Monday, November 21, 2016

I CAN

"I can't even..." and, "I can"

I can't even about this election.  I'm tired about arguments about various related issues at home and on social media.  I'm tired of people who we thought were lifelong friends spewing rudeness and judgment.

I can't even about the fact that racism, sexism, and xenophobia still exist in this country and many people just want to swipe it under the rug.

I can't even when me, as the professor, cares more about a student's grade than they do themselves.  I can't even with all the excuses.

I can't even with trying to balance things sometimes.  As I've said over and over again in this blog, it feels like a tsunami with wave after wave coming in with no end in sight.

I can't even with my dissertation.  As a friend wisely said to me recently on Facebook, it's like I know what I want to say, but it's difficult to get it on paper.  It's like I can see the big picture, but no light at the end of the tunnel, and it can be stifling at times.

I can't even with my own feeling of regret and sometimes jealousy.  If I had only done something differently over the summer, if I had only thought more carefully about my schedule, if I were only more motivated, and the list goes on.  I'm happy for comrades who have recently finished, but I feel a pang that it could have been me, if only.

Now, to try and reverse things a bit.

I CAN.

I CAN take a stand for the right thing, even in small ways.

I CAN play a more active role in advocating for policies.

I CAN make this work.  I WILL make this work, even if it makes me uncomfortable.  I HAVE TO be more deliberate about my schedule.  I WILL block out distractions.

I CAN move forward even a little bit every day.  I won't get everything done in a day, a week, or even a month.  BUT, I CAN make progress, and I WILL.

I CAN finish this blasted thing.  I HAVE the ability to do it, even if I often feel otherwise and imposter syndrome creeps in constantly. 

I CAN overcome often crippling anxiety. 


I CAN do it.  I WILL.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Just trying to get everything done

I've seen more than a few posts on Facebook lately that people are just trying to keep their heads above water at this time in the semester.  Mountains of grading, course prep, etc. etc. just keep piling up. Not to mention, we all have lives outside of our jobs, and some of us are still wearing that grad student hat.  I've had a lot of internal conflict lately, and many a times I wanted to just sit down and write a post for this blog as a form of self-care.  I've had some medical issues which have impacted my mindset in the past month or so as well.  Not to mention, I need to check-in with my advisor this week, and frankly, I'm just going to be very honest that my original goals for this month were completely unrealistic.  However, all of that doesn't make me feel any better.

Today I'm supposed to be just focusing on writing for my dissertation, but as I write, I'm thinking about all of the analysis I should have done, not to mention the grading that sits there metaphorically on my to-do list yet is creeping around the corner, waiting to be done.  I also spent some unproductive time this morning envying stay at home moms, although I've done that role before and it ain't easy.  I just have a ball of anxiety in my stomach which seems to grow as the day goes on.

I have no advice to offer in this post, other than I'm just trying to keep my head above water and sometimes that's all we can do.  We can try to do our best at everything, but sometimes we have to be satisfied with just getting what we can done.  I'm at the point where I'm reassessing my writing goals, and just getting something done today (even if it's not finishing a chapter) might help to level out my anxiety even a little bit.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Wearing two hats = times of awkwardness and discomfort

Think of the literal feeling of wearing two hats.  It's weird and uncomfortable, right?  Now in the metaphorical sense, I'm just referring to teaching full time on the tenure track and trying to finish a dissertation.  Parenthood?  Of course that's a hat.  So I guess you could say I wear three, but anyways...

I'm feeling somewhat abandoned by my grad program, and my place of employment is now my new home.  Everyone there is incredibly supportive of the hats I wear.  However, just the nature of the work and the teaching load makes it difficult to wear these hats in the most even and balanced way possible. I try to take one full day per week to work on my dissertation, but it's sometimes difficult to guard that time.  Of course, I want to spend even more time during the other days, but the last few weeks have been crazy to say the least.

I sometimes feel like I'm "cheating on"  my dissertation-- I don't give it enough time; I miss it.  I see my goal starting to slip away, but really, is it slipping away, or is that just my perception?


I don't know who reads this blog, but I'm curious- if you're out there, do you wear different hats?  Are you working full time in an academic or non-academic job while dissertating? Or, have you done this in the past? I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Measuring progress

In the 10 days, much has transpired.  The kids had their last days of school.  I submitted 30 pages to my adviser of what I'm now thinking will end up being 2 separate chapters (with obviously will require much editing and additions to each).  I took my kids out for 2 days.  Family came to visit for the weekend.  Kids started day camp.  In the last three days, I transcribed 3 interviews totaling about 200 minutes of audio and probably 8-9 hours of transcription time.  I've looked up a few peer-reviewed articles and I've sketched out some ideas related to my overall argument, and some topics/themes that I want to really flesh out somewhere in the dissertation.  I did some laundry and dishes.  I finally put those old clothes in my closet in a bag.  I wrote a recommendation letter for a student.  I bought some clothes for one of my kids.  Yet amongst all this, I'm feeling like somewhat of a failure.  I saw this post on Facebook about all the stuff we tell ourselves in academia.  Much of it is related to imposter syndrome, the competitive nature of academia, jealousy, and how all of that intersects.  Many times, it manifests in anxiety and/or depression, like I've said before.  For me, I feel like my anxiety level is going through the roof lately.  I guess I'm not alone.  Do a search on Twitter or Facebook with the words, depression anxiety, and tons of stuff comes up.  It doesn't help that we have a big trip coming up, that, well, I really wasn't too crazy about in the first place, and I have so much to get done before then.  However, what am I really measuring my progress up against?  Is  it some false notion that I MUST write something coherent every day, that even a fully transcribed interview that took me 3 hours of work time isn't a tangible enough measure of my success? Is it an unrealistic expectation that I've imposed upon myself, that I'll have all interviews coded and I'll have all my media articles reviewed within the next 3 weeks?  Really, anxiety can do strange things to one's ability to measure these things.

And, of course, some mom guilt mixes in. I'm paying for the kids to attend day camp, and I feel like I should have gotten so much more done. It's funny, because it almost feels like the last day of school was weeks ago, and they've been going to camp for weeks even though they just started on Monday.  Also, it doesn't help that some of the kids' stuff is on the other side of my desk.  I glance over, and I see this little happy-meal style box that one child brought home from their field day a couple weeks ago.  I look at the cartoonish scene on it, and I feel sad.  Sometimes I think to myself, "wouldn't it be better if they were spending the time with me?"  Then, I realize that I have gotten a good deal of work done this week, both academic and household-wise, that I wouldn't have been able to do if they weren't at camp.  Also, I think of how they've excitedly told me about the things they did each day, and how bored they might have been if they just had to sit in the house while I tried to get something done each day. But, sometimes I still feel bad, that even in the evenings when they come home, I'm not in the best of moods, although I try to switch gears.

Another thought goes back to something I mentioned earlier-- how are we measuring our progress?  I've read many articles and advice blogs about this.    If we're writing, many times, we think the first draft has to be perfect, which becomes a roadblock to progress.  Also, we can tend to think that anything we do BESIDES writing really isn't that important and isn't REAL progress. Again, that is wrong.  Yesterday, I spent about 2 hours thinking about an argument that I want to make in another chapter.  Reviewing literature and transcribing an interview helped me to think about how I want to frame that argument.  Towards the end of the day, I typed out a paragraph that I think will help me not only to structure a chapter, but also the overall argument of my dissertation. 

Bottom line, I know that I put unrealistic expectations on myself.  I think self-reflection is important.  Yes, we need to set interim deadlines.  Yes, we need to tune out distractions.  However, we are also human beings.  We have lives and various responsibilities, especially those of us who are considered "non-traditional" students.  And, we can't ignore self-care if we're also trying to manage anxiety or other issues amongst all of these seemingly often competing priorities.


And now...I set out to try to make some progress today! :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Depression, dissertation, and the realities of life

I'm not stranger to depression and anxiety.  I've dealt with both or one of these at different points in my life.  It's sad that when one googles, "depression" and "dissertation", so many articles come up.  Some people have difficulty working on their dissertation because of depression; sometimes, the realities of the dissertation itself can catapult someone into depression if they are not already experiencing it.

Lately, I find myself saying "I feel depressed."  The reality is that I am not really depressed in the full, clinical sense of the word.  I would definitely know if that was the case.  No doubt, many things in life lately are depressing.  Maybe the more accurate way to describe my emotional state lately is "melancholic."  I don't know.

On a macro scale, of course, many horrible things are going on in the world.  This week alone has seen new horrors that are a little bit closer to home.  However, through my own research, I'm often faced with stories of violence that don't necessarily reach mainstream media outlets.  I'm constantly aware of the terror that still goes on in parts of the world such as the Middle East, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, even when it seems like the world has forgotten.

On a personal front, it has been a very difficult week.  I don't like to get too personal or revealing on this blog, but a close family member is terminally ill; two close family members (including this person) were in a car accident and we had to cancel a very important family gathering that might have been the last time we could see the ill family member.  Today is also my grandfather's death anniversary.  This might seem silly in light of what I just said, but I'm also feeling emotional because it's my kids' last full week of school.  I have that, "where has the time gone" kind of feeling.  My son's school is also having a fun event today, and I haven't been able to volunteer for any of these events because of all my competing commitments.  I wish that I could have been more involved in these school events, but I also recognize that I had an insane schedule this semester.  So needless to say, I'm trying to pull myself out of a funk to focus on my work, but I'm already not being too successful this week (yesterday, I barely got in 1 hour of transcribing when I really should have been writing).

Also, yet again, I'm not only feeling imposter syndrome, but I'm feeling a sense of regret about a number of things regarding my academic work.  If I only had spent  more time on my dissertation research instead of another project; if I only had channeled my energy into a potential publication, then I too could have won an award or some kind of fellowship and I could have been done by now; if this, if that.  Of course, it's self-destructive to dwell on the past.  Yes, maybe I could have done those things, but I have to ask myself--- if I had, how much more time might I have missed of  my children's young lives?  Would that fellowship have been better for me than gaining more teaching experience?  Would it have been more fulfilling to receive an award than to receive heartfelt expressions of thanks from graduating seniors who told me that I helped them to press on towards graduation and not give up?  It's definitely a mixed bag.

As I self-reflect, I wonder if some of the academic-related disappointments I feel are mostly related to looking at what others have done (who of course have different life situations than me), rather than just "keeping my eyes on the prize [a.k.a. a finished dissertation]" so to speak.  Also, regarding the other feelings of sadness, yes, it is all normal.  We aren't robots who can just keep ignoring all that is going on in our families and personal lives to the detriment of our overall well-being.  So, I can't keep making excuses for myself, but like a friend recently told me, sometimes we need to take some time for ourselves to de-stress.  Yes, maybe I have done that here and there in the last few weeks.  Yes, I need to still be disciplined and be on track with my work.  But, sometimes we have to figure out that it isn't necessarily just the work that is making us frustrated, anxious, or sad.  We need to address our emotions and spend the time doing things that will help us to do this-- writing and sending a card; calling a family member we haven't spoken to in a while; talking about it.  I know that I need to do some of these things this week myself.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A 30 day challenge?

Well, here I am, 8 days after my last post.  How much have I really accomplished in the last week?  Well, I have about 5 pages of different sections of a chapter draft; I've been coding interviews and going through articles for a content analysis.  That might sound good, but honestly, I could have had more to show.  I keep googling articles about how to balance a full time job (although currently, there is a lull in my job as I mentioned in the last post), parenting, and getting a dissertation finished.  I've read some encouraging advice, such as write for 2 hours per day or set a goal of 2 pages per day.  I've met up with two comrades in the journey in the past week, which although it took time away from writing and researching, was invaluable for my morale.  I'm just tired of feeling isolated and that this task is impossible.

Recently, a friend invited me to a group on Facebook about walking for 45 minutes per day for 30 days (or maybe it was 15 days?).  I really wanted to join in, but I kept making excuses.  I think that I really need to commit to daily exercise to keep my energy up and my mind moving.  However, in lieu of this, I was thinking of setting my own 30 day challenge.  Of course I'm hesitant, because I don't want to fail.  I thought of informally starting last week, and I kind of did, but then I said "forget it" to myself.  For a few evenings, I binged watched a show on Amazon Prime and  just kept saying that I was too tired (even if I am, still...).   I was thinking, that since I'll need to be even more purposeful and creative in carving out times for diss work in the fall, I should say that I'll work for at least one 30 minute slot on my dissertation in the evenings (after the kids go to bed).  In addition to this, I need to find 2 hours during the day to get work done. I know that this might have to be adjusted once classes start since I'm not 100% sure of my schedule.  However, I can surely do that and more during most weeks this summer.  I was also thinking of this:  30 minutes of coding/reviewing transcripts/notes PLUS 30 minutes of writing every evening.  Of course, getting into the habit is half the battle, as is with sticking to an exercise plan.  In lieu of this, I recall some great advice I received from Cloud Nine, author of the "I hate my PhD" blog.  Work on your dissertation for 3 hours per day.  You don't always have to feel like you have to work on it for 7 hours straight.  Sometimes it's better to set a more realistic goal at first.

Now I'm just thinking, when should I start this challenge?  Should I include weekends (which has its own challenges with a husband and 2 kids), or just stick to the 5-day work week?  I'm also aware that a holiday weekend is coming up. Maybe I can try this out for 15 days....

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

You have to write...something!

Again it's been half a year since I've posted here.  I don't know how many people have actually read this blog out there in the Internet universe, but wow, a lot has happened in this past six months.  Unfortunately, not as much has happened in the way of progress on my dissertation.  I guess teaching full time this past semester has much to do with that.  Yes, there is much to be said for a little bit more financial security, but I'd be lying if I said that I am satisfied with the way the dissertation has been hanging over my head.  I've watched other dissertating colleagues finally cross their finish lines, and I'm exceedingly happy for them, knowing all that they had to go through to finish.  I've watched some of my undergraduate students cross their finish lines, and many of them have encouraged me to keep pressing on towards my own.  At this point, I feel burnt out and somewhat unmotivated, but yes, I want to finish.  I also feel a responsibility to my research participants to finish.  But, getting momentum in the last week since the semester has really finished (not to mention, I'm still working with a couple of students on things) has been tough.

Also in the past month, I've been encouraged by my adviser to just start writing.  Even though you might not even be CLOSE to (even 1/4 of the way) finished with coding and analysis, said my adviser, just start writing.  When I've reflected on this (quite often in the last week-- maybe I've done too much reflecting and not enough writing, haha), I'm reminded of a phrase that another dissertating comrade used to describe part of her writing process-- word vomit.  Of course, this sticks out in my mind because it conjures up some rather unpleasant images, but paradoxically, the thought of just spilling out a bunch of ideas on a page-- no matter how unconnected they seem-- makes me feel better about the process.  I don't have to write my dissertation in a linear manner, nor does my first, second, or even third fourth fifth.... draft have to be pristine.  Nevertheless, I feel like my mind is going in circles.  I have a couple of weeks to try to get something coherent together before my next check-in with my adviser.  I think I can do it, but I feel like I'm drowning in all the data that has yet to be coded (which is really most of it), and I keep changing my mind about which chapter I want to draft first.  I have a handful of documents saved with sundry paragraphs that could potential be associated with different chapters or sections of the same chapter.  I keep reading that this is better than writing nothing, but honestly, some days I want to throw in the towel when it is 3:30 p.m. and I've made zero substantial progress.

Maybe I'm being hard on myself.  After all, I spent a large majority of the last semester working 6 day weeks, albeit that was largely on grading gazillions of papers and teaching.  Last week was my first real week away from that, although I still have some stuff to do in the next few weeks related to that sphere.  I got distracted by the fact that my house is a disaster; kids didn't have enough clothes for the summer weather; I don't have enough clothes (and still don't, since I spent my time and money getting the kids stuff); figuring out summer plans for the kids; visiting with family and friends over the holiday weekend; going back and forth with students about various unresolved issues; etc, etc.  Yes, maybe that's true, but I can't keep making excuses.  I just need to keep coding, but sometimes, even though I find the transcriptions interesting and I am excited by the themes and theoretical implications arising out of the data, I get easily distracted.  Then, in the process of one of these numerous times of distractions (if that even makes grammatical sense), I come across articles stating that blogging is a good way to exercise those writing muscles.  So here I am, just writing, something.