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.
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 andotherwise, 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”→
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:
Take Kiddo to summer camp every day
Use the camp hours (in June) to…
Do a brief side-gig
finish prepping logistics (assessments, standards, etc) for a new unit in a new course
Prep lessons for the fall
Clean my house, read books, write, etc., etc.
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.
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 andcommittee members to accord.
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”→
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.)
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.
I’m glad I didn’t think it through too carefully, when this opportunity came around. I love teaching in a public history context- taking all of my research and writing, and transforming it into a narrative and compelling cast of characters that I present without any presumption of prior knowledge in the subject. It’s a double challenge for me- to ensure rigorousness without overwhelming my listeners. It takes me longer than the traditional lecture format to prepare, but when it works, it’s so worth it.
However, had I thought it through for a moment, I might not have agreed to do this particular class.
My classroom was full of people who lived through Jim Crow right here in Nashville, TN, the hotbed of the Civil Rights Movement. They remember when whites and people of color had to use separate facilities and weren’t allowed to marry. They read about the Lunch Counter Sit-Ins downtown when they happened. They were children and young adults in 1960, when one of our city’s most promising civil rights activists, James Lawson, was expelled from the University that signs my paychecks.
And they were different people then, than they are now. They have seen so much more.
In this class, my black and my white students sat next to each other (something they would not have done when they were enrolled in school the first time around) and listened to a whippersnapper (that’s me, I’m the whippersnapper) contextualize that history for them in a broader Atlantic framework and chronology.
ALOHA readers of Smart Women Write! I am overjoyed to have the opportunity to connect with you and to write with a remarkable group of ladies on a regular basis.
I guess you could say that I stick out in terms of profile compared to the other ladies writing for Smart Women Write. You’re probably looking at my picture and thinking to yourself, “just how old is this girl anyways?” I am 20 years old (21 in a couple of months, woo!) living in a small town in southern New Hampshire.
As you can imagine, there is still a lot that I am figuring out in my life. With this being said, I feel as though I am at a pinnacle point in my life; I am beginning to now more than ever come to terms with the type of person I want to be in this vast world, a world where I am but a mere cog in the wheel.