I feel so loved

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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14 responses to “I feel so loved

  1. funny, i just wrote a long rambling post about the academy and how placidly comfortable i am in it now, but how i didn’t used to feel that way. and yet i mean more the environment, the collegial stuffiness. 🙂 my pregnancy with Finn irrevocably buggered up my Ph.D studies, as i was in a Swiss program that became a problem for me once i found out i was pregnant in the first place…but the deferral i arranged (it required summer residencies) got messed up by birth and death and more pregnancy and birth and then having a newborn and being utterly broke. so now i’m just waiting for my university here to actually open a Ph.D program. which they happen to be doing, for next year. in my field. only Ph.D in the province. auspicious, methinks. but for me it’s always been about the teaching…i want to teach teachers, change the system from within.

    glad you’re hanging in there and feeling loved, occasional feelings of strangulation aside.

  2. Funny how pregnancy can change things, like perspectives and priorities. I have to admit mine have certainly changed over the last 12 years.

    Go easy on yourself. Finish the dissertation, but don’t let it drive your agenda. Do what you really want to do.

  3. Funny, as I read this post, I was just thinking about Bon’s last post. Two sides of the same coin? The same side of different coins? Whatever. If you aren’t already talking, it sounds like the two of you might have a lot to say to each other.

  4. Wow. All three comments on this post begin with “Funny.” Don’t know, Niobe, certainly administration is a different experience than being a student. And being a first year grad student is entirely different than being a fifth year. Lots of different roles to play in the academy. It’s such a massive industry. I do love it. I’m just not suited for the role I was being pushed into in it.

  5. Bon, I’m also just not sure when professors get to perform that iconic role that you described on your blog. It seems like all the professors here are even more stressed out than I am right now. And I’m pretty stressed out, what with writing job apps, writing a conference paper, revising articles, writing a dissertation, organizing a workshop, and worrying about baby/pregnancy stuff. Of course, I have to think about one goal at a time, but I just don’t think the “ivory tower” is really all that cushy. Even when I have tenure, and I’m old and have a really good salary, if all that even happens, I’ll still be struggling to get that next article / book out, preparing for a lecture, a conference, writing letters of recommendation for grad students, and of course trying to be a good husband and father.

  6. ah, Josh, i know. the faculty i work with on this grant – and in my previous job, and in grad school – are all stretched six ways from Sunday, on committees, writing papers, grading, dealing with the snarky internal politics that so often shape universities. nor do i think even sitting in my little ivory tower with dusty books and an old computer is particularly cushy, per se. it’s the still the iconic version of a “work life” that appeals to me most. and the one that does allow and even require some time sitting in that little office, working on something that i’ve chosen to pursue.

    wasn’t trying to say it’s not stressful. hell, working is stressful. just that having some of those choices appeals to me…despite the many aspects of academia that i either don’t like (as in my post) or find tedious (as in your comment), all of which i agree is no joyride.

  7. As you know, I made the leap. To a certain degree, I am still mid-leap. I hope to one day be a teaching and educational research faculty. In the meantime, I am at the bottom of the hill whereon the shit rolls. I have hopes for this new job, but am trying to temper them somewhat in recognition of having had high hopes before. Still, it is very very good to hear of others who are eying this road– it is far less lonely when you know for sure good people are walking alongside you.

  8. I guess Bon and Josh are both getting at much of the reason why academia is feeling so unattractive these days. Who has the time to actually engage with scholarship when you’re so pressured by other tasks all the time? Something has to suffer.


    What a lovely image of academic life you give, Julia.

  9. I can see how this time in your life finds you re-evaluating what path you are on. Honestly, what you are doing now, lying on your side staring at staples is the most important job you will ever do.. and damn are you doing a great job! I would put off making any big decisions about your choices until after the baby comes and you settle into a routine. To say that you are a mess of emotions now is an understatement. I really don’t have much to add on the academic discussion, but I am a teacher (just a public school teacher, not at a university), but I love it. I like having people listen to history.. the fun parts, the sad parts, the cruel parts, the beautiful parts. When my students come back to visit me five years or more later and they STILL remember the stories I told them.. I just love it. However I get what you say about the extras (getting published, getting tenured..) because ws have those pressures too, but in the form of standardized testing, uniform curricula.. and it does threaten to strangle the joy of teaching. I think you are just in the point of life when you have so many possibilities yet almost no control. And that sucks. It will get better once baby boy comes. Hang in there.

  10. I’m glad everything is going okay and you’re not going insane on bedrest. Sorry about the contractions! I’ve only been on bedrest three days and I’m already foreseeing boredom and restlessness. We should start that scrabble game- I’ll let you know when I sign up on that website. In the meantime, I won’t be winning any teacher of the year awards next year, but it would be nice if the principal or someone acknowledged that I left great and abundant lesson plans, and I was reluctant to go on bedrest because I worried about my students… whatever. Hopefully in a few days, I’ll have put them (work & students) out of my mind.

  11. I am just so glad to know you are still hanging in there, so to speak…

    I can understand all of the changes of perspective and goals. That happens not only as we get older and gain life experience, but also in the wake of life events that inevitably shake up our priorities.

    I thought many times of pursuing my Ph D and my hope was always to teach. But that is probably a logical leap for me since my Masters is in Education. Like Bon, I would love to be able to “teach the teachers.”

  12. Oh, go look at this onesie: http://www.gabbybaby.com/Shop_adviceo.htm

    I wish I could have a maternity t-shirt made with this quote!

  13. Oh, that’s so awesome. But we already bought our one piece of new clothing for the baby: a onesie with the slogan, “Republicans for Voldemort.”

  14. You know, i was wondering about those staples.

    I have no answer to the academia thing. I think you get kind of burned out on academia doing your PhD…i know i was, i was ready to take an industry job. But the postdoc in Paris came through, and heck, *that* was a no-brainer. Two years later i had discovered the direction i really wanted my research to go in, i was all excited about it, i applied for tenure-track jobs and took this one…and then Nicolas died, and it was no fun anymore. (doing the stupid research, that is). It still isn’t, but at some point you have enough momentum in one direction that it is really hard to change. I will change though, somewhere somehow, but i need the time…right now, no time 😦

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