Conference flashbacks

I’ve given a fair number of conference presentations during my time in graduate school. I have mixed feelings about conferences – if it’s a good location and your friends are going, why not go on a department-funded mini-vacation? – but the attendance at panels is often lacking (probably because everyone treats it as a department-funded mini-vacation) and therefore, the feedback can be pretty bad, or nonexistent. I hate networking at conferences, because I hate talking to people, but my advisors think it’s a good idea for me to be introducing myself to strangers. So, I go. Sometimes it’s pretty okay.

I’m pretty good at presenting. I may not be a people person, but I don’t have much anxiety when it comes to presenting in front of an audience. I know what I’m talking about, and I can talk about it with confidence. They (most likely) won’t know if you’re lying.

But I had a horrible experience at a small conference in May 2016, and it haunts me to this day. And by haunts, I mean, whenever I’m scrolling through Twitter and come across the people who tore my paper to shreds, I want to give up on academia, because I’m clearly not good enough. Continue reading

No, really, it’s fine.

Saturday is graduation day. The ceremonial end to the 5-year graduate school adventure. I didn’t attend my MA graduation because getting a Master’s was never the point. At most, the MA was a consolation prize if I didn’t finish the PhD.

But I decided I should walk for the PhD graduation. If for nothing else, I’d do it for my parents. They put invested a lot of time, energy, and money into me – they might as well enjoy the pomp and circumstance.

And then I defended my PhD, and I felt nothing. I didn’t feel happy. I didn’t feel like I had accomplished anything. And so I wanted to walk at graduation for myself – maybe by then I would appreciate the work I had done.

So when I told my family a couple months ago that I was definitely going to walk, everyone was very excited. My dad sent me a check to get the ridiculously expensive regalia because I “deserve the best.” My mom and aunt started looking into hotel rooms. My sister and I talked about getting take out from our favorite restaurant.

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Expect nothing.

I finally revised my teaching and research statements for the job market this year. For all the complaining I did about it, it wasn’t that bad. Mainly because I kept 90% of what I had last year.

On Tuesday I reviewed them with one of my advisors. I have learned to expect nothing from these meetings. Do not expect praise or recognition for your hard work. Do not expect useful advice. Expect nothing, and then, if for some strange reason, I get something, I am pleasantly surprised.

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“You don’t use the right words.”

So, setting aside my disaster of a research statement for now (though I did make a list of all my current and future projects, so that counts for something, right?), I also have to re-write my teaching philosophy. This one is easier, in the sense that I actually like teaching, so I don’t feel like I’m bullshitting my way through it. There’s one problem when it comes to teaching though.

I don’t use the right words.

Or, so my advisor says. She sat down with me several weeks ago and talked with me about my teaching prior to observing one lesson of my summer class. She asked me a bunch of questions about how I put together the syllabus, how I structure the lessons, and how I keep the students engaged. She observed me teaching and wrote up a report to keep in my personnel file, essentially testifying to my competency. We even had a “debriefing” session after she had written the report. And in that meeting she told me I did a “bang up” job in the classroom, but (there’s always a but)…

I don’t use the right words to talk about teaching.

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An unpopular opinion

So, I’m on Twitter. I’d say my Twitter feed is equal measures personal friends; journalists, politicians, and public intellectuals; and political scientists. The verdict is still out on how important it is for me professionally to be on Twitter, but political science Twitter does keep me up-to-date on what’s happening and what the latest academic controversy is.

About a month ago, academic Twitter lost its collective mind over the satirical piece, “To My Student, on the Death of Her Grandmother(s)” on The Chronicle of Higher Education. I had a lot of strong feelings on the response to the piece – essentially, “everyone needs to CALM THE FUCK DOWN” – but decided not to write a blog post about it (read: was too scatter-brained to sit down and write anything coherent). But, academics have many opinions, leaving me with ample opportunities to ramble on about why I disagree with someone else. Today’s faux controversy:

So, here’s my unpopular opinion about this. I think there’s a pretty easy solution to this problem of the crazy/bitch narrative. Senior academic women should stop being crazy bitches.

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It’s been what… 4 years?

Nope. About 3 weeks. Time has no meaning in Trump’s America. It feels like Trump has been the president forever, but we’ve only barely gotten through the first month.

Anyway, I had a feeling this would happen, that life would get busy and I would forget to write. Except I didn’t really forget to write. I thought about writing something dozens of times, but it seemed like a lot of work. I thought about summarizing all the crazy shit that has been happening in life under Trump, but there was just too much of it. Where would I begin? How could I put into words the insanity of that press conference? Or that he held a campaign rally a month into his administration? Or how absurd it is that he spends every weekend at Mar-a-Lago?

And I also considered writing about all the chaos associated with being on the job market. The constant anxiety that I will not find a job and they (read: my adviser) won’t let me leave graduate school. The anger that comes with my adviser imply that even if I get a post-doc, I should consider staying for another year because, you know, moving is a hassle.  The bittersweet news of a friend getting a post-doc, while you’re still stuck. But all that felt like too much to write about. I barely had time to cover it all in weekly therapy sessions; I didn’t want to write it all down.

Ironically, this is the same way I feel about my dissertation. There is so much to write about that I can’t write about anything. I don’t know where to start, and so I don’t start at all. I have regression tables for days, but I can’t bring myself to interpret and write up the results. And then when I get drafts back from my advisers there are so many edits – some made much more kindly than others – that I just want the whole thing to disappear.

So this is where I am. I continue to tread water with my dissertation. Every day is an exercise in staying awake long enough to make sure that Trump hasn’t declared martial law, but really just wanting to sleep away the rest of the semester. Maybe I will write more soon. I keep telling myself I will. It’s just so damn exhausting.