Exactly my situation

WHEN I FINISH LIKE 2 PARAGRAPHS FOR MY THESIS AFTER SPENDING 3 HOURS READING DOWNTON ABBEY FAN FICTION

I normally don’t repost tumblr posts here, but this was SO SO ridiculously exactly what I’ve been going through this past month, it had to be shared.

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Late night prowls


men asleep father and son

So, while the rest of the world sleeps away (see above: at our place, too), I’m whittling away the wee hours of the night catching up on academic writing/ thinking/processing/reading.

This is not a healthy time to be up. But it’s. so. dang. productive.

What this means is that I have not found a good path, yet, for my work/home/school balance. I’ve been trying, really trying, to get school work done in the regular day. But after coming home from the office at 5:30-ish, sitting down for dinner, cleaning up, putting our little one to bed, it’s 8:30 pm and I’m pretty tired and my mind doesn’t process well at that time. It takes a good hour or a bit to get into solid processing, mode, too, after cracking open a chapter or article, so it doesn’t work at all if I’m totally bushed.

And thus the reading and writing lags (well, the academic reading and writing. Fanfic? That’s another story.)

So with my first deadline since I completed my first year of graduate studies coming up this week, I’ve been trying something new: sleeping when the little one sleeps, getting up at 11:30-ish (which is actually nice because then I get to see my husband when he comes in from his job at midnight), then working for 4-5 hours, going back to sleep until 7 or 8am then getting ready for a new workday.

After a few days of this, my body is more tired than usual, but it’s a new schedule. I don’t know if I can maintain it for a long time, but it’s been helping me get some good reading done. So while I feel wierd and creepy being up this late, I take comfort in the fact that there are probably tons of grad students who are also late night owls, finding their groove in the wee hours of the dark night.

Collaboration and commiseration with the cohort

Ah, breakfast.

All the better for the company of my fellow students. This time it was at The Loop in Calgary’s Myrtle Loop community and double delight in the fact that it wasn’t too cold venturing out earlier than usual on a Saturday morning.

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One piece of advice we heard a couple of times during our orientation week last fall was to really make the most of the relationships at grad school. It’s easier and harder than it was in undergrad: easier because it’s such a small cohort (less than 15 for this year’s PhDs and MAs together) and harder because everyone is so. dang. busy. Between reading, being a teaching/research assistant, writing papers, journal entries, articles and proposals, it’s hard to make time to meet, let alone coordinate getting together. 

But it’s so worth it. 

Conversation topics on this Saturday morning, other than food and shopping and goings-on in the city, consisted of:

  • hashing it out about the professors – who’s demanding, who was unfair, who has good advice, who doesn’t, who’s helpful, who isn’t (and it was all relative and personal)
  • assignment expectations
  • the stages of our writing (which pretty much we were all agreed on: nowhere yet)
  • the stages of our thinking about writing (lots of progress, different stages, there)
  • WTF about readings and theory

No one was really (yet) at the bitching stage and it was the best Saturday morning social gathering I’d been to in a while. 

I really don’t want to sound cliche, but it was really really good to know that none of us were truly alone in this master’s degree process: we were on similar pages with similar, yet different, struggles and cares and there was a true sense of encouragement and support amongst the group. 

If anyone ever asks me for advice about going on to graduate studies after a bachelor’s degree, I’m now going to include that same advice: get to know your peers and make relationships with them. 

In the valley with the rest of the grad students

I don’t know why I haven’t written more about being a grad student. I really wish I had documented and recorded some of the experiences of the first semester, because well…. they were some powerful experiences, probably shared by the great majority of first year master’s students. 

Today, this weekend, I am suffering from the ailment suffered the most by all graduate students, if #PhDchat is any indication, whether they are at the master’s, PhD, or post-doc level. Writer’s block. Kill me now.

How hard is it to put together a one-page proposal? 

I’ve had first semester to get somewhat familiar with an area (in my case, visual culture), just a toe dip, but that should be enough to flesh out a one page document, no? 

I am stuck stuck stuck. 

Fortified by strong tea and the advice of a friend who is a doctoral student in my program, I will endeavor to do my darnedest tonight. 

Library_day

This is where I spend 80% of my awake time. Good thing I like this library. They allow you to eat and drink here. Lots of printers. Scanners if you need them, even laptops on loan. And iMacs, beautiful things, if you can get on them. And lots of windows, hence LOTS of light. Did I mention I like it here? @TFDL

Survival tactics

So, December has rolled around, faster than any one of us imagined. Ridiculous us. We should have expected it. 

Three papers, one at 12 pages, the others at 20 pages. At once. Here is where I lament the sad lack of time management skills. If ever there was a time to be developing and practicing those skills, it would have been around month 2 of the program. Month 1 was still pretty tame.

Things that have been helping, a LOT, are:

  1. free and convenient access to a gym where I never have to wait for use of the machines (unlike in Vancouver or Kingston!)
  2. the company of good friends to go out and grab a bite, despite the fact that we have deadlines looming. Food and conversations can help, seriously. 

Here’s to the last month. 

If I’m posting again in the new year, then it will mean I’ve made it and that I’m still interested in new media. Then it will have been worth all the turmoil and panic and (almost) tears. 

Wide open in the field

As I was preparing for a class presentation on reception studies, I came across Professor Henry Jenkins’ web page at M.I.T. I was taken aback by his listing of academic roles at the institution:

ACADEMIC POSITIONS

1998- Director, Comparative Media Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

1997- Full Professor of Literature, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

1994-97 Associate Professor of Literature, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

1993-98 Director, Film and Media Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

1993-95 Acting Director, Gay and Lesbian Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

1992- Member, Steering Committee, Women’s Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

1992-94 Member, Steering Committee, Cultural Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

 

A jack of all trades, though I am sure the second part of the saying wouldn’t apply. Just look at the disciplines in which he is listed. 

I’m noticing more and more that contemporary media/communication studies scholars are usually well-versed in a range of areas, though maybe not as broadly as Prof. Jenkins, and this helps to assuage my anxiety that I’m going to be pigeon-holed for the rest of my academic life in the topic I pick for my masters thesis. I’m finding that this is not the case for academic lifers in communication and culture.  This is a good thing.

A statement of research interests

Tonight, I had to write a self-introduction for one of the first classes of my masters program. The introduction is supposed to include a statement about one’s research interests and pursuits.

After a few fumbling drafts, this is what I came up with:

My research interests are in the areas of the formation of individual and collective identities, encouraged and influenced by i) the visual records created using photographic social media apps on mobile devices and ii) broadband access. I’m also interested in the identity-formation of small cities and hyper-local communities.

Even though it’s a big mouthful, I am satisfied with it for now, but I have a gut feeling that it will change and narrow down as the semester progresses.

Look forward to it!