Landing the Plane

The bottom line is, you've been flying for a while now, and your only job is to get the plane on the ground.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

100 Days

So the way I figure it, if I want to have any hope of finishing this program next year, and going on the job market this fall, the next 100 days (ie between Memorial Day and Labor Day, roughly) to do a huge amount of writing, and fill in with research along the way. Page-wise, I'm probably looking at about 100-200 pages by the end of August in order to feel like I stand a chance. If FDR could implement the entire New Deal, or most of it anyway, then I should be able to at least write down some stuff.

This is it. Time to bring "A game," separate the woman from the girls, and so on.

Oh yeah, it's also time to figure out what the fuck my dissertation is about. That too.

Monday, May 15, 2006

If it's not one thing...

it's your mother.

That's today's cliche that works.

Yesterday was mother's day, and all over the web, the regular news, and my apartment there was a lot of talk about mothers and families, as well as upcoming joyous milestones like graduations and weddings. If you haven't seen it, one of my favorite bloggers wrote a post about mother's day that really stuck with me. Link I especially liked one of the comments, I'll plug it in here in full, although without proper citation (sorry!):

"Here's what starry-eyed dreamers who prosyletize about mother-daughter relationships fail to understand: no one _wants_ to loathe her parents. As a mom, I know that kids are incredibly forgiving of the stupid shit otherwise loving parents do every day. Kids want to love their parents, no matter what., If a mom has broken that trust, and if her daughter can't stand her, there is a damn good reason for it -- which needs no explanation."

Too bad that's too long to put on a tee shirt. While on the subject of mothers, I'm looking forward to reading Deborah Tannen's new book You're Wearing That? : Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation. The reviews and press on this book looked really interesting, outlining that the most common conflicts between mothers and daughters in the US center around clothes, hair, and food. Sounds about right.

Also, New England is grey and bleak and under water after 4 straight days of rain amounting to 15" in some places. Supposedly this is just the beginning of the rain and flooding, more is to come over the rest of the week.

So today I have a sinus headache from all the water and air pressure, and I am thinking long deep thoughts about mothers and children, the passage of time, beginnings, endings, family obligations, and rainy days and mondays always get me down, and so on.

This isn't a blog about all that though. This is supposed to be about landing the plane, finishing grad school, and writing up a storm. Sometimes though life gets in the way. I will go back to landing the plane tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Envioushame? Anti-Schadenfreude?

There needs to be a term for that jealousy and shame of being jealous one sometimes feels simultaneously at professional meetings.

The conference I was at this weekend, as I detailed below, went remarkably well. For the first time in months, I felt confident talking about my dissertation project, my writing, and my career goals with people who were interersted and able to offer good advice. But this one moment (and really, it was only a moment...) made me think a lot about myself, my field, and gender in academia:

At the women's breakfast, a generally warmfuzzy group of 2nd wave feminists were tucking in to weak coffee and rubbery scrambled eggs. I was sitting across from another graduate student, in the same year of a PhD program as I am, who already has several articles published and awards won. She also has kids, is finishing her dissertation this year, and has a tenure-track position for next fall at Great University in what happens to be my husband's Dream City. I should also mention that she is a gorgeous woman, with incredibly cool clothes and shoes, perfect hair, etc. To top it off, she was incredibly friendly and, well, nice (though I hate that word) too.

I admit, it was a lot to be faced with at 7am without even a decent cup of coffee in me. I was envious, and I was ashamed of myself for feeling envious.

Here is this person who works on a very similar topic and time period, finishing faster and bigger, with all of our (admittedly tiny) world seeming to offer up open arms. On the one hand, this is truly fabulous. It's hard for women (for anyone, really) in my field, and harder still I'm sure if you have kids to take care of. Sisterhood is powerful, I wish her the best, and truly want to be the kind of person who feels only joy at the successes of others.

On the other hand, how could you not be jealous? Or feel (just a little) like by comparison you are just a lazy stupid complainer baby who needs hand holding and can't cut it on her own, even without kids to deal with and with all the amazing benefits I do have?

I went, I spoke, I got farted on

It's been a while since my last post because I was off in Canada at a conference. It was my first time speaking to a national (International, sort of, although there weren't actually many Canadians there, which is too bad) audience about material from my actual dissertation, and I was really nervous, certain that this would be the time someone would stand up and say, "FRAUD! I wrote that same exact thing 15 years ago!" or "How can you EVEN THINK that is important?" It turns out I have staved off that indignity for a little while longer.

For the most part, things went really well. My talk was slotted early in the program, so there was a good sized crowd of people at my session, which was well received. I got laughs at the right places and good feedback after the session. Also, because I was on so early in the conference, lots of people came up to talk to me about my work throughout the weekend, which was great because I got some useful feedback AND because it solved that "awkward-academic-nothing-to-say-cocktail-party" problem.

Really, it went very well. I was most relieved, and it was a real shot in the arm for me-- I feel much more grounded and like a professional than before, and I am hoping this will have the effect of jumpstarting writing and analytical brilliance in the next couple of weeks. It was an exhausting 4 days with pretty much nonstop networking from 7am until 11pm every night, and I am still pretty tired, but in general I feel very good about the experience.

Except, well, for one thing:

In my field there is a senior person who has a very public and high stakes conflict with my advisor. He knows me a little bit from a few years ago, and after my talk he came up to me in a very godfather way and said, "I'd like to talk to you about your future." We scheduled a 15-minute meeting the next afternoon in one of the conference-center lobbies. When we met, he made repetitive, vague, and creepily-delivered statements about how "he could do things for my career" and how "he was proud of me" and "he wanted me to keep in touch with him." In the middle of all this, without changing tempo or tone of speech:

He leaned over on to one buttcheek, and loudly farted. It was very smelly.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

  • Real World
  • Along these same lines, there is a great post at BitchPhD on the phrase "the real world"

    More Cliches that Work

    I guess I have a theme going on this blog with the corny sayings that, though I would never allow an undergraduate to use them in a paper, nevertheless help me get through the day. So here are a couple of other random sayings that I haven't treated yet.

    1. "Eye on the doughnut"

    This is a saying my father loves, "Keep your eye on the doughnut, not the hole." He uses it all the time as a reminder to focus on the things you DO have and CAN do, rather than the things you don't have or can't do. Though he doesn't know it (not a big fan of the academic career path, my dad...) this outlook is of central importance to any person trying to do a PhD, an endeavor that is usually pretty hole-centered. As soon as you decide to apply to grad school, dire warnings about the bleak job market, low pay, and general misery of academic life surround you, and it doesn't let up for the entire long haul of the PhD. Of course it is important to begin grad school with a healthy understanding of what you are up against, and of course the job market is bleak, but it is equally important, once you've decided to pursue a PhD, not to let yourself get derailed by freaking out about "the hole." I try to remind myself of the skills graduate research has given me, and the experiences about it that I do love. I may not know where or even if I'll get a job, how I'll ever publish enough books, or even if ultimately this was a selfish and foolish career choice. But I do know that I've done some relatively cool research, met some extremely brilliant and generous people, and developed good classroom skills. I also know that I have friends all over the place making their way in academic careers of one kind or another, and I remind myself to be hopeful that I could do that too.

    I think that the "Eye on the doughnut" is especially key for women in academics, where statistics regarding tenure, salary, and of course the of-late ubiquitous scary articles about childbearing as career suicide loom large. It's important to raise awareness of these central issues, but there's nothing to be gained as an ABD trying desperately to write a dissertation from allowing those statistics and articles to consume your thoughts, give you nightmares, and generally distract you.

    Which brings me to my next cliche that works:

    2. "Burn that bridge when you get to it."

    I'm not even sure if that is the right saying (aren't you supposed to refrain from "burning bridges?" maybe the saying is really "cross that bridge?" eh, burn sounds better to me. more exciting.) but this helps me because of my tendency to engage in futuristic catastrophizing (see below.) I worry plenty about the future, so reminding myself that I don't have to figure everything out right now, and future pregnancies, publications, and university affiliations are just that, in the future, helps me get to sleep at night.

    3. "Don't compare your insides to other peoples outsides"

    This is a big one for me, surrounded as I am by incredibly confident and accomplished scholars. In general it's an order not to compare your own inner assessment of personal faults to the outer veneer of your peers. This comes in handy while reading other's CVs, introducing yourself at conferences, and even sometimes just getting out of bed in the morning. I try to remind myself of this whenever I have thoughts that start out like, "but everything comes so easily for ____. Why is the same thing so hard for me?" In other words, daily.

    4. "Study Study or Bonk Bonk"

    This is a silly one, that my stepmother used to say to use when she dropped us off at school. She never bonked us (meaning "hit") of course, it was more of a call-and-response thing that got us set to face the day. I still say it to myself at the start of a big day.