Friday, March 13, 2009

academic persuits

I have had an intense couple of thinking days this week.

After convincing myself for the past year that a PhD. is simply not for me and trying an alternative future path, I'm suddenly back to where I was before I got to be so bitter about academia. I've realized what an incredibly horrible attitude I have had, how I've fallen into a habit of super negative self criticism and how this bitterness and negativity has held me back from what I've always known I wanted to do. I don't know what happened that made me so bitter towards school and my abilities, but since this is my last semester taking classes I know that my attitude has changed a lot and I'm seeing now how much I love school, how talented I might actually be and how much I have really learned in the last two years. I can't believe how far I've come in two years. How much my character has grown, how much my skills as a writer, researcher and teacher have been honed. I notice that I no longer shake uncontrollably when I am put on the spot, that I can write a paper with an actual plan from the beginning, crafting the words to make a very particular point (rather than throwing something out there and realizing at the end what my point actually is).

So I see how good this has been for me. I see how I might actually be able to succeed in a PhD program, but I worry about overcoming the negative habits I have fallen into. Can I really have confidence enough in myself to do a PhD program. I used to ask myself all the time "Would it even be worth it?" and for some reason the answer came to be no. But now looking at it, how can it be no? Not only have a grown a lot in the last two years, but I'm also seeing now just how much I have left to learn. A PhD would be difficult but would ultimately be worth it, even if I don't find an immediate, tenured job in academia. Should I give up the talent I possess, the talent I have been honing over the last 7 years? I do one thing well and that is writing academic papers. I am insightful and know how to make connections and am incredibly detail oriented. It's what I do well, why should I not continue to do it?

I should. I need to be more positive and I need to be much more assertive. I attended a panel yesterday with all the women in my department (there are only five) and I learned a lot about what I will have to do in the next little while in order to find myself a good PhD program. Well, most of it wasn't actually new to me, but I feel a new resolve to just do those things and push forward.

I need to research the professors in programs I am interested in, read their works and email them. I am so open right now with an area; I can see throwing myself into any number of topic, time periods, theories.

I need to learn French. This has actually been bothering me for some time now, and I should have been working on it these last two years, but I can still start soon. I'm going to sit in on some French classes this spring and summer while I'm here. I should also look into learning German. If I get into a program, really any program in the humanities, I'll have to take proficiency exams so I can't be lazy about this anymore. I know how to learn a language.

I need to catch up on reading, especially theory. I need to read Nietzsche (for some reason that seems pressing to me). I need to read feminist writings. I need to read journals in my field and see what's coming out right now. I need to read journals from other areas (like art history, comparative literature) to get ideas of what kind of area I want to start focusing on.

I need to try to go to another conference this year and get involved with the ones going on here. There's a Mormons in Academia conference coming up and I think it would be really great if I got involved somehow.

The main point is that I can't sit around on my butt being all bitter and negative anymore. It's ridiculous and it's only holding me back. I love to teach, I love to research, I love to analyze, I love to write and I am good at those things. I can't throw that away.

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