Published

So I finally managed it … something I wrote about Classics was published by someone other than me.
Hurrah

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Turning 30

I pretty much like getting older.
Its kind of comforting, freeing, hopeful and exciting but milestones are pretty scary.

When I was about 15 I had a list of things to achieve before I was 21 (which gradually became 30) – at 15 the list had things like have sex with a man, have sex with a woman, get a degree, take certain drugs, own my own throwing knives, travel to every continent, skydive etc… I did a lot of those things but there were always more experiences and more targets to reach.
I want to tell you that I am proud of what I have done with my life and sometimes I am.. my relationships, my marriage, my doctorate. – all not inconsiderable and all pale gently beside actually living day-to-day
I really am consistently amazed by those strange people who get up every morning like its no big deal – getting out of bed like it doesn’t hurt, like you don’t want to curl up and cry. How do people do jobs and housework without collapsing? What is with leaving the house *every* day?
Nothing makes you feel like a failure like looking at the careers and families of your peers… Knowing the reasons that I don’t have a full-time permanent job and 3 kids (depression, anxiety, chronic pain, relationship choices & financial planning a.k.a. laziness,  cowardliness, deviance & lack of ambition) doesn’t make me feel less like I should be coping better.

Every time I hit a “life event” I start to miss my mother. Its a silly thing, on the basis I no longer have any idea about how she would react to my life now, how she’d feel about modern life like the internet and mobile phones, I can’t imagine what the arguments of my teenage life would have been like, or the discussions about my partners, what her opinions on my wedding might have been or her recommendations about my career. I can’t imagine what my relationship with her would be like and I have no understanding of other people’s relationships with their mothers at all. It seems almost ridiculous to guess and even more daft to still crave her approval and yet I still get blindsided by her loss at inopportune moments.

I guess the point is, if I ever thought I would get to 30 this isn’t what I expected. I am kinda disheartened by the whole process in that I am not all grown-up and barrelling along with my glorious life. In fact I kinda don’t know what next…

  • I did the doctorate (which I might add in no way makes up for secondary school & undergrad, sorry) but don’t want to be a lecturer – I think in terms of continuing research its got to be publications
  • I found my special someone… and someone… – the next obvious step must be kids which I think I (we?) want but what about the: money, organising, prejudice, fear.
  • I have *a* job – I don’t have a real income generator, or even a full time position and I really want to feel like I am contributing financially – next step is erm decide what I can actually do? Could I run a pub? Work in a museum? Even actually manage 9-5?

I don’t feel old, I feel young. But I am jaded, bitter and scared and I only see an economy and a political system that doesn’t want me.
So what now?

SFF & Classics Weekend

Gonna blog about actual academic stuff over at my other place soon but just needed to say out loud that you know you’ve been at this kind of event when you have discussed (as well as your own research) the problems of zero-sum power loss assumptions in criticisms of feminism and the problem of gender binarism in Gravesian styled fantasy as well as the varied potential of research into fan-fic, counter-canonicity and alt. history and lost count of the number of times you have heard the term meta.

Resolutions 2013 reprise

So its June now and that must mean its about time to reassess my goals for the year.
As might be expected I am not wholly pleased…

  1. Weight – 12 stone or less
    Actually this is one area I have started making progress in. W has started a low GI diet and it is helping me drop closer to my target.
  2. Exercise – 5x brisk 20 min walks/ week; 1x 30 mins swimming/week; 20 sit-ups 6x/week; 5mins shoulder stretches everyday & 5 mins knee stretches everyday
    Sigh. Such good intentions- such regular failure. I do manage to walk most days of the week but if I manage one set of sit-ups and one of either knee or shoulder exercises per week I am doing well. I am still failing at swimming
  3. Mindfulness – restart some meditation practices
    Nope
  4. Housework – This will also involve a schedule, scrubbing & hoovering
    Um I do housework… but it remains ridiculously disorganised and I still have managed to get back to my 2 house rota
  5. Conferences & Publication – 2 Conference papers, 2 + articles, monograph proposal…
    I have given 1 paper & rewritten it to the extent I let some other people read it. The next paper will be this weekend. I started writing an article but don’t think I have written fast enough to get it in the journal I wanted so may have to do something else with it. Feeling guilty about not having submitted a monograph proposal though
  6. Job – at least 1 application per month
    I have applied for 2 fellowships and 3 other jobs so far this year. Both fellowships were no gos, neither of the office jobs even asked me to interview and I’m not very hopeful about the brewery job either. Sigh.
  7. Holidays – At least 1 new Munro (with B?) & 1 city-break with W
    So far the 3 of us went to Cornwall together and I have a hol in Scotland (with mountains) booked with B. Finding schedule/time to do something positive with W is proving harder
  8. Irish – Start learning to speak it..
    Um occasionally I think I have learnt a new word – but actually I feel guilty about neglecting my greek and latin so am going back to them a bit more often

Teaching

My mother was a teacher, my step-mother was a teacher, my aunt was a teacher.. my sister has wanted to be a teacher since she was 4 years old.

I didn’t want to be a teacher as a kid and as I watched my sister battle through her teacher-training it became easier to articulate why the family trend was never going to work for me. – Despite the assumption that a classics degree destines one to teaching and that if your PhD is not a pathway to academia then you must also want to teach, I still don’t want to go down that route.
It wasn’t just that I never had the vocation (though I don’t) and it wasn’t just that it struck me as too much work for too little reward (it is) but there has always been something about teaching as a career that seemed very alien to me. There seems so little about ‘teaching’ that has anything to do with knowledge and the power of information, the skills of interpretation and exploration and the strength of education for changing the world, not because teachers are unskilled or uninterested but simply because of the system and I think that would sap all of my strength and passion for my subject(s).
I have expecially watched my sister’s disappointment that being a maths teacher didn’t fuel her love for mathematics.
In recent years having watched the ever increasing administrative hurdles friends and family have faced in their efforts to impart knowledge and the baffling attitudes of so many young people to that knowledge I have become more confident that I don’t have the patience. I had once thought that I would be ok with teaching adults who wanted to know more about my subject but now I know that I am not passionate enough to deal with all of the hurdles that one faces just to do that.

But even more than that the idea of being a teacher fills me with fear. Ever since I was a child I have been afraid of failing. And there is something about the vulnerability of children that makes it feel like my failure would be especially awful. But its not just that my failure might hurt a child or more likely disadvantage them for the rest of their lives its that it especially makes me a “bad” person. It is easier to refuse to interact with children than to let them down & it is easier to never try to impart knowledge than to acknowledge that you are bad at it, that you don’t know if you can do any good.
As a woman there is a lot of social pressure to ‘like’ children, to instantly attempt emotional attachment to them and to be good at it – and if you don’t manage that you are expected to disavow all contact/interest in kids and get a career instead. When certain careers in the family they are either all-consuming or out of the question – in my experience teaching can be one of those, if you grow up with it you either get involved or run away as soon as you can – you learn the lingo and the tricks and whether or not you can fake it. [This is not unique to teaching – it happens with the forces as well]. Like with being uncomfortable around other people’s children generally, once I had expressed doubts about teaching I realised that the expectation for a vocational career (and I think especially for women) is that you will be all-or-nothing. I wasn’t good enough, confident enough, for all so I knew it was nothing..

Its not a decision I regret; but its hard to admit that I made it not because I don’t like children, or because the admin is soul-crushing but because I was afraid that I wasn’t passionate enough and afraid of failing.

On living with Privilege

How do you put your hands up to those things that allow you better access to social respect and activities in the environment that you live in without whinging about the aspects where you struggle? How do you go one step further and use those privileges in a positive fashion?
Its really easy to qualify your positives by enunciating the negatives but how do you manage the interfaces?

I happen to be:

  • White [in a neighbourhood & country where not only is that is that the majority but it is the historical norm]
  • Culturally average in proportion (height, weight, shape ratios)
  • In possession of all my limbs and able to use them to carry out basic daily functions
  • My chosen gender presentation matches the genitalia I was born with
  • Sighted & Hearing
  • Not living with a neurological condition
  • Brought up without fear of deprivation (hunger, cold, loss of home etc.)
  • Brought up broadly safe from the threat of violence (not in a civil-war zone, social area with widely respected rule of law)
  • Given a regular education, not at odds with social norms and enabling developmental progression
  • Competent in the achievement of local educational goals
  • Financially solvent [and educated in such a way as to comprehend local financial practices – e.g. taxes, credit-systems, wages etc] enough to maintain adult independence

And probably a whole load of other things I haven’t even thought about.
I am trying to work out the way I can notice and demonstrate that the things that I sometimes take for granted are not straightforward and use my position to help changes happen.
My key thought-process at the moment revolves around education – my knowledge and ability to critically analyse the world is a privilege like no other in that it allows me to dissect other issues; it has given me an awareness of so many things outside of my experience, encouraged-no forced- me to take uncomfortable viewpoints and just plain thrown hard truths at me. So I’m going to spend a little time thinking about the parts of my education that really matter and why.

I’ll get back to you on this topic.. I hope.

Professional Profile

Although I talk about my academic work on this blog I wouldn’t categorise this as a research blog and because I talk about my personal life in quite a lot of detail I am not necessarily keen for people searching for me on a professional level to find this before they get to know me – Although a detailed search for some of the topics of my research will probably bring you here eventually.
[I am also not necessarily hugely keen for the people I interact with on a day-to-day basis and my in-laws/family to be find this easily]

However, as the modern digital world becomes more a part of my(possible) professional life it becomes increasingly clear that I should build myself a website/blog to showcase myself on an academic level. I need my name to be visible and associated with my work and I need to enthuse other people on my subject if I want to have even the vaguest of hopes of landing a job.
Also I really really need to publish something!
Which is why not only am I going to email people with the notes for my conference paper but as soon as my thesis page refs are done and my next paper is outlined I am going to turn it into a real journal article. I am also going to start writing a book proposal for my thesis.

Unscheduled Absence

So I have started a few posts and failed to finish them recently..
Partly this has been the result of having to fight the depression and anxiety off with a big stick and partly because ya know life..

  • Changing of the guard at work has required shifting patterns & bank holidays take up time
  • Family death and illness has required attention and emotional support
  • My shoulder is giving me hell and wrecking my sleep
  • I have a conference paper and research proposal to write – by the end of the week
  • I’m still finishing up my thesis edits (just pg nos to go!)
  • I have some new things to research for the museum..

So just wanted to say: I’m still here, I’m not doing too badly, I have plenty of projects going on and I have some stuff I want to talk about here. Bear with me.

Conference Paper (Apr. 13)

Apparently its March already.
This means I have less than a month to finish researching and writing my first conference paper of the year.

The abstract was submitted months ago and I did start my research in between submission and viva but prepping for viva and doing corrections have completely distracted me from actually fleshing out this paper – an especially annoying scenario since I am determined that it will form the basis of something to be submitted for publication. I really want to get some of my work actually out into the world and can’t keep going over the thesis material even if I do publish it eventually..So tonight as a way of treating myself for doing lots of work on the thesis I am going to go back over some of my research and find some more material. I am also going to commit over the course of this week to making a skeleton slide outline to work round.

Key thoughts:

  • Susan Cooper uses Classical knowledge to signify education and to a lesser extent superiority.
  • Section on Romans in Britain emphasises series themes of displacement, duty and connection to one’s land
  • Contrast practical/factual/educational Classics with mythic/emotional Celtic & Saxon imagery
  • Is this a recognisable trend in children’s fantasy?
  • Is this a trend in 50s/60s/70s lit.?

Gonna do me some real research.. gonna enjoy it!

Corrections

So.. I had a Viva and I didn’t die.
To be entirely honest whilst it wasn’t my dream best-case scenario it was my realistic best hope – I passed with minor corrections. [Dream best case? Immediate pass & simultaneous publication/fellowship offer hahaha]

However, at this stage I am trying to get my head round what that really means.

I have a list of typos, grammatical quirks and stylistic points to correct. Its not a short list (this isn’t a surprise) but some of its features are unexpected – for example my practice of giving a full reference in the footnote the first time I used a work and author-date-page thereafter was dismissed as not obvious and messy so I will be changing it to author-date-page throughout.
What is harder to get my head round are the general comments on things they would liked more/less of vs. the comments about what would need doing before publication was a sensible option. I am trying to work out how to include the information that my examiners deem important without pushing the word count into ridiculosity.
Naturally, given the multi-disciplinary nature of the thesis, they do not entirely agree on which areas should be given precedence/offer sufficient information and the weird synthesis of being too obvious/not obvious enough is brutally clear to me. Despite some vague why haven’t you talked about this/ clarified that etc comments there is a lot of really detailed feedback which I am really grateful for – goodness only knows I’d do it differently next time!

Anyway, I don’t have my formal report yet and nor do I have a clear idea of what my satisfying these comments and resubmitting/getting approved will look like.

This is definitely a portion of the PhD process I don’t know how to approach.
Anyone else have this problem?