random smatterings

  • It’s been a shitty, shitty, shitty summer, a brilliant way to cap off a shitty shitty year. Everything that could go wrong has; everything that couldn’t go wrong has gone wrong too. (And I mean my life in general here, not just graduate school.) I’ve had some rough times in the past, folks, trust me on this. I lost a parent before I was 20.  But the past 8 months have rivalled that and have certainly been worse in terms of my feeling all out assaulted by my graduate program and, frankly, by life. It’s bad, people.
  • Along those lines, I’m doing some soul-searching about how exactly I should proceed. I need to finish the dissertation, a significant reason being that if I don’t, I validate the flawed opinions of me and my work that nobody’s bothered to correct. I also refuse to be the next in a long line of people about whom grad students whisper “whatever happened to that woman of color? why didn’t she finish?” in which the story of what really happened is never conveyed. It’s not going down like this. At the same time, though, I don’t know that I’ve got the emotional strength to finish this dissertation. It’s amazing how little sets me off these days. Before last fall, I’d cry maybe once a year, if that? Now it’s almost a daily occurrence and the potential is always there. More than that, however, I don’t trust anybody in my department, even the professors who I know are good and are great mentors. I just don’t trust them and I don’t feel comfortable talking about the academic challenges of the project, how best to proceed, what do I think is working and not working. Thanks to what happened, these are not conversations I feel like I can have without being judged for them. So I’m not actually convinced that I can finish this dissertation.
  • The other problem is this: I’m supposed to be on the job market this year. I can’t think of a worse thing for me to be doing in my emotional/mental state. Especially since I now have no confidence in my work and my preparedness. And that’s not likely to change any time soon. Plus, being completely objective, my project needs an extra year. But I can’t take that year: first, b/c there won’t be any funding and second, b/c, as a friend said to me today, I need to get on with my life and that won’t happen while I’m a graduate student in this place that I loathe. So ideally, I’d not be on the job market while still finishing the diss this year. Sounds good, right? Except for one small thing. That would, in all likelihood, mean that I’d be getting a job outside academia and, if I leave academia, I doubt I’m coming back. But I’ve got no use for a PhD if I’m not becoming a professor. I probably wouldn’t have said that a few years ago but given the hell I’ve been put through, I’ve got no use for it. I’m not one of those people for whom academia is the only thing I think I can do in life. I don’t believe in academia as a “calling”. It’s a career I like, I love my field, I think teaching college students is important work, but it’s not the only thing I could be doing. And given how bad the last several years have been and, it turns out, generally useless, I can think of all kinds of way I could have been spending the past five years. The other places I could have lived, the men I could have met, the money I could have made, spent, and saved, the fun I could have had.
  • So I’m in a bind. I know myself well. If I don’t finish, I will regret it for the rest of my life. But the stress of finishing under these really hostile circumstances is doing me serious damage.
  • on a lighter note, So You Think You Can Dance this year is a crock of shit.
  • As is Top Chef, where the judging is fine but the contestants are really uncompelling.

8 Responses to “random smatterings”

  1. 1 tanya.roth

    I’m so sorry to hear things are going so poorly. Thinking of you, and hoping things get better.

  2. “So I’m in a bind. I know myself well. If I don’t finish, I will regret it for the rest of my life. But the stress of finishing under these really hostile circumstances is doing me serious damage.”

    I completely understand what this feels like. I don’t know how to fix it. My problem was an adviser and thankfully, she resigned. But that was my situation and I don’t know what, if anything, can be done about yours. I do empathize, though, with how shitty it feels.

  3. 3 thefrogprincess

    Thanks, tanya; I’m envious of what sounds like incredible productivity on your end.

    Anastasia, I wish some version of resignation or switching advisors was an option and I haven’t yet fully put the idea to rest. The issue is that, as I see it, my degree would have limited value without said person in said department; it would be a glaring absence. And, like I said, I have no use for a PhD that doesn’t at least lead to a full-blown attempt at the market. (By which I mean, if things don’t work out and years of adjuncting is all that’s ahead, I’ll step away. But if I’m going to step away without even attempting to get a job, then I might as well not get the degree.) So we’ll see. My thoughts on these issues change daily; today I’m feeling slightly more optimistic than I was when I wrote the post but I know in two more days I could be in that same frame of mind.

  4. 4 phoenixcomplex

    Do you have any interest in community college teaching? (If you’ve already discussed this in earlier posts, my apologies.) It seems like targeting tenure-track CC jobs might be a practical strategy for getting you out of the bad department into a full-time job for which your ABD status would be a qualification, but a PhD in hand not a strict requirement. And while of course it would be hard (maybe impossible) to finish a PhD while teaching a full CC load, it wouldn’t mean leaving academia, leaving teaching, or writing off all the work and misery and conceding defeat. Is this too optimistic? I know a lot of people feel strongly pro or contra CC jobs (and the colleges have equally strong opinions about the candidates — it’s kind of a minefield).

    Also, their hiring cycles don’t seem to be quite as front-loaded as 4-year schools — jobs get posted year-round.

  5. 5 Mon

    Wow. I just started reading your blog and can relate to what you’re feeling. Being a woman of color in the middle of nowhere with little real support was tough for me too. I had the one blessing of being able to leave and write my diss at home while looking for a job. Is that a possibility for you? I found just being in a new environment helped my work and made my periodic contact with my committee more productive.

    I would also say that while removing the person you mention may have an impact on the value of your dissertation, it won’t impact the value of having a PhD–especially if you aren’t going to stay in academia. No one and nothing can take away the value of your PhD. If you do stay or return to academia one day, it sounds like it would be to teach–the schools that really value teaching are not going to give two seconds of thought to who was on your committee. Do what you need to and are able to finish. I for one would be happy to support you any way I can.

  6. 6 thefrogprincess

    Mon, I’m glad you’re reading. Hopefully soon enough, my posts won’t be so depressing. As for writing at home, that’s not an option for me b/c home is just about as bad as being here, although for different reasons. But luckily, I will be spending next academic year elsewhere, which is probably the thing that’s saving the entire enterprise. If I had to stay here, I don’t think I could hack it.

    As for the question of academia, this is something I have to figure out. I’m still in that mode of wanting to be a big success in the field, not just a person making up numbers, even though I know that’s an impossible goal and that it’s one people fail to meet through absolutely no fault of their own. But it’s kinda what happens when you work with the advisor I have; I could have been elsewhere working with other good people but I chose to work with this person because of the name and how I thought being this person’s advisee would translate into good things for me professionally. (Clearly I was naive at 22 but whatever. That wasn’t the only reason I came to this particular institution but it was a major one. The other major factor in my decision ended up being nonexistent quite early into my time here so too much of my justifications of continuing to be in a program that was clearly failing me was based around working with this person.) So while I do believe teaching is important to what we do and I don’t think we should view it as something from distracting us from our “loftier” work of research, I think it’s the combination of the two, the teaching and the research, that I find most attractive about the profession and if it were only a question of teaching, I’d hightail it to a high school with the quickness.

    That being said, phoenixcomplex, your suggestion about community colleges is a good one and one that I’ll consider. I don’t have an strong opinion either way on community colleges, although I’m incredibly averse to adjuncting, but I don’t think those two are the same thing.

  7. 7 Kristen Epps

    My thought is that you might regret not getting the Ph.D., if you decide to drop out. Say goodbye to academia if that is what you need to do, and like you’ve said before, getting your Ph.D. will be the best revenge.

  8. 8 Mon

    I think that you have a lot of options out there. Community college is one, but there are some great liberal arts/4 year colleges that would support teaching and research. (It’s funny that when I wrote schools that value teaching, I wasn’t even thinking high school.) I hope that you are finding some useful strategies for finishing. I think there is still a place for you to do great things in your field–but maybe you just need a break from academia (after you finish).

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