Monday, January 18, 2010

Where do we go from here?

I started this blog as an attempt to enter the academic blogosphere whilst I completed my Masters in English Literature and followed my hopes of pursuing a phD in same.

The radiowaves have been silent for a long time.

I finished my degree, popped out a baby, and have been treading water ever since. I'm using my degree, which is nice. I can't say I necessarily expected employment to result from this things I call a Master's (I mean, it didn't with my Bachelor's!). But I've been working the composition route, and learning lots more about pedagogy in general, since I now have more time to dedicate to my students and my planning. Not to say I didn't dedicate time, sweat and tears to planning during gradschool, but it was constantly panicked and frazzled. Now its just planning during stolen moments of naptime, infantile fascination wtih a new toy (cardboard box or wooden spoon) and these late night ventures.

I've got a job at a small technical college, and its paying the bills. It also allows me to work during the summer, which is something I am quite grateful for, as most composition teaching positions (at least for low-dudes on the totem pole like me) fall by the wayside during the summer months.

But how long will this hold me over? I suppose that anyone working in the humanities spends their career justifying their occupation and its relevance to the world. Sometimes I'm just tired of another composition student who doesn't want to be in my class and doesn't care what I have to say. Perhaps its a personality disorder, but my thoughts and doubts always reside in these students, not the ones clamoring for assistance with paragraph formation and generally bursting with enthusiasm for writing. And then there's the part where I'd rather be up to my elbows discussing literature, not paragraph structure and rhetorical appeals (not that there's anything wrong with that).

I can't say that I'm bored, because I'm constantly busy. Overly busy (see bit about stolen planning/grading moments above). But this isn't what I had in mind.

I wanted a baby. More than anything. And I have one and he is fucking awesome. I use the term "fucking awesome" to reduce any potential eyerolls at cliches like "light of my life" etc. But seriously, lil dude is pretty sweet. And not "sweet" like cuddly (though that happens on occasion) but "sweet" like IN YOUR FACE AWESOME.

So now I have a baby. And what's next? What happens to my plans for a phD? I could go for it, try another few years of school/dissertating, etc. Put my family through hell. I tend to be consumed by things, particularly school. I'm into school like Cookie monster is into cookies, and I turn into a monster. Going back just now might be detrimental to my marriage and to the upbringing of my child.

Do I wait till lil dude's just a bit older and apply for programs? What about the fact that I'm just not satisfied with just one? I come from a huge family, and forgive me if its hokey, but family means just about everything to me. I define myself in the largest sense by my relationships with my parents, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews. I want more than one baby. And I don't want to have another baby when baby #1 is in kindergarten. If I'm up to my elbows in poop and diapers and teething and vomit; if my independence and self-definition is currently on hold, I might as well do the mom thing all the way and have the babies now. Moreover, it is important to me that my children are relatively close in age, simply because having siblings near me in school was invaluable to me, growing up.

So now we're (we being me) looking at having a few kids before really returning to school. In the meantime, as I said, I'm occupying myself teaching composition and even with some tutoring. What's the statute of limitations on my recommendation letters? In ten years, will the people I've worked for in composition be able to write a convincing letter to a graduate committee regarding my ability to perform as a student and a scholar? How do I stay in the game?

When do I just throw in the towel?

I mean, maybe its just not right for me, after all. Say I got into the program, had it consume me for 3-5 years whilst I neglected my marriage and family (this is what will happen, I know myself)...then what? I get job offers a thousand miles away? I'm just not willing to move that far. And that's even if I get the job offers. PhD in humanities is good for one thing, as my father says--good conversation in the unemployment line.

All this time I've idolized the academic life, and the more and more I think of it concretely in terms of my family, the more I realize that it might just not be something I can do. This is possibly the most painful thing I've ever had to face.

Hello dreams, I'd like you to meet the toilet.

I don't wish to give the impression I'm at all unhappy being "married with children." My man and I fit together better than Forrest and Jenny ever could, and lil dude is well, as aforementioned, fucking awesome. But when it comes to family and school, I can't see past the either/or scenario to imagine a both/and one. And its a hell of a pill to swallow.

Can I just sit in on classes till I'm eighty? I don't ever want to stop taking classes. I can read all thebooks I want on my own, but we all know its a real kick in the motivator when you've got the thoughts and opinions of a dozen other people to ingest in addition to the text. And for me, there's not much more intoxicating then the smell of a ball-point rising up from a notebook heated by ink-on-paper friction.

There's other avenues, of course. I've had numerous suggestions of pursuing an MFA. I've thought about the PhD in Rhet/comp, or one in Cultural studies. What about just plain out trying to publish some of the shit I write? I am drowning in possibilities, and at the same time i feel like I'm desert-choked for opportunities.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The eagle has landed. The ducks are in the pond.

It's taken a long time to get to this point--I can finally turn in my Bizarro-Beeyotch card and just be Beeyotch. Pregnancy and postpartum issues have taken up about the last year of my life, and I'm now beginning to come to the other side of it all. I'm still just me. I always thought I'd be a different person as a mom but I'm just me with an attachment. But not the kind of attachment that makes you more efficient and useful, like a vacuum cleaner.

I have postponed blogging for two reasons: I had a paper to avoid, and whenever I'm avoiding a paper I can't in good conscience blog. I'd rather beat myself up for being unproductive. In my defense--I have had something attached to me (see above). The more significant reason I put off blogging was that I wanted to write about being a mom but not come off sounding trite. I hate obnoxious blanket statements about having children and it seems like that's all I could come up with. In general, I hate blanket statements but I'm even more averse now that I've spent nearly a year receiving horrid advice and commentary about being pregnant, being in labor, and having children. More dreadful is the realization that this little attachment comes with a sign that says "please give me your uninvited and unhelpful comments " and so they will continue to follow me with unsolicited advice for many, many years to come. I'm beginning to sound angry. Damn. For a long time I could at least blame it on the hormones. Now I might just have to face the fact that I'm just a little mean. And bitter.

But I digress.

Today I turned in the paper and with that completed my graduate degree. I always imagined there would be more fanfare when I finally finished up-- like there would at least be whiskey involved. But it was just an empty office in an empty building, me with my little constipated attachment. And then the little guy smiled at me and I was happy to have someone to share the moment with. I mean, I can't rightly share whiskey with him.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why my MA paper just went down the tubes.

I usually don't check out links during my Facebook breaks, but this I couldn't resist:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Waiting on the results

Last Thursday evening at about 10 pm I walked out of my final class as an MA student. I wish it had felt better, but the looming deadlines of papers, grades and diplomas fairly squelched the feeling of relief I wanted to have.

Since then I've knocked down one 20 pager (though of course, I will keep it for a week and dust it off when it's due) and progressed to the really big important Masters paper...the one I've looked through, commented on, read for and shied away from for about eight weeks. Now that I've really gotten nitty gritty with it, I still feel as though I'm just smearing my words around on the page. Perhaps I'm just tired, perhaps I'm intimidated by my audience, and perhaps it really is just a series of digressions trickling around on the page and contributing little in regard to my main point. As I type that, however, I wonder what any paper is but a series of digressions and ruminations; some are just better mapped out with signposts.

What bothers me is that this paper is arguing some pretty huge fundamental things about the nature of poetry, and I'm finding myself, after three years of intensely dedicated study, unable to convince myself that it' that damned important. It's like, some sort of academic life crisis.

I'm using a Classical base to approach a very well known Old English poem. Of course, this is not a new approach, but I'm pretty well convinced I'm doing it a bit differently than has been done before. In an isolated academic sphere then, I think there might just be merit to what I'm doing. But when I talk about it at the dinner table wtih my in-laws, politely curious about my work, I am met with blank, uninterested stares before the question comes out "so, are you teaching in the fall..." (i.e. making money, at least influencing young minds, not just talking about thousand year-old poetry). Mind you, I'm not blabbering on about my thesis--I've got it fairly whittled down to a 25 word schpeal--and yet even that is too much time wasted not making money or contributing to the larger, more important aspects of life.

I thought I'd be a lot different at this point--smarter, wiser...something. Three years ago when I considered the sensation of pending graduation, I had a very different one in mind. I figured I'd be, at this point, someone who had developed extraordinary abilities of argument and organization and insight. But I'm just me. A lot more well read. I'm not trying to say grad school didn't/hasn't changed me, I'm just observing how different my expectations are from my eventual realizations. This is nothing surprising, either.

What is keeping me up tonight is not worrying about my future--neither the MA paper or the baby coming soon after, its worrying about how I've been spending my time, and my present mindstate. I know that poetry and literature and thoughts and ideas are important; I am little miss in-your-face in defense of the humanities at my institution...but when I get out there and talk to people, I have difficulty convincing anyone that what I'm doing is important. I can't even convince myself that its worth arguing about.

I just thought I'd finish my degree on a higher note.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Battle of Maldon Presentation

I'm presenting my deconstructive reading of the poem in theory class today, and will use this "slide" to sum up the poem:

I mean, that's pretty much what happened, right?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Why my husband needs life insurance

When I told him that I thought pregnant women who wear floral prints look like couches he looked up and, studying the polyester flowers on my shirt for a moment, replied, "No, you look more like an armchair."

His idea of turning the Jeep Wrangler into a "family sedan" is installing a backseat--with seatbelts, and replacing the five-point harnesses in the front seats with "civilian" seatbelts.

When he hears tornado sirens, he goes outside to storm chase on foot.

He has not one, but TWO motorcycles. I'm not sure exactly how the math works out on this one, but I believe it effectively doubles his chances of falling off. I wouldn't put it past him to try to ride them both at the same time.

One of these motorcycles was a "surprise" purchase.

Last Saturday he caught himself on fire.


He referred to me as "Pregnasaurus Rex"

He butters his meatloaf.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cereal surprise

Today I was more excited than usual about my mid-morning snack of Frosted Mini-Wheats. Not only was it a brand new box, it was a brand new box with a toy inside! Fumbling with the cardboard lips on its top, I ended up basically ripping them in my haste to get inside (note: I'm also very hungry at this point). Right there, sitting on top of the bagged cereal, was a separately wrapped Star Trek "beam up" toy. I had to pause.

It was too easy. They put the toys on top of the cereal now? What about the warped and mangled bags that won't fit back into the box? What about the Cap'n Crunch binges, the war scars of a scratched hard palate, all in the name of five minutes of amusement from a cheaply designed, Chinese factory assembled toy (probably some kid younger than me made it)?

It was never about the toy. It was about the look of disappointment on my brother's faces when they realized they'd been duped again. It was always worth the whoopin' for making a mess of the cereal, and for the ensuing fight between said brothers and self.