Tag Archives: rant

clearing of throat, stepping up onto soapbox

this comes a bit late – after all, congress did (unsurprisingly) reach something not unlike a budget compromise at the eleventh hour, thereby avoiding a government shutdown, aka y2k+11.  but i have to put in my two cents (aside from the fact that i think almost all congressional representatives, democrat and republican, need to be poked in the eye and replaced by real people in lieu of political emotibots).

there was a big movement on facebook in the days leading up to the Great Government Shutdown Scare of 2011 to ensure that, even in the event of a shutdown (this year or in the future), measures would be taken to make sure that troops serving abroad would continue to be paid.  and while i think that is a noble cause on many levels, and while i would never be in favor of depriving our troops of their pay, i don’t think they should be paid in the event of a shutdown.  why?  because the military is the last branch of public servants left (besides legislators, oddly enough) that haven’t yet become vilified in public opinion because of labor and union issues.  and because nothing would put more pressure on our congresspeople to take a deep breath, get the party line sticks out of their asses, and make real, meaningful, immediate compromise than a whole lot of pissed-off troops, veterans, military families, and american citizens in general.  it would be a real wake-up call… and let’s face it, congress needs a wake up call REAL BAD.

and to all of you legislators out there in the ether who, unfortunately, do not read my blog, and even more unfortunately, are attempting to pass legislation vilifying rape victims, limiting health care to those who need it most, and stripping rights away from people who have vaginas (since you fall into none of those three categories): you may all go do something obscenely biological to yourselves in a corner until such time as i have less adorno to read and more time to write up an eloquent excoriation of you and everything you stand for.

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gearing up for spring(ish)

after a very early morning and several near-panic attacks on the way from home to the airport through check-in and security to my gate, i was richly rewarded by an AMAZING view: it was still overcast and barely getting light when we taxied away from the gate, but when we broke through the clouds, it was this incredible sea of pinky-orange and grey-blue with the sun just coming up.  trying to take advantage of my couple of hours strapped to a seat without access to facebook, i’m now (or i was, until i started writing this post) working on the paper i need to present at my next conference in a couple of weeks.  unfortunately, the combination of up at 5am + no coffee + attempt to articulately express my thoughts = me writing very silly sentences.  to wit: “this sexual relationship is both sexual and forbidden.”  holy extended felines, batman!  long cat is long!  blah!

also, my tray table sags on one side, which is both annoying when i’m trying to type, and a little terrifying as my cup of orange juice teeters on the edge between my laptop and the lap of the sleeping gentleman next to me.

spring break was lovely lovely in many ways.  having z out to visit made it so that i could relax (which i would’ve done anyway) without feeling guilty about it (which i wouldn’t have been able to do).  we didn’t do much that was terribly exciting: lots of cooking (french toast!  sweet potato gnocchi with gouda cheese sauce! tofu spring rolls!), *lots* of eating, lots of TV watching (she’s now thoroughly hooked on castle and understands my girl-crush on beckett, hooray!), sleeping in, taking walks, shopping, cuddling (and memorably, washing) the cat… everything i needed to recharge my mental and emotional batteries before plunging into spring quarter.

i’m approaching spring quarter with a lot of anxiety.  for one thing, i remember being totally burnt out about 2 weeks into spring quarter last year.  and i really can’t afford to be anything but Totally On Top Of My Shit for the next 10 weeks.  in addition to the obvious pressure of MA exams (fridays of week 6 and 7), there’s conference 1 (today and tomorrow), conference 2 (in 2 weeks, for which i am currently (not) writing my paper), visiting prospective grad students, another visiting professor candidate*, a part-part-time research assistantship, and upgrading my one class from a novel a week to a novel and a short philosophical treatise a week.  it makes me feel a little ill to think about it all.  it makes me want to dive under the covers and watch a whole season of dexter and eat a whole pint of jeni’s ice cream.**  …taking of deep breaths.

finishing this post up sitting in tarsi’s office – we’re off in a few minutes to grab lunch in chinatown and see some cherry blossoms around dc before i head out to my conference.

*oh my goodness, if my professors don’t start acting like PROFESSIONAL ADULTS instead of pre-schoolers, i will smack them right in their faces.  slash i (and all the other grad students) really want them to hire one of the candidates who has already visited, and i will be severely peeved if they do not.

**i would seriously regret the last two of those three things, one for the nightmares and the other for the digestive consequences.

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i am conflicted about THE WORLD

THE WORLD gives me writer’s block.  THE WORLD makes me paralyzed.  the world is BIG and full of BAD THINGS and i live in it kind of.  and i have nothing to say about it.

there’s so much going on in THE WORLD.  six weeks ago it was the protests in egypt, then coming out of that, the continued unrest in libya, where a government is attacking its own people.  i started and deleted about six posts about these things.  for the last week, it’s been earthquakes, tsunamis, and now nuclear who-knows-what in japan.  i keep trying to have Something To Say about these events, these major WORLD HAPPENINGS AND CATASTROPHES, but i know next to nothing about middle eastern politics or nuclear power or rescue efforts or military strategy.

to write a blog post here in my dusty little corner of the internet giving my two cents about these things seems silly; what do i have to contribute?  even the headlines that do penetrate into my small bubble of existing seem to bounce right off.  gay marriage (or not)?  health care?  collective bargaining rights?  ohio cutting its higher education budget?  these things affect me directly, and i still can’t muster up meaningful words (um, thoughts) about them.

all this stuff is flying around my head, and i’m writing about:
– the ophelia myth in 20th century literature
– the unreasonable speed with which grey fluff builds up on white tile in my bathroom
– the fact that being in the basement when mal is playing upstairs  sounds like being underneath a convention of a major international bowling society
– the warmish weather and halleluja we’ve been able to open the windows a crack
– the cat goes bananas over said open windows

it all makes me a little jealous of my parents’ generation, or even my grandparents’ or great-grandparents’ generation.  where you inhabited your little bubble of being, and THE WORLD was kept at bay by sheer dint of distance, and newspaper headlines and rss feeds and twitter and facebook updates didn’t inundate you with IT IS SO MUCH WORSE EVERYWHERE ELSE and YOUR PROBLEMS AND SMALL TRIUMPHS ARE TRULY INSIGNIFICANT and make you doubt every bowl of cereal that you ate and every nap that you took and every page of literary analysis that you wrote.

THE WORLD MAKES ME CONFLICTED.  there is so much going on out there, and i’m struggling and struggling to make my little bubble of existence meaningful, and the failure of those two things to mesh is just making me miserable.  and if i spend the day glued to the NYT headlines, i feel like an insignificant bug, and if i go hide from my insignificantness in front of the TV or in a yoga class or in my kitchenaid mixer, i feel like an insignificant bug.  i feel like a nauseous, sad, insignificant bug.  this is not a post of self-pity, and i am not asking for comments saying OH BUT YOU ARE SIGNIFICANT WE LOVE YOU AND THERE ARE RAINBOWS YAY.  in fact, please do not say those things in comments.

i read books and talk about them, and i am good at that.  i teach language, and i am good at that.  i am trying to take those things, which i am good at and also which i like, and make them mesh into the world outside of my bubble.  so far, i have not been successful at this: the job i applied for in boston didn’t pan out, because they had so many qualified candidates (not me).  i guess i don’t know how to become qualified at something that makes a difference, because everybody else gets in the door first because they are already more qualified.

…i’m going to go make bread now, and pay my taxes.

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hi my name is lizzie and i’m a professor approval addict

in the fall when we were lining up the keynote speaker for our grad student conference, we specified with this individual that we would like him to be present to give his keynote address on friday evening (the conference starts a week from today) and to hear the grad student panels and participate in discussion on saturday.  imagine the joy i felt when he emailed me yesterday (being eight days before showtime) to ask if he could fly back to michigan (which, i might add, is a plane ticket he made us pay for in advance, even though he lives a whopping 3-4 hour drive away from us) early saturday morning instead because of a “bit of a personal emergency”.  which… fine.  but what kind of personal emergency do you know about a week in advance?  and what kind of personal emergency can you postpone or put of, if it is not the case that “my SATURDAY participation is not totally essential and urgently desired”?  i feel like this email was his way of asking me for permission to flake out, while simultaneously giving me no way to back out in a professional and socially graceful way.

i asked my department chair what i should do, and she told me to tell him he was welcome to leave early, but that i should really rub his face in the fact that he was blowing off students and their opportunity to network with him.  which i did:
Of course, we understand that circumstances arise, and although many of our graduate students and visiting presenters will regret not having the opportunity to hear your feedback on their presentations, we are willing to be flexible with respect to your presence at Saturday’s conference – your Saturday participation, you might say, remains urgently desired, but is not totally essential, as I’m sure that discussion will not be lacking in any case.
i haven’t heard back from him yet, but i did hear back from my chair, whom i’d copied on the email:
Bravo! You ARE good! I could not have written a better email myself. And, if you don’t mind my saying, the profession needs more people like you in it! Please keep that in mind.

and it’s really this last bit that i’m posting about.  because… i am so, so needy for professor approval!  i used to get it all the time from my middlebury professors, and i’m pretty sure it’s why i applied to grad school – not to please them, but because they made me feel really good about myself, my work, and my intellectual capabilities.  i still remember when professor l told me that she’d saved j’s and my essays for last when she was grading, because she knew they would be great.  i remember going to my thesis advisor in a crappy mood about something, and leaving her office walking on air because she read my out the beginning of the recommendation letter that she was writing for me.  it just… yeah.  and i don’t get that here.  and i know i shouldn’t expect it, because grad school isn’t about academic child-rearing any more, it’s about becoming useful in your field.  talent is irrelevant, it’s all about hard work, connections, and beating yourself into the ground in the name of your academic discipline.

but you know, i think there’s something to be said for this kind of acknowledgement.  there’s a reason that so many grad students that i know suffer from so-called impostor syndrome: the feeling that they are, despite the fact that that they were accepted to and funded by a program, not nearly as talented or hard-working as their undergraduate grades, recommendations, and self-professed dedication to and obsession with their fields of study may have indicated.  because so many professors are only able to give back-handed compliments – “You write very well; you have read (or listed) quite a number of pertinent articles and worked in aspects of those articles very well. As far as form is concerned, this is a very accomplished paper.  Your discussion is a bit all over the place and I wish you would apply your considerable critical skills to more sophisticated, meaningful texts (and take a bit more time in thinking through the issues).” so many professors are more than willing to denigrate your dreams and goals at the drop of a hat – “If you keep coming to seminar as underprepared as this, you’ll end up teaching at a liberal arts college!” so many professors simply regard us as scum between their toes and unnecessary distractions from their research, that it’s a BIG DAMN SURPRISE when you get an email like the one above from my department chair!

i occasionally feel frustrated because my department chair tends to… turn up the pressure a little bit when it comes to whether i will be staying on for the phd at osu next year.  but you know what?  she respects graduate students for the work we do and as human beings, and i sure do appreciate that.  that’s certainly how i strive to treat my students (though i am occasionally gleefully yet guiltily unsuccessful at this), and maybe she’s right that academia could use someone like me who isn’t so stuck up in the ivory tower that she can’t give others the consideration that they deserve.

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