A Career Shift, A New Project

I recently read an article on taking time to mourn during career transitions. When your identity is so deeply tied to work and to the relationships that have been fostered at your workplace, leaving can be hard.

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That wasn’t the case for me. Though, I’m in a bit of a different situation. I am a recent PhD leaving my grad school department for a postdoc at another institution located in the same city. And to boot, I am still a Visiting Scholar in the department where I received the PhD. So, I’m not quite leaving, which puts me in the interesting position of existing between two institutions of higher ed.

My official title is Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Fisk University. This is a welcome and exciting change. I am thrilled to learn from new people at a new place and to use my training to enrich the intellectual life of campus. Continue reading “A Career Shift, A New Project”

The Smart Woman’s Writing Desk, Part IV

By Lynn Clement


Even though Virginia Woolf’s famous essay about the importance of creative space for women (both public and private) was published in 1929, it wasn’t until 2013, after the birth of my daughter, that I finally claimed a room of my own.

I lost myself a bit after becoming a mother and I struggled while my body, mind, and purpose felt as if they were no longer fully my own.  Personal space suddenly became more important as I grappled with identity and nagging doubts about career and choices, in general.  So I staked a claim in my home to help me retake my place in the world.  This was also important for legitimizing my work, to others and myself.  My contingent faculty career status had often been maligned, and this often made me question my place and worth.  Both became stronger after I added “mother” to my list of jobs.  “Maybe now you should focus on something more worthwhile?” “Maybe this could be a chance to switch careers?” “Are you even going back to work?” “When?”  “How?” “Why?”

I did go back to work because I love what I do, and I didn’t switch jobs because I’m also good at it.  However, I needed to find equilibrium between my career and my new role as caregiver. To do this I needed space. I found a tiny section of my already cramped home and tried to carve it into something. I ripped up carpet, scrubbed floors on hands and knees, stripped wall paper, patched walls with joint compound, painted newly sanded surfaces and trim, hauled books, dragged furniture, hung curtains, and remade the space as I tried to remake myself.

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It’s not perfect, and it’s a bit chaotic, but it reflects me: who I have been, who I am despite the changes I have undergone, who I may become.  My actual work space, a narrow desk with an obsolete X-Files mouse pad, is surrounded by objects that make me contented: books, art, notes, papers, mementos, trifles.  Tomes on art, popular culture, programming, science, culture, politics, and religion are stacked below art made by my grandmother, my sister, my students, and my daughter.  (The drawing by my daughter depicts me, fighting a dinosaur with a sword.  Totally bad ass.)  Mismatched bookcases and sills hold some of my most prized keepsakes.  An antique typewriter found at a img_20180804_171120236garage sale was given to me by my parents.  They had high hopes that I would write my first book with it.  I won’t, but it is a sign of the support I have from family and friends.  img_20180804_171106780A guitar built by my great-uncle from an old stump that was half rotting in the backyard of my childhood home serves as a reminder to find inspiration in the unlikeliest of places, and to make something beautiful and useful.  My collection of running medals, all earned during road races of varying distances, reminds me to put in the work no matter how tedious.

Not everyone has the luxury of a room of their own and sometimes I still don’t.  I began writing this post on one of those yellow legal pads because my daughter had commandeered both my desk and my laptop.  In addition, my office now temporarily houses her new kitten and all his kitten accouterments.  However, the process of making that space my own resulted in an important change of mindset about room and my need to make some for myself in the world.  It’s okay to take up space.


 

The Smart Women’s Writing Desk, Part 3

About a year ago, I posted these pictures of my home writing space on Instagram. These photos were a part of my virtual “save me from my isolation!” post on social media in the weeks before my defense.

When I’m in intense work mode, my desk is some sort of combination of these images. Stacks of books related to the current project, marked-up and printed drafts, to-do lists and ideas on sticky notes, and my favorite erasable Muji pens, which let me revise edits without making the page into an illegible mess. Continue reading “The Smart Women’s Writing Desk, Part 3”

The Smart Women’s Summer, Part 3

Last year, I spent the summer months finishing my dissertation. I was a sleepless madwoman, constantly tapping away at the computer and pacing my apartment with primary and secondary texts in-hand. After a hard-earned successful defense and a year of intense job-marketing, I thought I would give myself a bit of a break in 2018. A few weeks ago I made a healthy, feasible list of not just academic but also personal goals, which included submitting a couple articles for publication, starting to learn a new language, spending more time in the kitchen, and traveling. And so, after the semester ended in May, I submitted an article manuscript for publication: “Queering Sexual Difference: The Evolution of the Cixousian Medusa.” (It has been sent to the readers!)

And then…I went on a two-and-a-half week trip to Paris and Aix-en-Provence, France with my partner. We met up with old friends, visited beaches on the Riviera, and ate the best cheeses the regions had to offer. I love travel because it lets me recalibrate priorities and brainstorm about academic and non-academic projects. But even more, I adore allowing myself to spend hours at restaurants, markets, and bakeries; undoubtedly, food is always a major focus of my travel. Which got me thinking. Because I am so intrigued by gastronomy, French and otherwise, I decided that I might incorporate that love into my academic work. This led to my next summer writing project.  Continue reading “The Smart Women’s Summer, Part 3”

The Smart Women’s Summer, Part 2

I loved reading about Angela’s summer-so-far and her summer plans. My summer-so-far hasn’t been as exciting in some ways (yet crazy in others), but it’s about to get there. For me, summer is a time to stop teaching, reflect on the teaching year I just had, prep for the next one, read a ton of books, and ideally, travel. In the seven years I’ve been in my job, I’ve only taught summer courses two or three times, and I think I’ve traveled every year except the summer of 2013 when I was on maternity leave.

That summer was also the only time I did zero work. In the years since, I’ve found that summer is a great time to put my creative energies into planning for the fall: my ideal the past couple of years has been to work in June and relax in July. I planned the same for this year. This is what the Summer of 2018 was supposed to look like:

  1. Take Kiddo to summer camp every day
  2. Use the camp hours (in June) to…
    1. Do a brief side-gig
    2. finish prepping logistics (assessments, standards, etc) for a new unit in a new course
    3. Prep lessons for the fall
    4. Clean my house, read books, write, etc., etc.
  3. Travel to England for a one-week seminar and a few days of extra sight-seeing (namely at the Imperial War Museum, for teaching purposes).

But best-laid plans and all that. About two weeks ago, the plan began unraveling. It’s not bad – it’s just different.

Continue reading “The Smart Women’s Summer, Part 2”

On the Virtues of (Feminist) Mentorship in Academia

While I was sitting out on my friend’s back porch the other day, I knew I had struck gold. The two of us were deep in conversation about my recent campus visit when I started to realize that I was being adopted as a mentee. While I gave a play-by-play account of the meetings, presentations, and dinners with potential colleagues, she listened attentively,  offered praise, and rolled her eyes at all the right moments. This person is not just a friend, but a new colleague who has, on her own account, put time and effort into my professional development over the past year.

In a way, this person and I arrived at the department at the same time. In August 2017, I transitioned from graduate student to temporary faculty member and she arrived as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in French. As a newcomer, she granted me the collegial respect that – I imagine – is harder for former professors and committee members to accord. 

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Source gallica.bnf.fr / BnF

As a short-term Lecturer, the department did not arrange any type of mentorship for me. I assume this is due to the transience of my position and the expectation that my thesis advisor would continue to work closely with me. The latter proved true, in part. When I have questions about interviews, campus visits, and publishing, I text or email my advisor, who is happy to respond with careful counsel. However, knowing that she has two other advisees and a rigorous research agenda of her own, I understand that she might not want me begging her to give feedback on my writing or to offer me life & job advice at every turn. 

And so, early in this grad student-to-faculty member transition, my introversion had me turning inward and online. But – blessed be the extroverts – there was one person who I couldn’t keep out of my office. I quickly accepted this as a stroke of good fortune, because this colleague was kind, funny, and smart. She was also someone who I respected because of the sincere, candid way in which she interacted with everyone in the department, regardless of their rank. What’s more, this person had fascinating research and her lack of a filter exposed me to behavioral issues and professional ladders in academia which my freshly-minted-PhD self had not yet fully experienced.  Continue reading “On the Virtues of (Feminist) Mentorship in Academia”

Good Company

When the school year ends, I always feel a bit bereft. I love the academic cycle, the fresh starts each fall and again with each term (small commas, brief breaths in the sentence that is the year). I need summer, but summer and I need time to reconnect on new terms each year.

I feel that way now; classes ended Friday and we’ll wrap faculty meetings this Thursday before finishing with a conference early next week. It’s a slow segue to summer.

A few weeks ago, Raquelle wrote about leisure reading as self-care and shared some of the titles she’s reading. Her experience resonated with me: when I finished my dissertation seven years ago, I couldn’t wait to read again. In grad school, I read often, but I’d rarely had time to pick up a book for fun. (Example: I read the Hunger Games books while in grad school, but my head was so full of history books that by the time the last one came out, I couldn’t remember the others. I also read it so hurriedly that even now, I can’t tell you a thing about it.)

 

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Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

I got much better at reading for fun again after grad school, but in the past couple of years, I’ve slipped again. In the school year, I’m generally less likely to pick up a book on the weekend or before I go to sleep, often too exhausted to try. There are exceptions, like trimester and holiday breaks, or spring break, but my Goodreads profile tends to be less active in general than it was a few years ago.

Still, books are where I find myself and calm myself. They’re perfect for making the transition from teacher-on-the-go to teacher-at-rest.

Continue reading “Good Company”