Campus is still there

In case anyone was wondering after my last post, campus is still there. I spent all day there today, probably the last time I can do that as the kids’ school schedules are wrapping up. I got work done; it was quiet. I visited with a colleague and bumped into another in the library. Just what I needed.

I live so far away from campus that it is very easy to feel disconnected here in the Boston countryside surrounded by farms. I do love living out in a small town nestled between CSA farms. It is so soul-nourishing to me.

And then I feel like a wimp for wanting the connection of a physical space. Shouldn’t I just want to do my work because it’s interesting and awesome? I think it also has to do with community. It’s not just work. Academia doesn’t make sense if it’s not a conversation.



dare I eat a peach?

Hopefully this summer will include a beach.

For my monthly post, I feel like I need to say a word of wrap-up about my first year and a word about the upcoming summer. I don’t necessarily plan to have my posting frequency only once a month, but it turns out this way. I also wonder if such a post isn’t too banal? But in my many years of blogging, I’ve learned that to blog is to not forget.

In some ways, I don’t really need to summarize all that was my first year, because the story has kind of woven itself in previous entries. But as I sit here in the year’s aftermath, only a few weeks since the door closed on the semester, it already seems like a fuzzy reality. The most distinct impressions I have are of being frantic, frazzled, excited, and stressed out about money. And I settle back into the familiar reality of stay-at-home-mom, I sometimes wonder if Aimai-je un rêve?, did I love a dream? Did I really get to do all that cool stuff?

This is part of why I hate summer. I always have. It messes with my mojo. I have a huge to-do list for the summer, but it seems fake. I am having a hard time focusing. I plotted out my to-do list on a calendar of the next 13 weeks ’til the semester starts again. Thirteen weeks of feeling fake.

I’m planning a trip to campus in a couple of days. It requires Herculean effort for the whole family for me to spend the day in town. I don’t really need to be on campus for any particular reason, but I’ll get some campus busy work done while I’m at it. I’m partly going to make sure that campus still exists. I’m also going so that I can work from 9-5 in an office and hopefully chip away at my to-do list. I hope that as I mature as a scholar, the Home Me and the School Me won’t live at such odds. The School Me feels energized and productive. The Home Me feels oppressed by piles of laundry and distracted by my awesome garden and dreams of owning chickens and a Jersey cow named Sylvia.

The elephant in the room, though, is definitely the kids. Oh wait, it just sounds like a herd of elephants. (Or maybe it’s Elmer the Elephant). Sure, there’s the difficulty of finding time to get stuff done. My husband and I work this out. The public library has study rooms and wifi. I can walk there. We have a work room with a door that closes. I can find time and places, carved out of the nooks and crannies of summer. I’m having a hard time with the mental aspect. I felt like I deeply developed as a person over this past year, and I haven’t quite figured out how to jive this development with the mom who takes her kids to little league and the beach in the summer. In some sense, I’m bothered by this, did I miss something by not taking everyone along on this personal development path? How could I even have found the space or the energy? In another sense, I’m kind of fascinated by myself as a kind of anthropological artifact: how exhibit Mother navigates identity in a personal space and family space and tries to smush them together. (does the word identity even mean anything anymore?)

I’d like to think more about the way I construct my life to blend some of the boundaries that I have mentally constructed. I’d also like to accomplish my summer to-do list: studying for 2 language exams, an edition, a conference paper, another draft of an article, and one online class. I will try not to be distracted by my other dream career of sustainable agriculture. (Though, I must say, farming and academia have a lot in common.)

Is feminism still alive?

Maybe this seems like an odd question in light of my post a few days ago.

Recently I was sitting in a seminar, and the topic of feminism came up. Students (women, I might add) said that it was kind of an old topic, and really, we’ve moved on, and nobody wants to be belabored anymore by whether or not to use “he” or “she” as a general personal pronoun. The general consensus among the students was that we’ve moved on and talk about it any more seemed forced.

I didn’t let the comment slide. I did call into question such blanket dismissal. First, it seemed to come from a place of privilege. Here we were a room full of graduate seminar, with the percentage of students greatly favoring women. Women are in the academy, at long last (really?). Second, the women making these comments were young and in the privileged position of selfishness–that is, they only have themselves to worry about. (I do love my colleagues, don’t get me wrong.)

I found it interesting, then, that one colleague sent out this article to our class, “Locked in the Ivory Tower: Why JSTOR Imprisons Academic Research.”

I actually happen to kind of “know” the author of the article; I’ve been following her blog for eight or nine years. Academic research is only for people with connection to academic libraries. Databases like JSTOR have subscription fees so high that only academic libraries can afford them.

One of the academic people groups who understands this reality acutely are mothers. Mothers with PhDs (or with grad experience) who are home with kids and without access. They can’t advance their careers, because they can’t do research. They fade out of research, out of academic careers, some willingly, some wistfully, some both. As if the balance isn’t difficult enough, barriers to access exacerbate a system already difficult to maneuver.

Maybe feminism is irrelevant to a woman who can live like a man, but when the woman has start to dividing her time and make normal and good life decisions, then greater issues come into play. Maybe the advocacy position needs to be tweaked, which, to me, is kind of old news, but apparently, it’s still a relevant question if a room full of my dear colleagues thinks it’s irrelevant.

on vulnerability

A couple of weeks ago I uploaded a paper to dropbox. This paper is part of a seminar session at an upcoming national conference. We will all read each other’s papers, prepare responses, and, at the conference, spend the time discussing more than presenting. I’m excited about this kind of conference format. I think I will be able to learn more in this kind of a environment. Since I’m at an early stage in my research, I think it will be greatly beneficial.

What I didn’t expect is the sick feeling that’s been sitting in my core ever since. Vulnerability. I’m in a new field, offering somewhat new perspectives. I don’t know how the paper will be received. Perhaps I shouldn’t worry about that too much. It’s just that, for the first time, I’m personally connected to my research material. I wouldn’t be in disability studies or deaf music at all if my son hadn’t been born deaf. I spend a good chunk of my research time crying. Not because I’m sad, because I’m overwhelmed by so much. I’m overcome. My work feels raw. I believe in my topic like I’ve never believed in a topic before.

It’s been two weeks now since I sent it off. I’m starting to feel better. The bundle of nerves is starting to soothe. It is such a strange sensation to me, to feel so personally connected to my work.

“I have measured my life in coffee spoons”

Time for you and time for me, And time yet for a hundred indecisions, And for a hundred visions and revisions, Before the taking of a toast and tea.

~T. S. Eliot

I have been a blogger for nine and a half years. In blogger years, I’m pretty sure that’s nearly a hundred.

But the last few years have been so slow. Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and all the other candy of social networking, the reasons for me to blog slowed. I only blogged to share my kids’ art projects and the fun places we went to. Now all I have to do is check-in from my smart-phone.

When I started blogging, it fulfilled a need for me as a newly-married 20-something living in a new city with few friends starting off a new life. I needed someone to talk to, a way to connect with my old friends and to have the familiar conversations with them. I started grad school. I welcomed my first child. I learned to sew. Then my second child. I learned to knit. We all joined Facebook. More kids and less sleep makes Facebook an attractive option. And I didn’t have the same need anymore to talk to someone.

Now I do. I’m back in grad school. I started my PhD program in musicology last fall (2011). I moved my husband, my 6yo, my 3yo, and my sister to make it happen. I’m exhausted. I’m in love. Thrilled, tired, and terrified, all at once. Falling back in love with the black dots on the white page after a six year hiatus. A hiatus in which I not only did nothing academic, I barely even listened to music. I, who breathed music, set it aside. In many ways this year is the year of reacquaintance. Remembering all those things I’ve forgotten in the sleep deprivation and physical toll of babies, combined with life’s difficulties which need not be elaborated here, but they were difficult, and I needed to survive them. I’m back now. And I need someone to talk to.

Just a note: I could use this fresh start to blog anonymously, but that’s not really me. I won’t flaunt my identity, but I won’t hide it either.