Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Areas of My "Expertise"

I assume it was as busy a week for y'all as it was for me and that's why you're not posting/commenting/joining. Lame.

This week I have done exactly one hour of revising work on my dissertation. That is not promising. My other tasks have included being an enormous stress-ball Tuesday when S.S. was here (she gave great lecture; who doesn't love mummified hairless cat photos?), teaching three classes--all went relatively well, grading 14 papers (only 3 to go!) and attending Intro to Grad Studies to give them the dubious benefit of my senior-graduate-student wisdom.

There were five of us on the panel, and to some degree the advice we gave about graduate school was very similar and boiled down to this: get to know people and don't dick around. Which: brilliant insight, no? However, there are nuances, and we supplied them in spades. My particular version of this advice leaned hard on its first half, and I'm interested in puzzling out why. Therefore so are you, by default.

To some degree I think it is because I'm a natural at the latter half; I'm dead on schedule to be out of here in six years, which will put me ahead of the Iowa average TTD by over a year and the national average by four years. I've always liked making lists and crossing things off them; graduate school is just a big list of tasks to complete. I also like to do things fast. I spent all of first grade racing Michael Wahlstrom to turn in Mrs. Zahm's worksheets first, and it's stuck.

Getting to know people, though, that's where I fall down a bit. I hate getting to know people. I have six friends, and 99% of the time, that is plenty. The glad-handing, ass-kissing, and general being-niceness of building relationships, especially professional relationships, sucks all the energy out of my being. People make me tired. I don't know why; like the lists thing, it has always been that way.

But relationships feed speed. Having K. stick up for me on the quals committee may not have been strictly necessary, but it definitely let me think about other things that were more useful. I made it through comps because I had graduate school friends who listened to me bitch endlessly about it, and through the prospectus because I had a good enough relationship with my advisors that I could tell them that we were all being insane, and they both recognized when enough was enough and said "Good enough." And now I'm moving forward with the dissertation. Cordial relationships with more advanced graduate students have gotten me a ton of advice, which I love [to ignore, sometimes].

There are things I've done wrong, though. I haven't kept up contact with people I've met at conferences the way I should. I have relatively few non-medieval mentors, and none outside the English department. I have likewise few friends outside the department, which makes my world insular at the best of times. Occasionally I wish I had more people to study with; my friends in IC are all solo studiers, by and large.

So I hope the graduate students take my advice to heart, and that things go as well for them as they have for me, by and large. And I hope that somebody, somewhere, makes them believe that offices are for socializing, e-mail is for procrastinating, and Lacan is for disregarding.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Erin! I soooo agree with each tenet of this post. So, here is what I propose:

    A. Let us attempt to establish some sort of study relationhsip. Assuming that I am one of the friends you have in IC (I better be!) this endeavor will accomplish the dual purpose of much-needed socialization and mutual academic encouragement.

    B. That is all for now. Why? Check my upcoming blog about the Comps Process! My brain is unable to produce anymore ideas at the moment :)