feminist standpoint What I struggle with most is my having been acculturated into admiring and desiring that femininity, envy would seem to enable me to critically negotiate rather than simply disavow or repudiate this desire, which would entail positing myself as immune to acculturation. Moreover, envy would facilitate a transition from desire to antagonism that might enable me to articulate what I have been trained to admire as something possibly threatening or harmful to me." (Ngai 163)
(Ngai, Sianne. "Ugly Feelings." Cambridge: Harvard University Press; 2005.)

Yesterday I also had the pleasure of having two really amazing conversations about why it is not only okay but necessary for feminism to be open to all kinds of voices, experiences, and subject positions, even if they disagree with each other (as long as they're disagreeing in a manner that is still feminist, I am not suggesting that we let a bunch of anti feminists in to our club because they use the word "feminist" in their self description) because sometimes those disagreements are actually good for the movement. I still need some time to think about this, but will post some examples and more commentary when I come up with them, I just thought the realization was, for me anyways, a bit profound.

This also ties into my personal experience with self-identified feminist friends. When my husband and I announced our engagement I basically had a sector of friends that responded by saying things like "don't do it!" or "but you're a feminist!" No one had the ear to listen to our side of the story- that, while yes, there is a sketchy and unkind history of marriage, and that many people from a variety of political and personal stances have rejected it for some very good reasons that, well, we don't grow up in a vacuum. My husband and I had both lived with previous partners and neither of us wanted to do that again without some sort of long term commitment to the relationship outside of having decided to live together. We also both have families that would have been offended as hell if we had decided to have a civil wedding, or even to become common law: his family because they are culturally and religiously mennonite (well, most of them, my husband isn't religious), and my family because they are Ukrainian, and in that culture weddings= huge celebration with good food, dancing all night, and booze. That having been said, my experience of marriage has always been that way- I understand that historically it has not been, and would never deny anyone their right to decide that marriage= bad. But for us, we wanted to include family in our commitment, wanted to have a huge party to celebrate our future together (most of our anxiety was over how the mennonite half would take the drinking and dancing. It all turned out well). It made sense for us in this stage of our life (wanting to make that commitment, but also because I will be going somewhere else to do a PhD soon, and we wanted to be married before the hisband had to move his whole life and career (he has been in our city his entire life, and has been out of school for almost six years already). Is there privelige acting here? Yes. We could afford to have the wedding we wanted (we did a bunch of stuff the budget way, but even a budget wedding is super expensive). We could also afford to decide not to live together until we were married. Rent is expensive, living together can cut costs immensly. Does this make me less feminist? I hope not. I am still the same, radically thinking and acting person, still engaged with the same reading and writing and cultures (still examining my own choice through them, and ultimately feeling okay about it).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

On Being a Grad Student: Unrewarding Work

A more appropriate title for this post would be "On Being a Grad Student: I get to do really rewarding work in my field that pays me (which is pretty cool) but doesn't pay me enough to cover my bills/help pay down my student debt (because I am a arts student, because grant money is hard to get, because they're paying a bunch of students, which is also pretty cool) so I work another job as well, and sometimes that job is unrewarding. But that seemed long.

First: I go to a small school, so even as an undergrad I got to do some pretty awesome work, both as a research assistant and as a student marker. This year I am able to continue that experience and to work with professionals in my field that I really admire. This is really cool (and challenging), and I am really fucking lucky to be where I am. That said, my husband and I have a mortgage to pay, and I am determined to fill my contribution regarding paying for our house and for our general cost of living, and those amazing, challenging, university jobs just don't cut it.

So I work two days at a local diner. Let me tell you about that (without giving too many details. After all, this is the internet, and anyone could be here). This diner has been around longer than any other diner in my area and is family owned and operated. These two things, along with the family that owns and operates the business being, generally, very high on the awesome scale, makes my other job the most excellent other job ever.
Some Facts About My Job That Make it Awesome:
*they put up with my school schedule (and thus my available days) changing every term.
*they provide me with full time work during summer/ reading week/ Christmas break to the best of their ability.
*I have never had trouble booking a day off for an exam, or even because I have a few deadlines close together.
*they respect me both as a server and a person- my managers have supported me emotionally through difficult times (I don't think this is very common, and I love it!)
Basically they are made of gold and chocolate and I am very fortunate to have found them.

And then:

Today, there was a terrible happening that involved a chicken club and some general discomfort. It was unpleasant, it was spurred by frustration over an extremely busy Tuesdsay lunch rush (very rare, we were understaffed), but it still made me feel bad. Variations on this happening have happened at other restaurants I have worked at, and I have left them for it, sometimes on the spot. However, I love this place, and these people, and this job. The other server and I talked about it, and they are going to bring it up neutrally tomorrow and then call me. I really hope that it can all work out so I don't feel like I need to quit: this job, along with being, as aforementioned, OMGTHEBESTJOBEVER, is also probably one of few that will provide me with enough income to dissipate money stress while not taking up enough of my time to cause school stress. And, also, I am personally invested in the people. Stay tuned...

Monday, October 4, 2010

And now for something a little bit lighter!

I have never been a very good cook, or comfortable in the kitchen at all. Let's face it: clumsy folk just don't go well with knives and fire. So, in the interest of eating properly so as not to wear myself out during the school year, as well as not re-creating scenes from my childhood in which my mom announces that it her turn to cook and all four of us respond by groaning, I have resolved to learn to cook. Thus far I have been cooking large amounts of food once a week, and then taking portions with me as lunch, ensuring that 1.) I eat lunch, and 2.) I don't just buy a pita from pita pit across the street.

My first adventure in school-food was this amazing black bean slow cooker soup. It was probably the most amazing thing I have ever eaten, once I added the remaining two cans of beans (I used canned beans instead of dried beans- how was I supposed to know that 19oz of dried beans= 3 19oz cans of canned beans??) and had soup rather than colored water. I also just added some cumin powder to sour cream instead of making the toasted cumin seed creme. It was still amazing, as is everything that has appeared on the smitten kitchen blog in all of history. However, despite that it is tagged as a "budget" meal, I actually found this soup kind of pricey. This probably has everything to do with my lack of kitchen expertise (and, all things considered, even a slightly pricey soup evens out if you can turn it into meals for six days). Anyways, the point here is that this soup is is the best soup ever, and that if you can't afford to make this soup for some reason you should make couscous.

My husband has long hair and is barefoot most of the time. This, along with introducing me to couscous last week, gives him official hippy street cred. Also: couscous. This stuff is like heaven in a grain. It is super easy to make (portion out some couscous, boil an equal amount of water, pour water over couscous, stir, cover for five minutes, stir. The end.) and you can do pretty much anything with it. My favourite (slash the easiest thing you could possibly make that is also delicious) is just to make it into a salad. Chop up some cucumber and tomato, scrunch in some feta, add some lemon juice and cumin, and you are set!! This morning I made coffee, did dishes, and made lunch for the week in about twenty minutes. So good!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

On Being a Grad Student: Habits

I recently attended an information session for potential grad students at my school, and, in addition to giving my very fresh-faced-and-hopelessly-naive account of my experience of the program thus far, I was taught that graduate school is, in many ways, an exercise in breaking the bad habits that students pick up during their undergraduate degrees (in addition to inspiring this post, this experience also ensured that this post over at Shitty First Drafts really resonated with me). Thus, I have decided to look at just which habits I am currently unlearning.
Before I can actually say too much more, I have to admit that my undergraduate experience was very post modern in the sense that I wasn't ever really a single student, but at least three. Behold:

1.) In my first year I was, pointedly, First Year Student. I don't mean that I was in my first year and therefore _____, but rather that this was a specific point in my formation as a student. I was coming from a mostly working-class background in a small town to the biggest city that I had ever been in. I was an integrated education student (more on this later) majoring in English Lit and double minoring in history and theatre (which I loved to talk about because it just sounded so smart). Having graduated in the top ten of my graduating class I went in with a bit of a big head. On my first day of class I learned was an AP class was, and suddenly felt like a huge imposter- sure, I was in the top few of my graduating class, my my school didn't even have an AP program! All year long I read everything I could get my hands on that seemed even remotely like stuff I would probably need to know to succeed at university and feeling like a huge failure. At the end of the year I received a letter asking me to take an honors degree in my major.

2.) Super Student. In my third year of study, after I had gotten over the fact that I was OMGANHONORSSTUDENT(!) I made the commitment to pursue graduate school, dropped out of education to focus on my new goal, and, ultimately, felt the need to make up lost time. This year I took four honors seminars, the introductory and intermediate courses in Biblical Hebrew, and a course in playwrighting. I spent all of my time reading, writing, and memorizing verbs forms and vocabulary. My social life suffered horribly, but my GPA went through the roof. The degree ended up taking five years regardless, though that had everything to do with some family and medical issues that I won't go into at this moment.

3.) Year Five. I had a terrible case of senioritis in my fifth year. I had been accepted into my top choice of graduate schools and was done with undergraduate work. I read maybe half of the required material and wrote papers that I will never look at again for fear of dying of embarrassment. (I also met, became engaged to, and married my husband during this year, in addition to learning a ton of cool stuff like how to camp in the winter).

My point? My point is that I really think that this degree is really producing a new stage of student in me, given my past with making and breaking habits on a yearly basis. But anyway.
*So far the biggest change has been in procastination. I (mostly) don't do it anymore, because there simply isn't time. Want to get everything read on time/well enough to engage with the material in a seminar discussion in class? Don't put it off for hours. Because you can't.
*The only other major change in my student-ness has been my relationship to editing. Perhaps the only consistent habit that I had through my undergraduate degree was my desire to research and produce work in a mad dash, print it, rush it to school barely in time for the deadline, and just not think about it anymore. As a master's student I really can't do that anymore, and so have been forcing myself to re-read and edit even the limited amount that I have produced to the point that it almost makes me vomitty.

Really this entire post has been an excuse for me to feel good about actually having everything read on time for class and getting over my fear of editing. And it worked!

Friday, October 1, 2010

I wish there was this, but for arts students :(

Check this out! Did anyone else do this:
"Dance your PhD!
(worries for another day)
Dance your PhD!
(down at fraggle rock!)

I sure did.

The best introductory post ever

Things that make you a grad student: *being in grad school.
Things that give you imposter syndrome: * everything else.
* also being in grad school.

Yesterday I almost had my frist ever graduate school induced panic attack.
First: I received my first ever *grade* in graduate school. Last week I handed in a two page masterpiece of a lit review, complete with unpadded bibliography that had taken up most of my time the previous week. Seriously, I spent hours on the thing, getting it just exactly right, only to be extremely dismayed to be graded eight out of ten. Once the dismay passed and I convinced myself that 80% is actually a pretty okay grade (and still a 4.0 by the grading scale that my department uses) I decided that an 80% average is probably not good enough to get into a PhD programme, even a bad one. Insert shallow breathing. I also started fortifying myself with vitamins at this point- 0ne vitamin C everytime I feel sick or panicked, and one vitamin B (note to self: buy vitamin B) every time I feel panicked!

Second: I gave my first ever graduate school presentation, and I'm pretty sure that they are now going to fire me from the programme. Some of the contributing factors to the overall wretchedness of my presentation were out of my control. For instance, the guest that spoke for one and a half of our three hour class slot, and the fact that there were two presentations that had to fit into the remaining hour were out of my hands. Oh yeah, and the fact that EVERYONE STARED AT ME BLANKLY WHEN I SPOKE AND DID NOT RESPOND TO MY QUESTIONS . The actual assignment was to "facilitate discussion" for at least twenty minutes. Don't get me wrong, Im all for a good challenge, but this would have been a heck of a lot easier had I more than fifteen minutes all told by the time I was able to start. No one needs to relive the horror of it all, but suffice it to say that the whole ordeal ended with my professor kindly suggesting (after having stare at me like I had sprouted horns for a full fifteen minutes) that I post my discussion and questions on the online class forum. Heck.

At the end of this superbly shitty day I decided to make myself feel better (?) by researching potential PhD programmes (!?). Because I am a masochist. I sat down at my ipad, ready to put the day behind me and look forward. Except that when I googled "PhD Culture Studies" google suggested that I get my stupid, incompetent ass in gear and search my own goddamn field of study properly (or, asked me if I wanted to search "cultural studies" instead). So much fail.

Update: as of right now none of my colleagues have looked at or responded to my questions. *panicpanicpanicpanicpanic*