I’ve started to receive worried emails so I guess I better post. I’m doing well, still lying on my side with only the occasional strangling contraction. One way the doctors and nurse gauge contractions is to ask, “what’s your pain level on a scale of 1 to 10. Can you talk through it?” Well, my question now is, “If it doesn’t hurt but I can’t talk through it because the nausea is so overwhelming and I’m being strangled, is that significant?” And of course, some will say yes and some will say no. But in any case, the infrequency of that feeling is the significant part. And it’s not frequent at all now. Something mild 1-2 times an hour, strangling 1-2 times a day, strangling plus nausea every few days. No pattern. Just practice I guess.
I’m not bored. That’s a good thing. I don’t care that I’m not doing any work. That’s another good thing. I could write about how bed rest is giving me the chance to read books and watch movies I’ve been meaning to for years. But that’s not true. I could say it’s my first real chance to relax in a long time. Or that it’s given me the chance to step back and reflect. But those things would also not be true. I’m constantly reflecting anyway.
Thing is, I don’t mind just lying here looking at the ceiling, or staring at my cat. For now. I can contemplate the staples in my ceiling multiple times a day without concern. I’m certainly not one to decorate with staples, so I wonder what tenant did so and how long ago. If I hadn’t been pregnant or grieving the entire 14 months we’ve lived here, those staples would have been gone long ago. But instead I’ve left them there to either annoy or be ignored by the next residents.
I am bored, however, by academia. I’m not making any big decisions now. And the dissertation will get done. It would be ridiculous to quit having completed 5 years of work and 1/3 of the writing. It’s the path afterwards that concerns me. I have been incomparably annoyed by the process of writing my dissertation. Granted too much of it has been done under stress – a difficult pregnancy, the death of my son, and then another difficult pregnancy. The chapter you all heard about for months? The one I turned in about 5 months late (which in retrospect doesn’t seem like an unreasonable delay….)? It was a difficult thing to write intellectually and emotionally. The chapter I wrote before, and turned in the first draft of almost a year ago? And the second draft over the summer? It was less difficult, on both counts. Both of the chapters were good. The feedback I got was largely annoying, aggravating, and petty. Not all of it, but enough of it. As I wondered if certain members of the readership had actually read and tried to digest what I’d written or simply skimmed and decided to pontificate on irrelevant points at random, I also wondered why the hell I labored over the syntax of every sentence when apparently no one is paying attention.
I’m not in crisis over whether academic history matters, over whether it matters that we’re a tiny crowd speaking only to each other. That’s true of so many other fields, and what we write will have impact. But I’m not having fun with it anymore. I’m not finding the intellectual community that I want. I’m not interested enough in the books I read, the journals I peruse. I don’t feel like they’re talking to and building off one another so much as using and competing with one another.
I want to talk to people who want to learn too. I miss being around students – at least, students without enormous egos. Sittting at home, with so much time to consider the books and articles historians admire, I’m sad that I don’t get more out of them.
For years I’ve been annoyed by the condescending voice people use when they ask, “What can you do with that? Teach?” But more and more, I think that is just what I want to do. Not to prioritize research. Not even to balance teaching with research. But mostly to just teach. Maybe in a classroom, or maybe I really do want to pursue a goal I let fade a long time ago: to work in educational media. I don’t know. But I know I don’t find life alone in front of a blank word document so appealing anymore.
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