Sunday, 28 February 2010

You're Lucky You Didn't Cop One in the Chops!

I haven't posted anything in ages. Sorry, team. I am now back in Oxford and my life at present is confined to College, more specifically, a bedroom, bathroom, loo, kitchen, library carrel and dining hall. I am working on my thesis, alright!? What are you looking at? Who asked? What do you want?

No, really, I have been feeling icky about my blog, not even wanting to open check up on it. In fact, there have been times when I have wanting to punch it four times really fast in the guts, quick jabs, and then one quick upper cut to the jaw.

By the time I have spent a full day revising my thesis and keeping myself self-motivated and focused (helping my pregnant friends - and there are many - select baby names seems like the most compelling and noble pursuit to me right now), I feel most of my typity sparkle has gone and I feel angry that my blog sits there, waiting for me like some half-man, half-ape creature who thinks I don't love it, but just can't understand all of my feelings.

Plus, most of the energy that could potentially go into a blog is taken up engaging with introverts en masse over dinner. You see, I live in the heart of College now so I have to look at and even sometimes talk to a lot of people. Once I start, my natural tendency kicks in and I find myself performing for them, like an undergrad with a background in theatre. All the while, the introverts give me nothing, just blink and, if I am lucky, blush. So I go home, brush my hair, and tuck myself into bed and tell myself that one day I will be a star, and then I think about how narcissism works, and then I think about my family, and then I think about what I will do when my thesis is done, and then I think about how I shouldn't think about these things, and then I try some relaxation exercises, and then I laugh thinking about Yoga instructors, and then I think of how much I love socially awkward situations and try to remember the last embarrassing thing that I was part of or observed, and then I turn on my computer and watch something great on You Tube, like this, and then I can't sleep because of photosensivity which, for our purposes, means too much screen time, which is particularly harmful between 10pm and 1pm when the adrenals work their hardest to repair and replenish the body.

I guess I wish that I could write more about things that naturally suit my thinking, like relationships, and social psychology and behaviour etc, but I am not sure whether I can put these sorts of ramblings under the title Academic, Hopeful. I was going to ditch my blog altogether, but then I read some of Penelope Trunk's views on this - Her opinions seem to be like garden pots on a doorstep, just sitting there; There's a brusqueness or at least unrelenting bossiness to her writing that I quite like. Having said that, I'd be lying if I said I was a follower of hers. I was, in fact, sent these specific links earlier today by a pal who is trying to help get me over my blog malaise and I have, in fact, just spotted right now that she announced her miscarriage over Twitter. Hmmm...I guess there's an element of, 'Guests, either take my projectile vomit all over the fully laid-out table and your new outfits or else you can choose to leave' to her communication at times. In any case, said friend is a social media whiz and rates her stuff highly, and people deal with things differently, and I don't feel too strongly about it (but still - not really my way of going about the world, I've got to say). Anyway (ahem), my mate Penny, who is doing her best, thinks you should stick at your blog and let it grow, as an evolving conversation. But, she also insists that each post should link to an overall theme for it to be worthwhile. At the moment, I am not entirely sure how to link my interests to academia, except that I am, at present, living one part of the academic life, the writing 100 000 words on your own in a College carrel part.

I think my blog dismay-anger also arose from my bubbling resentment towards fear-mongering posts, those treatise on how there are almost no academic jobs, how competitive it is, what you need on your CV to succeed, and all this nauseating, go-hard-or-go-home crud. I got a heavy dose of these over the course of a few days a while back - I kept on clicking on random academic blogs to find these vast nuggets of shining smug, leaving me partially blind and without feeling in my right hand. I recognise that my acute reaction is in part a function of the ways these posts enact my own uncertainty and anxiety about the future, but it's also partly because I think the people who write like that aren't people I'd want to hang out with, so why would I in cyberspace? There's some genuine, school yard disagreement there. Just to be sure, I think it's very healthy to identify and discuss academic issues and debates, and to share knowledge about how the academic job market works, which can be otherwise quite a mystical thing, but I don't like the uptight (usually postdoc) blogs that are all about reminding outsiders over and over just how high the barriers to entry are, but how they managed to hurdle them. At least give me some little wink to make me know that you don't take yourself or academia too seriously. I just want a wink. We should be confident enough to do that. Anyway, I also don't want to find myself writing these sorts of blogposts, ever, and, in the final stages of this liminal state, the options to branch out in another direction, seem few. Besides being a whingebag about my thesis, a process that is the classic: set a task, halve it, then fail, try again, repeat, I am not entirely sure which academic themes I could shed light on in a way that would excite me as well as add value to your transferable skills, and I am all about transferable skills.

This blogging blockage connects to the fact that I really want to follow an academic career for so many positive, honest reasons, but, like most people, I have all these other dream careers. For instance, I'd really want to be a pop, non-fiction writer and by night enjoy some stand-up or zany performance art gig. These desires feel irreconcilable and almost unachievable and kind of ridiculous, which then translates, to some degree, into fear of putting anything in a blog post. I can't really state my case in life at the moment. Suspended on ropes in my carrel. In transition.

Am I nutty and alone or do most academics experience this kind of funny stasis (excitability but little movement) during the final few months? And do most academics, generally, have this whole fantasy career going on in parallel even when they have a job on the go? What kinds of things can I write about during this final burst or should I just come back later? Ideas and thoughts about any of this greatly appreciated. I am off to brush my hair.*

Blogging pals - I will definitely have a good catch-up with you over the week. I have been reading, I assure you! I am as loyal as a digger.

*Might I remind you that this blog is part fiction, especially the bit about my hair, and I'd also like to say that I like pretty things that have sparkles and/or teeny stars or flowers on them.


ihatemornings said...

OMG Where did you find that photo?! I want to stick it on my kitchen cupboard so that I can start every day by falling to the floor in hysterics.

Good to see you back on the horse. Looking forward to seeing where you take it (or it takes you). ;)

droid said...

I don't know who Penelope Trunk is, but from your description I like to imagine that she is the Babar version of Winnie Mandela.

Kate said...

I agree with ihatemornings - this is a gold medal find. (And sort of reminds me of you, AH, as I like to think of you as a four year old).

I don't know what to say except, 'gah' and 'I know'. I'm with you in sympathy. Tell everyone who's annoying to just leave you alone.

Miss you - and it's nice to have you back xxx

Academic, Hopeful said...

There would be a lot of Venn diagram overlap between me as a four year old and this little, cranky chicken, although I was much more foreheady!

Thanks for your messages guys.

Miss you!

Miranda W. said...

Echoing previous sentiments: that photo. Is. Amazing.

But as always so is your writing, and I'm glad you're back in blog-land! I too am struggling to take the bossy Ms. Trunk's views on blog themes to heart, but I think we're probably allowed to deviate a little from the course when we choose :)

RE: your last paragraph--I'm not an academic, so I can't speak for them, but I can say this: you're not nutty and alone. I've been in a state of stasis like you describe ("excitability but little movement") for over a year now. And I definitely have fantasy careers floating around my head, complicating things. Mostly related (at least a little) to what I currently do, or aspire to do; but every once in awhile I suddenly sit up and think, gee, it would be nice to be an archaeologist Or something.

Anonymous said...

Missed you! And will be back later to read (off to teach) this post and the next, which I'm so happy to find here.