Good News/Bad News time!

On Friday I got a call I had been hoping to get but never thought I would. They needed someone to teach Intro to Popular Culture this semester! I had the weekend to get things ready, which wasn’t hard since I had the class half planned already. So I now have a job, an office, and I’m teaching the class one more time! Which adds to my three class load. So that’s the good news/bad news. Good news: I’ve got a job teaching! Bad news: less time to blog here. So, basically back to the usual around here. Hehehe.

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The Next Chapter, aka 2018

While I have technically been an American Culture Studies (ACS) Ph. D. student for a semester, now I really feel like it. I am really looking forward to starting this new chapter of my life. And a new chapter it will be.

I’m going to be taking three classes this semester. Back to full time student!! I’ve got Geneology of American Culture, Critical Approaches in Film Studies, and Global Popular Music. This is going to be so much fun! The first class is required for all ACS students, MA and Ph. D. The second is required for the Media concentration in the Ph. D. program. The third is my choice for the Media track. I am really looking forward to having more than one class. Hopefully I’ll do better at getting the readings done and being able to contribute consistently in class. I’ve been working on it.

We are also working on moving closer to school. Which means no more long drives – especially since I’ll be in class three days a week. We’re trying to find a bigger place as well. More changes. More new. More excitement.

I’m going to be going to BroadwayCon in a few weeks. I’ll also be seeing Hamilton, again, the night before. Then, of course, there’s Marcon in May and DragonCon in September. I’m hoping to be attending/presenting at 3 conferences this semester, 1 over the summer, and 1 in the fall. At two of those conferences, I’ll be presenting chapters of my thesis. I’m hoping to get useful feedback on how to better expand/explain/polish the information. And the rest are looking deeper at topics I’ve written about before. Conferences are a great way to figure out if you’re headed in the right direction, or if you’re just indulging your own interests. So far, it’s been the former. I hope I continue that way.

Hopefully I’ll be able to take 2 classes over the summer. That way when I take my 3 classes in the fall, I’ll be almost caught up. One of my fall classes is one that I should technically have taken this semester, but was told by the professor who teaches it that I could put it off a year so I could focus on Theory and getting the comps passed.

It’s going to be a year of seeing old friends, making new; making new professional connections; adding more to my knowledge bank, and putting it all to use; and so much more that I don’t know about. This is going to be a great year!

Reflections on 2017

Well, the year is almost over. It’s that time of year when we take the time to look back and think about what has happened over the past 365 days. For me, it has been quite the rollercoaster.

Mostly it has been focused around school and classes. I started out the year with a rough draft of one chapter of my thesis done.  A thesis that needed to be completed, approved by my committee, and uploaded by April. Yeah, no pressure at all. But I also was taking a class about the superhero genre in comic books. Yay! I was also studying so I could pass the two parts of the comprehensive exam I would be retaking so I could graduate in the spring. All while continuing to serve as the president of the student organization for Popular Culture scholars and helping to organize our yearly academic conference. There was just a little stress going on.

I buckled down and got my thesis finished. Is it the final product? No. But it is a thesis that satisfied my committee, which was the most important part at the time. Hopefully, I’ll be able to start picking away at revising and expanding it so it does reach that final product and I can start looking at getting it published. I went to another graduate student run conference at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. I got to present my paper on “my descent into Hamilton fandom” and make new friends. I presented my first paper on the intentional representation of Deafness in comics at the Ray Browne Conference on Cultural and Critical Studies, which I had quite the hand in organizing and it went off successfully!

I managed to pass one part of the comps, but still failed the other. I was given one last chance to pass it, and managed to fail again. The bottom dropped away from me. I had worked so hard to get my thesis finished and I wasn’t going to be graduating? How would I start in the fall as a Ph.D. student? I could not take another year off. I had taken so much time off already, I wanted to keep the knowledge coming in. Things finally settled and the fall was laid out for me: I would retake the entire comprehensive exam again in the fall (all three parts), I would also start the American Culture Studies Ph. D. program, I would be able to continue in the spring providing I passed the comps in their entirety. In order to prepare for the comps, it was suggested that I only take 1 class in the fall: theory. I also worked with a wonderful professor over the summer to better prepare for the comps.

Still, I was crushed. I wasn’t graduating with the rest of my cohort, my friends. I had to pass this exam that has been kicking my ass repeatedly in order to graduate and continue my studies. I wouldn’t have a job on campus since I was only part-time. Also, it made sense to simply live at home and just drive up for class once a week. That was great for my budget and for being at home with the hubby. But it also meant only seeing my new cohort/classmates/friends once a week. It sucked.

But as the semester went on, things got better. I gave successful presentations at CPAC and MPCA. I finally passed the comprehensive exams and graduated a few weeks ago. I successfully completed my first semester as a Ph. D. student. I have begun a new research project that I can continue to pick away at in addition to my dissertation work, and has been suggested as the topic of my dissertation, if I didn’t already have one.

There were also the more leisure-fun times. Soon after the year started, I had my adventure in NYC. I went to my first (the second ever) BroadwayCon! I got to be in the same room as so many talented legends, learn so much about Broadway, both in front of and behind the scenes, and enjoy being with fellow fans. And, thanks to giving in to an impulse, I finally went to see Hamilton. It is an experience I will never forget. To really experience the show, you need to see it performed. It truly is a combination of music, acting, choreography, staging, lighting, words… Knowing only one aspect does not paint the entire picture.

Which is part of why I went and saw it in Chicago in September. That and gathering more observations on the audience and the performance. It was completely different and completely the same. That cast has really made it their own. I only wish I could see the tour’s Angelica company in LA.

I had so much fun being on panels and just being at Marcon in May. I got three new costumes together for DragonCon in September. If only I had taken the time to make sure the one fit before calling it finished I could have worn all three! I had a blast at DragonCon, making more friends/professional connections. I even managed to amaze someone that a scholar they highly respect – with very good reason – was on my thesis committee. I watched many cool movies (including seeing Star Wars twice!), and even went to see Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time in the theater. I have met many new people and made many new friends. I have added many books to my shelves – both academic and for fun. I have added so much to my knowledge bank. I have so much more to learn.

I am grateful for all my experiences this year, from the very exciting to the extremely depressing. I am looking forward to everything that next year is bringing. But I’ll save that for another post. For now, thank you 2017 for quite the ride. Bring it on, 2018!

Stressed the F out!

This has been an intense semester. I thought it would have gotten better by now. Nope. It’s worse.

The semester started out with the stress of not knowing if I would be continuing in the program and the stress of passing the comprehensive exam so I can graduate with my master’s degree. The exam was at the end of September, so that’s when the stress switched from preparing for it to whether I answered the questions to the graders’ satisfaction. Last month I found out that I had finally passed!

I was so stress free for a week or so. I finally passed! I’m finally graduating! I’m going to be a full-time PhD student in the Spring! But then the stress began to creep in again. I need to find a job for the Spring that will work with my class schedule and not cost me much more in gas every day. We need to find somewhere to live that’s closer to campus but not far from here so he can keep working. We need to agree on where we’re moving to and when. We need to get things packed.

Then, of course, class. That’s been the underlying stress of the semester. It’s not like it’s an overly hard class. It’s a theory class for all ACS graduate students, masters and PhD students alike. But I can barely find/make the time to study like I should. I started to wonder why, then I remember last school year.

Last year, I had a studio apartment to myself in BG that had only what I really needed. I used the dining table they provided as my desk. I brought my TV, Roku, and some DVDs and player. I had my former desk, now coffee table. I brought my Sumo beanbag chair so I’d have somewhere to sit other than my mattress and “desk chair”. I was teaching three days a week. Teaching a class I had already taught alone and had a good idea of what I was doing. I had office hours once a week. I was able to keep my schedule flexible enough that I could get my studying done for all my classes with no problem. Then I’d go home on the weekends. Both hubby and I would be off of our respective work and could spend time together.

Now, I’m home with all my stuff, all our stuff, all his stuff. I’m home with cable and all the channels that come with it. I’m home where my room is so full of my stuff, I don’t have a lot of space to have different places to sit, away from the computer, when I need it. I’m home sharing the space with my hubby 24/7. I’m home with a part-time job that lets me study while I’m there and there’s nothing else I need to be doing. But that’s the trick, there needs to be nothing else. There needs to be no residents who need my attention for whatever reason. And, of course, that drains me on a different level, so when I get home, I veg out in front of the TV and get nothing done. Then I have to time getting dinner ready so it’s done but not cold so we can eat together before he heads off to work.

I only have one real day off every week – Tuesday – because I have class on Thursdays – involving 4 total hours in the car – and I have Church on Sundays. Tuesdays are the only day in the week that I can sleep in and don’t have to worry about it affecting anything. And of course, if there’s a movie we both want to see, somehow Tuesday mornings are the only time that works for him.

Like yesterday. We went to see Thor: Ragnarok, finally, at 9:30am. I remembered at 2:30am that we were going to see the movie and checked with him when we were going. Of course 9:30am was the only time that worked for him. Which means I got up at 8:30, 6 hours after heading to bed, got dressed, and got another half-hour of sleep. I made stopping by Starbucks part of the plan so I could get a London Fog Latte so I would have a chance of making through the movie. I knew I would be that tired and I was. Thankfully it did its job. On the way out to the car I could feel it wearing off – which is why I bring tea with me to class on Thursdays. I crashed when we got home and spent a good chunk of the afternoon trying to wake up, eventually giving up and taking a nap, again.

It’s not that I don’t love my hubby – I do, so very much – or that I didn’t want to see Thor without him – I didn’t. I just wanted to get some sleep and be able to spend proper time getting my reading done for class. It’s just hard adjusting to this new dynamic. For both of us. Being married and in grad school is not easy. I’m just finding this out now. I hope that we can get things figured out over break and I can start this next part on solid footing. I’m tired of scrambling to get both feet steady.

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…

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

Panic and Stress

My life is a mess right now. Or at least that’s how it feels. I’ve got a job that really doesn’t pay the bills, but I’m somehow making a paycheck stretch. I still don’t know if I’m graduating in December with my master’s degree, which means I don’t know if I’m going to still be in the Ph.D. program in the spring.

I’ve been watching Better Things on Hulu. It’s a great show. I just watched episode 5 where the oldest daughter is worrying about her future at age 16. Sam points out to her that even if you just have a job and get by, you’ll be fine. You don’t have to actually have your shit together to look like you have your shit together.

I needed to hear that.

I needed to hear that just finding a job that doesn’t drain the energy out of me on every level isn’t a bad thing. I needed to hear that I can still do what I want with my life without the degree to “back it up”. I can be an independent scholar and work at Barnes and Noble. I can write about Doctor Who and Bitch Planet and Hamilton without Ph.D. after my name. As much as I do want to teach, I don’t have to teach.

I feel so much better. I have been stressed and in a fog lately. I had a great weekend at the Midwest Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (MPCA) Conference last weekend. But somehow, after getting back, this week has been a mess. But I feel so much better. Allowing myself to think that everything will be fine no matter what. I feel so much better.

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!