Row, Row, Row Your Boat

More wisdom from The Dude.

Row, row, row your boat,
gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily.
Life is but a dream.

Imagine that you’re rowing down a stream and you’re trying to figure out how to do it. Do I row with the right oar and then with the left, or is it the other way around? What does my shoulder do, what does my arm do? It’s like Joe, the centipede with a hundred legs, trying to figure out which leg to more first.
…He can’t get anywhere, just like the person in the rowboat. And while he’s hung up with all those questions, the stream is pulling him on and on. So you want to row, row, row your boat – gently. Don’t make a whole to-do it. Don’t get down on yourself because you’re not an expert rower; don’t start reading too many books in order to do it right. Just row, row, row your boat gently down the stream.
– Bernie Glassman, The Dude and the Zen Master, p. 21-22

I was worried that I was doing that and I had screwed things up again. Because when I get stressed or anxious, especially when I have to take an essay-based exam, my mind goes into overdrive and I go off in directions that don’t matter. I’m flailing trying to move my boat forward when all I’m doing is staying in place.

In the book, they continue talking about boats and streams and other bodies of water. We’re always rowing to reach a shore. But there is never going to be the shore.

But if you are going somewhere else, let me say this much: At least change the boat and the oars. Say I get to the other side, what do I do? Well, I got here thanks to this beautiful boat with the set of oars, so I’ll just hold on to them and carry them wherever I go. Isn’t that weird? Now I’ve got the burden of carrying around whatever got me here. Instead I get rid of it, and I’m free. Time passes and now I want to get to the next shore. I’ll probably need a new kind of boat and different oars, because maybe now the other shore is on the other side of the ocean and that requires a whole other mode of transportation.
– Bernie Glassman, The Dude and the Zen Master, p. 38

I was trying to get out of the one boat to the shore so I could get into the next boat. Instead I had one foot in two boats and was trying to keep both by the same shore.

Now I am fully in the next boat. It’s a different boat because I’ve got a different body of water to cross. It’s going to take longer. It’s going to require changes in life to get to that other shore. But, with my husband’s help and support, I know I can get there. And this time, I’m going to get to spend at least a little time on the shore before getting into the next boat. Even if it’s just a weekend, I’m going to enjoy that shore. But for now…

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I’m looking forward…

When I got to campus today, I checked my mailbox, as usual. Nothing. Again. More than a month after taking the Comprehensive Exam and still no sign of whether I passed.

After class, I went to the office to check if there was any word. Our amazing secretary/therapist/caregiver was just getting done letting me know what she was told – that it would probably be a week at the earliest – when the phone rang. She turned to me, gave me a thumbs up, and mouthed “You passed!” I was partially in shock and partially not sure if I read it right, so I waited until she hung up. She said, “You passed!”

I have finally passed the Comprehensive Exam! I can finally graduate! I get to stay in the Ph. D. program! I get to stay at BGSU!

I bought that lanyard last spring when they were on clearance. I bought it with the determination that it would be true. I am so happy that I can actually say that now! And as much as I want to work on decorating my cap (I have had plans for months), I’m going to start working on my readings for class next week because I’m leading class and I’m really excited about it!

I don’t know if I can truly say I’ve been excited about class yet this semester. I know part of that has been this weight and fog surrounding me, freezing me in place that has now lifted. I’m looking forward to writing my paper for class. I’m looking forward to being in charge next week. I’m looking forward to my three classes in the spring.

I’m looking forward, and there’s something definite there!

"Listen to the Mustn'ts" by Shel Silverstein

Distractable

It’s never a good sign when I’m so distractable. Last night I sat down to do reading, I ended up organizing binders of my readings and notes from the past two years. Today, I’ve organized the files of readings from the past two years, as well as killing time online. I just got off of Facebook because I realized I didn’t know why I was still on there. And I’m writing this.

Even with my wonderful tea (gets distracted again)…I cannot focus on these readings. It happened last week. It’s happening again this week. I keep trying to get my readings done before Tuesday so I can sit down and have time to write my response paper and make sure it is good and makes sense. Instead I end up rushing to get them read and throw together a paper to get in just before the deadline. I’ve found some summaries of a few of the readings. I’m hoping they’ll give me enough information that I can get everything else read and get a good paper written.

I’m starting to worry about this. I don’t know if my attention issues are getting worse or I’m noticing them more now that I have more work and really want to get good grades. I have gone this far without seeking medical intervention, but I may have to if I want to get through the rest of my life. Spending hours at a time watching television when there is so much that needs to be done is not a good way to go through life. I know that you need to take a break from things and take care of yourself, but I feel like I’m taking a break from that to actually do things instead of the other way around. Grrrr.

Goals

This past Saturday I took the comprehensive exams for my MA, again. There are three areas in which we need to answer a question. Now I – and my fellow exam-takers – await the results. At least two graders will read each response and give a pass or fail. If they don’t agree, a third person weighs in. If I don’t pass all three this time, I don’t graduate in December. I don’t graduate in December, I don’t continue in the American Culture Studies Ph. D. program. I don’t continue, I’m going to have a small breakdown and see what needs to be done to start again in the fall.

I am not going to let this stop me. Ten years elapsed between graduating with my BA and starting graduate school. In those ten years I worked jobs I really didn’t like because I needed a job. I am going to become a college professor. I am going to teach Disability Studies and Popular Culture. Together. Separate. Either. Both. I’m happy.

Last month I had a meeting with the director of the program. He does this with all the incoming students every year. He mentioned concern about me getting two interdisciplinary degrees in a row – Popular Culture and American Culture Studies – having a negative effect on getting a teaching job. I’ve asked other professors their opinions and they disagreed. I’m not letting this discourage me. I’m going to work hard, present papers at conferences, get papers published, and make a positive name for myself in the world.

I will become a college professor. I will continue to educate minds – young and old – so they have the ability to make fully informed opinions. I will continue to empower people and continue to be an activist. I will not stop.

teachingisactivism

This semester…

If I can get through this semester, I can get through my Ph.D. I knew that living 2 hours away from campus and going up for class would be hard, but I didn’t think it would be this hard.

Honestly the thing that is the hardest is having to leave immediately after class on Thursdays and drive straight to work. That is really starting to take a toll on me. Drive 2 hours, be in class for 3 hours, drive 2.5 hours, work 2.5 hours. Unfortunately there is no one who can work on Thursdays. I would be tempted to try and get them to find someone if this was going to be a thing past this semester. I have no plans to still be working there next semester. I am going to be taking 3 classes in the Spring, which is not going to allow for working 4 evenings a week and Saturdays 2.5 hours away from campus.

Work is keeping me not only from seeing my cohort outside of class and socializing and getting to know them better. It’s keeping me from all sorts of things on campus that would probably be useful and informative. There are talks about what you can do with your Ph. D. outside of academia. There are colloquium series. There is the easy access to the library, instead of having to wait and pick up 10 books at once and remembering to bring them back before they’re due when I’m on campus.

Thankfully, right now I’m listening to The West Wing Weekly while also doing another rewatch of the series. I’m watching season 3, but listening to season 1. Probably when I get to the end of season 4, I’ll go back and watch the episodes I’ve recently listened to. It’s helping me stay sane. Well, that and Hamilton.

But first, I have to graduate with my M.A. at the end of this semester. Thankfully, I am confident that I can pass the comprehensive exam this time and get it done so I can continue to move forward in my Ph. D.

Walking on Water

Today at Mass, Father’s homily struck a chord with me. The Gospel reading was Jesus walking on water and Peter doubting and starting to sink. He talked about how we have all walked on water at some time in our lives. A time when we feel called to do something but we have a sinking feeling, we aren’t sure if we can do it.

Tomorrow I start Graduate Student Orientation, again. But this time it’s for me starting my Ph. D. Starting my Ph. D. while I study up so I can complete my Master’s and graduate in December so I can continue with my Ph. D. This is one of my walking on water times. I know that this is the right thing for me. But I’m worried that I’ll get in my own way and won’t pass the comprehensive exams so I can graduate with my Master’s degree. I’ve passed two of the three parts before, I know I can do it again.

But a little part of me keeps popping up and messing with that faith. Thankfully, it’s getting less frequent. I’m still worried that it will pop up at the worst time – during the exam – and I will start to sink. I know that if I put the work in, study, and have faith in myself, I will walk through those exams and finally be able to move forward with my studies.

At least this week is simply about getting to know my cohort, the faculty I don’t already know, and get a good solid start to the semester and my Ph. D. And I am really looking forward to it!

Solid start

As you all know by now, I am trying to get my thesis off to a good start. It has been an exercise in trying to figure out how to write it. I have been reading books and graphic novels and taking notes and figuring out exactly what I’m looking at.

And I was making no on the page progress.

I wanted to have a rough draft of my first chapter done before Monday. Until today I didn’t think that would be possible. I felt like my break was wasted in that sense. But it really wasn’t. I needed to take a break from it and let my brain relax. I needed to remember that I am trying to get a rough draft done, not the final draft. Giving myself the permission to simply sit down and include everything I can think of has opened the floodgates.

Both yesterday and today I spent about 2 hours at Starbucks with coffee and Hamilton to add to the lack of distractions and help me focus. I have finally laid a solid foundation for me to build the rest of the draft off of. I think if I take the time to work on it tomorrow, and hopefully on Sunday, I will get close to if not have a flat out done draft by Monday. That is going to be a great way to start off the semester!

I have a brain again!

This past week has been a checklist that is slowly being checked off. Paper for class. Done. Presenting in class. Done. Other presentation. Done. Last day of teaching for the semester. Done. Last day of attending class. Done. All I have left to do is give my students their final exam.

That’s part of why I’ve been posting so much lately. I’ve had more time to allow my thoughts to be about something other than school. But there’s another reason for that.

I should also be working on my thesis. Which I have been doing. But I’ve also been posting here, getting materials ready to teach next semester, getting caught up on the dishes, getting prepared to do the laundry, generally tidying up, watching TV and movies, and avoiding working on my thesis. But strangely, saying that makes me want to get working on it! After I go get my laundry started. Seriously, I’m running out of clothing.

Ahh, the life of a grad student.

Music of my life

Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Hamilton music. Like many others, I have The Hamilton Mixtape pre-ordered. It comes out on Friday, but Lin-Manuel Miranda has been releasing a track or two here and there over the past couple of weeks. We’re currently at 6 tracks released. And if you pre-ordered it, you get those tracks and pay that much less when the rest comes out.

It is amazing. Some of my favorite tracks are some of the more recently released ones. “Wrote My Way Out” is amazing. It’s got four different artists talking about their own experience and how they “wrote [their] way out” of their circumstances. It’s inspiring to listen to. Usher’s “Wait For It” is my other favorite, right now. I love the song to begin with, and his take is just beautiful. Seriously, just go listen to it now. It’s out there on Spotify. Go. Listen.

The whole thing is just amazing. “Satisfied” has multiple levels of awesomeness, including Queen Latifah. “Helpless” has Ashanti and Ja Rule, which is so beautiful. I feel like I cannot do it justice because I do not know these artists very much if it all. If you go on Twitter, people are fawning over this amazing music.

But…anyway…

Today I tried something new. When I listen to Hamilton in the car, I find myself having moments of inspiration about my thesis. The two are nowhere near related. But I think it’s somehow either inspiring the scholarly side or I’ve listened to it often enough that it’s allowing me to zen out and freeing my mind to think about my thesis. So I decided to see if that’s the case of if somehow driving is a part of it. When you’re on a decent drive, it can be a very zen, freeing experience, mentally. I sat down with the laptop and decided to focus on one section of my thesis and write. I didn’t worry about citing or finding the information in books. Basically I was aiming to lay a solid foundation I can go back through and flesh out with the books and graphic novels and such later.

It worked.

I wrote over two-thousand words this afternoon. And they’re really good words. I recently transferred that section over into Word and formatted it accordingly. I wrote almost eight full pages today. That’s without any citations or headings or anything. Just eight pages of words. It’s giving me hope that I can get at least a solid first draft done by the end of the semester to give to my committee to get feedback on. I think I could get a solid draft of the entire thing done over Winter Break when I have no teaching materials to prepare, reading to do for class, papers to write for class, or grading to do.

So, evidently Hamilton needs to be in my rotation for writing music. Who knew?

I found it!

Earlier I wrote about how I’m approaching writing for my thesis (One-thousand words). I mentioned that Seanan McGuire, one of my favorite authors, posted about how she uses a d10 to track her writing. But I couldn’t find where.

I FOUND IT!

Still excited that I have an awesome use for my ASL d10 my wonderful sis found for me a few years ago! Thank you, Seanan, for that!