Monday, November 17, 2008

A brief aside

In the wake of a recent rash of romantic devastation (not my own, but rather of those who are dear to me), I dwell on a single question: What is the difference between a life partner and a marriage partner? Surely it's one of those square/rectangle relationships; a marriage partner should be a life partner but a life partner may not be a marriage partner.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Regret that can only be enabled by Relief

Last month, I made the decision to take next year off of school. This will be my first official break since summer 2002, which so far has constituted my only semester off school since - ever really. The decision came at the end of a harrowing year that tried my resilience to criticism and poor timing to its very core. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to continue in academia with my wits even tenuously intact then I must take the time off.
I will no longer be attempting to balance all of the following things this semester as a result:
1) Practicing for and conquering the GRE
2) Crafting the best interdisciplinary/multimedia SSHRC proposal in the history of forever
3) Tracking down flighty profs for vital and glowing references
4) Writing PhD applications of such quality that acceptance to any program I desire is ensured (and funded)
5) Working 170 hours per semester for the University (the ancillary services quarter, not academic)
6) Submitting my best written essays to date for Victorian Serialized Fiction and Forest Fetish classes
7) Being the absolute best student teacher yet to grace the pedagogy class at UVIC
8) Maintaining a loving and supportive overseas relationship
9) Socialising, exercising and other things that generally contribute to good mental health.

Instead, I have the luxury of only balancing numbers 5-9. At first there was a feeling of relief. I see that I was trying to spread myself too thinly - even I can only do so much. However, thanks to the revivifying effects of VISAWUS and SCMLA, I now look back on my decision with immense sadness. I was oh-so-excited to submit my applications and pitch my ideas to the SSHRC and PhD committees and now have to wait. I have made all these lovely connections with the academic community that I am concerned may fall by the wayside sometime during this hiatus. Most difficult to remember is that I couldn't afford to feel regret if I hadn't made this choice. There is no way that, under that kind of pressure my semester was presenting, I could have completed all of these tasks to the best of my ability and expectations. In fact, I would have failed spectacularly in all ways and, what's more, I would have ruined my opportunity to do better and try again. Who would have supported me after that supernova of dissappointment? Would I have been able to rise from the flames? I think not.

On the upside, Todd's family is buying a new apartment for him (which means maybe we can get a dog). In the meantime, I will keep my wallet closed in hopes of taking the dog training program and keep my eyes open for opportunities to build my academic CV. A job for next year would be pretty awesome too....

Sunday, November 02, 2008

What AM I doing with my life?

This is the question that plagues me. It doesn't get easier now that I have to summarize it to all the people I am reconnecting with. It doesn't get easier when I have a totally distorted view of my life. To me, it seems like I am frozen in time - still slaving away at school just like I have been doing for the last 8 years. That's because when people ask "What did you do this weekend?" the answer is invariably "homework" or "I can't remember." Don't get excited. The reason I can't remember is not because I was out partying. It's because between working at home and doing school work there is nothing to distinguish one day from the next.

That's the usual response. However, it is high time I remember that there is a lot happening:
a) I am finishing my third university degree - that's right - third
b) I have broken into my academic field with a major idea that has been well received at all the conferences I've been to so far (three)
c) I am presenting a paper at a professional conference in Texas this coming week
d) I just had my first paper published
e) I am volunteering at the SPCA
f) I've decided to take next year off before going on to a PhD program to pursue other interests, including animal welfare and wildlife conservation
g) I've made a conscious effort to allow myself a social life this year, rectifying the cloistering effect of last year
f) I have revivified a number of old and meaningful friendships
g) my current employment is extremely fulfilling and pays more than the other jobs I had applied for this year
h) my employment over the summer for Oxford University Press added an impressive notch on my academic belt and the position with the summer camp made a significant contribution to a community
i) I have reconnected with my artistic inclinations, resulting in some exceedingly beautiful images and potential projects

I think that the risk people run in any occupation in life is forgetting that they are more than just what they do. Being the sum of your actions means being the sum of ALL your actions - not just the actions that take up the majority of your time, working towards one long term goal. This is certainly the error that I have made.