Relationships: A Primer

I want to start a short series on here, given the overwhelmingly ambivalent feedback from twitter, that details the nature of relationships. Not just romantic relationships, but all of them: family, friends, spouses, children, strangers, even relationships with concepts. This might get a little weird, just roll with it. I don’t know that I’ll say anything especially novel, but Allie Brosh said here, you have to sift through some pebbles before you find gold.

I remember my early life as a series of opposing relationships. My religious schooling contrasted with a secular home life. Mom was always around, Dad was usually at work. I was either the happiest kid on earth, or absolutely miserable. I think most kids are like that to a certain extent, and I’m sure my vulnerability to depression didn’t stabilize anything. As time goes on, all of those have evened out, but my relationships still feel very polar.

As my mom-by-marriage recently said, the only options are hell yes or absolutely not. So, let’s spend a few posts talking about how that’s played out in my life. Even if we don’t learn anything, we can have fun on the journey.



The things I’ve learned about blogging by blogging

1: I hate the way the word “blogging” sounds in my head. It sounds like a medical condition.

2: It’s really easy to maintain the blog-work-life balance when you don’t have a job.

3: If you want views, write about tragedy. My most viewed post is about a miscarriage, and feeling like I don’t belong in academia is second. The two have 3x the views of all my other posts combined.

4: I have no focus whatsoever. I’ll occasionally try to get some kind of streak or theme going, and that it fails as soon as I notice the trend. I’m not that kind of blogger, and that’s…okay. I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me.

5: People constantly give unsolicited advice about how to write a “successful” blog. How is that even quantified? If it’s monetized? A certain number of hits per day? Consistency? Being search-engine optimized? It feels successful to me.

6: The more time you spend writing, the less you need to share. I think I’ve saved as many as I’ve published because I can’t figure out where they’re headed. I’ll eventually find the context.

7: Lists are great. They’re convenient, readable, and can be picked up pretty easily.

8: It’s a fun hobby. When you spend most of your writing time preparing for academic publication, it’s nice to have a place to write for yourself and your friends.

9: I never have the motivation to write on vacation, but look what I’m doing here, right now.

See y’all next week.

Relatively, More or Less

More and less are not distinct states, they define each other. When moving in either direction along the continuum, people feel the shift until the adjust to the new amount of whatever. This morning, I happened to notice the contrast.

Seven weeks ago, we arrived in Missouri, and there was a lot of uncertainty in front of me. I had a thesis to finish, a job to find, and a few weeks of reliance on the kindness of family. I felt like I was losing two things that I–and most Americans, I think–prize quite highly. There was less security in this new life, and little autonomy. I was depressed. As the weeks pass, though, I’m growing more comfortable with the situation.

Emily and I are still a long way from rock bottom. We’re in someone else’s house, but it’s better than I imagine homelessness would be. More importantly, it’s with family. Not the family I grew up with, but family is family. Even if the folklore is different, they love us just as much. I’ve turned in another draft of my thesis, and there’s a decent chance I’ve made the last set of major revisions. I’m almost done with that degree. I heard back from a job I applied to this morning. They didn’t say I got the job, or even an interview. They just said “We received your application for employment and we saw that you’re in Missouri.  Will you be moving to Chicago?”

Scarcity is a funny thing. I read the message, and I was excited. Sure, it could have been a lot more positive. But it was something. After weeks of nothing, something is a lot. Something is more. Maybe I’ll be in Chicago by the end of the summer.

Grad School WILL Break You

In an earlier post, “Why Grad School,” I discussed the pros and cons of a master’s program. There’s one con in particular that I want to explain a little more, one that the title of this post should have given away. When you first start grad school, you’ll probably feel good about yourself. There could be some anxiety involved, sure, and maybe you’ll be a little overwhelmed at first. Don’t worry about it, that’ll go away pretty quickly. After a few weeks, you’ll realize you’ve got this on lockdown. Teaching probably comes naturally, research should be second nature, and you’ve been writing so long you don’t even think about it anymore. That’s not a problem.

Once you get a handle on everything, you have to start teaching a new class. It’s probably similar to the old one, but you’ll be more or less on your own. Take your first year to learn from experienced lecturers. It’s also time to start on your thesis! You know how to write one of those, right? No, of course you don’t. I sure as heck didn’t, and it seems like that’s pretty much normal. But you’ll have a committee there to help you out. Eventually, you’ll manage to turn out a paper that’s somewhere between sixty and one hundred pages. Then you’ll submit it to that very same committee, and they’ll tear it to shreds. Don’t take it personally, it’s not like YOU suck, it’s just that your writing probably does. But you can keep revising and submitting until you finally have something you’re really proud to call your own.

Since I came here to USU, it’s become clear that I’m not cut out to be at a University. I know the basics of writing, I can research reasonably effectively, I can teach any curriculum set in front of me whether it’s from someone else or something that I’ve made myself. I kick ass in the writing center, with average scores around 4.5 out of five, and my student reviews are usually above average for our department. Now I’m finding out that I probably can’t write a thesis of a high enough quality to get my degree. In the classes I’m taking, I lost my 4.0 at the end of my second semester. I’m consistently frustrated with class discussions, which seem to revolve around debating and defining terms to the point that they’re no longer usable, and forcing classification on ideas to the point that they’re no longer effective models of reality.

Because I don’t belong in the world of scholarship, I can’t keep writing a blog for fellow scholars. I’ll try to resurrect this again in the coming months with a new focus, possibly something about life skills, or how to deal effectively with grief. Sorry guys, but I hope my experiences do some real good for any of you read this.