progress and setbacks

10Jan09

I don’t really know what’s happened over the past week or so but I’ve suddenly become very energized and enthused about my dissertation. Part of it came from the need I had to get to work. I spent the entire month of December sitting around my house, only glancing at work. So I started working at a local library this week, even if only for two hours. That spilled over into additional work time at home. But I think there might be something else going on. I’ve come to terms with the fact that maybe academia might not work out (the job market situation being what it is now) and I’ve started to think about some other more adventurous plans. Who knows if I’ll even go down the particular path I’ve been thinking about recently but I don’t feel so much pressure to “make academia work” now that I’ve put an egg or two in another basket. I certainly feel more free to get on with my academic work and I’m even feeling somewhat excited about the possibility of my actually being a competent  professor. I don’t want to jinx anything but still: this is probably the most positive I’ve felt about my dissertation in a long while.

Of course the moment I start feeling better about my own work, I run into yet another problem in my graduate career. I found a list of the faculty members who will be on leave next year. Not only will my adviser be on leave for part of next year (something I had anticipated), the other person on my committee at this point will be gone the entire year. So will every professor whose work is at all relevant to mine (and I’m casting my net wide here). I’ve felt completely isolated since I started this program, both professionally and personally, but this is ridiculous. I simply can’t catch a break here; it seems as though I’m destined to have a half-baked education. And yes, I know graduate school is all about teaching yourself, but it’s about learning how to teach yourself, with somebody keeping an eye on you. I’ve just floundered from the beginning and, because of my barren family and personal life, I don’t flounder well. I’m trying not to let this affect that progress I’ve made over the past few weeks but I do feel a bit defeated. But, as I said to a friend earlier, I’m going to have to say something to my adviser about it. I fell through the cracks my first year, I’ve been bumbling around ever since, and really nobody’s too concerned. That’s partly my fault because I haven’t said anything. But I haven’t said anything because I don’t feel comfortable within the department and I never have. (Ironically, I feel very comfortable with my fellow graduate students but when it comes to this stuff, they can’t be of help.) But the situation can’t continue any longer: at this point, I only have two “references” and I don’t really trust that either of them would recommend me eagerly. Neither of them really know me or my work. (Yes, that includes my adviser.) That’s professionally dangerous and I have to tackle it.

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One Response to “progress and setbacks”

  1. Well, at least there’s the positive! 🙂 It’s good to hear that you’ve been able to get a work rhythm going… I hope to follow your example in that.


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