Hola from SFO — thank Everything for free airport WiFi — where I have about two hours before my flight departs. In a truly random move, my parents decided just a few weeks ago that they needed a long vacation and told me that I was to accompany them. (No, seriously, I mentioned casually that I wanted to take a solo trip to Southeast Asia and my mom said no, if you’re going to go anywhere at all then you’re going to go with us.) Since I have an unholy pile-up of work in the office and also there is supposedly an historic rainstorm set to pummel Northern California this coming week, I am more or less grateful that I took them up on their offer! Starting off the new year right by escaping the blustery Bay for balmy Panama…
I’ve noticed that I haven’t written much here last October, and also that while this blog purports to be about graduate school, in reality I haven’t talked about that in quite some time. I also let New Year’s Eve and Day pass without stopping to take stock of 2016 or making plans for 2017 (which happens more and more as I get older… eh, time is a social construct anyway).
Thus, I present to you a real-life update! Let’s see. My father has been happily planning vacations for this summer that just so happen to mirror exactly where I will be going to present at various conferences. Not to count chickens before they hatch, but I think it bears relating that my research was accepted to two linguistics conferences taking place this summer in two different countries in Europe! As a graduate student, I have some experience with conferences, including organizing the Berkeley Linguistics Society, but this is the first time I will get to share my own project, something that I’ve been working on independently for two years. It almost feels as if I’m finally coming into my own as an academic. (I even have my own website, yay!)
It’s about time I started putting my work out there. I spent two years of graduate school slogging through coursework and doing small projects that never amounted to anything, but now some of that toil can finally bear some fruit. On one recent morning, I looked up every conference I might possibly want to attend in the coming year, noting the deadlines for abstract submission and meeting dates, and somewhat giddily concluded that if I had the good fortune to be accepted to all of them, I could travel to four countries and five states and spent most of May and June flying all over the world.
Well, the rain currently falling outside could surely dampen that parade: there’s no way I would be so lucky, and there’s not enough money for me to travel that much, and besides, who wants to give the same presentation nine times anyway? As soon as I get good critical feedback from my current project, I’ll have to expand it or find a new topic to explore.
But this year, I can’t just focus on running the conference circuit, even though it’s an important milestone, because there is a far bigger one just ahead: this upcoming semester I am set to take my qualifying exams. And if I pass my quals, then I get to begin my dissertation prospectus. That basically means that by the end of the year, I’ll need to know what my dissertation will be about and have a chapter of it completed.
That sounds so far-fetched to me right now! But doesn’t it for everybody? We never think we’re truly capable of grand accomplishments like… graduating from college, celebrating a one-year anniversary, hitting that hundredth consecutive day of exercise. Somewhere in the middle of the journey we might forget how impossible it seemed, because the doing itself takes up so much mental space. And then, suddenly, voilà: the finish line! Well. I won’t celebrate too soon. God-willing, by this time next year I will be chugging along smoothly with my dissertation and continuing to present my work at conferences, building up the network and learning more about linguistics all the while.
Claris remarked to me, when I gave her the coffee-date version of this update, that I seemed much happier and more at ease with my situation now than the last time we’d talked, which must have been about six months ago. I had no recollection of how angsty she claimed I sounded as I vented about my insuperable Impostor Syndrome and all-around lack of confidence. It just goes to show, right? Fast-forward to today and I’m blithely enjoying how everything has unfolded.
But maybe it’s just because I’ve already been on vacation for three weeks.
Haha, maybe it’s just because #HellaStorm ’17 hasn’t hit yet.
If that’s the case, I should just stay prepared, keep doing what I’m doing and not slack off. My encouragement to other graduate students who are feeling time just drag on and on without much to show for their labor is to keep pressing on. Keep your work environment healthy, with good advising and peer collaboration to keep your ideas fresh and productivity high. Then, practice patience. You may find yourself out of your rut before you’ve even realized it! This probably could be applied to disenchanted folks in other wearisome circumstances, but I don’t want to generalize too much; change is, in fact, always an option! I mean, that’s what I’m doing right now: taking time to get out of the country so that I can come back recharged and ready to go.
I think I’ll leave it there for now, even though there’s so much more on my mind that goes way beyond my career and the vagaries of life as an academic-in-training. I am, for example, gearing up for life as a minority citizen of a nation ruled by a wannabe despot, and I expect much more of my mental and maybe even physical energies to be diverted toward fighting racism, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia, White nationalism, police brutality, extreme polarization, and religious zealotry in my community and in the country. How I might go about doing that, I’m not totally sure, but you can expect me to write about it as I figure things out.
So now it’s off to Central America, to a country and region of the world I’ve never set foot upon, to see a big canal and play in the rainforest and practice Spanish! Hasta la vista, mis amors.
Word of the Day: foursquare, from the English “four” + “square” (haha duh), is not just the name of an awesome schoolyard game or an app that I don’t know who uses, but it also literally means “having four right angles” and figuratively means “steady, unswerving” and “forthright, blunt”. My low-key goals for 2017, actually, are to be foursquare (i.e., firm) in my beliefs and foursquare (i.e., frank) in supporting them, especially when that means calling out instances of ignorance and educating those in my circles.
P.S. I would also like to note, with measured amounts of glee, that the American Dialect Society, which meets each year concurrently with the Linguistic Society of America, has just voted “dumpster fire” to be the Word of the Year for 2016. I love America.