Call Me Dr Scamp

That’s right. I am now a doctor. 4 years of blood, sweat and tears. 4 years of edits, research, interviews and data analysis. 4 years of projects, jobs, networking and conferences. 4 years of hard work. I’m not sure how I did it, but I survived the process and might just be a better person for it.

The viva was a gruelling process. I had gotten sick the week before and went through the viva with a fever and no voice. My examiners hated my thesis….and I am not exaggerating. They told me it reads like a jumbled, confused mess and it was hard to figure out what my original contribution to knowledge was. They did not understand the way I positioned my work in relation to the literature. They told me I have six months to rewrite it or they have the right to change their mind.

I am not ashamed to say that I cried in the middle of the viva. I was horribly ill and felt like crap, but I was also so upset that all of the things that the examiners hated about my thesis are the things I battled against with my supervisor….the same supervisor who was not in the room to hear that he had screwed up my work. The same supervisor who decided that I was not worth his time when I sent an email saying that I was upset that his lack of planning for the scheduling the viva could cost me my job. I was also very embarrassed. The examiners don’t know how badly I struggled. They don’t know how much of the thesis was dictated to me by said horrible supervisor. They only read the product of a less than stellar time….and the only name on the work is mine. I am the one who looks like I turned in horrible work. I am the one who now has to rewrite it in 6 months.

That’s not to say that the examiners were wrong though. That work is a jumbled mess that is a product of my experience. The feedback they gave me will make my thesis a better piece of work. It will also allow me the chance to discuss my work in the way that I want to. I have a better message and have really good things to say, and now I get to say them. My due date for resubmission is on my grammy’s birthday. I am taking that as a sign of good luck.

The only downside of this is that I still have a lot of work to do, more so now because I have a full-time job. I am having a hard time separating my bitterness about the last four years and the rewrite that I need to do. It has been more than a month and I have barely made any progress. That, in turn, is stressing me out….which is not helping the writing.

On the bright side, finishing the PhD means that I was able to book a ticket back to California for Christmas. I get to see my favourite people for a whole month. I am thinking that the change of environment and the time with my family will help me tackle the PhD as well. I have not seen my family in almost three years or been in California, so to say that I am excited about this is an understatement. I cannot wait to see how my parents have changed the cabin they now live in, I can’t wait to finally meet my nephew in person, and I cannot wait to sit around a table with my siblings while we play games, drink beer and tell each other to fuck off while we laugh so hard our sides hurt. I can’t wait to drive a car again.

I can’t wait for all the yummy Mexican food.

And mojo. Hopefully, I can find my mojo. I’m still looking for it.

The Scamp Took a Break

I have not opened this blog since May. I had writing fatigue and for the most part, felt like I had run out of things to say. This blog has been part of my academic life since I moved to Scotland. I used it to chronicle my life here and the novelty of living abroad. Tomorrow marks four years living here full-time, and I am not sure that living abroad is novel anymore.

Now it is just home. It is my new normal. It is exactly what I wanted for the last eight years….and I love every minute of it.

The thing is though, writing is no longer giving me the pleasure it once did. The PhD took so much out of me and made me feel like I wasn’t a good writer. I have a lot of papers and a book chapter to finish and I have zero motivation to sit down and do them. I stare at blank Word documents and can’t seem to figure out how to put my fingers on my keyboard. I’m not sure why. It is starting to stress me out though. Stress used to make me lose weight. Now stress makes me neglect my diet and gain weight in places that are unflattering (thanks 30s.). That in turn makes me feel bad about myself and then I tend to stay on the couch rather than go for a walk or do some yoga.

I recently took four days off and sat by a beach in Spain. I went there because I hadn’t had a holiday in a year. I went there because it is time to close the chapter on my academic life and my horrible time at Napier and figure out how to get back on track with my health and focus on my career. …I ended up meeting a group of Welsh men having a lads holiday and did nothing that remotely looked like helping myself make a plan for the future (but that is a story for another time, including the details of the Star Wars themed live sex show and hoverboards).

So now I am trying to find my mojo. I thought if I put a little bit on the page and cleared my mind a bit that maybe I would get back into the swing of writing everyday. I’m also still on the quest to get to 500 posts and am about 20 or so away, so I will need to think of some good things to share.

If anyone has seen my mojo, please send it to Edinburgh. It missed its curfew and it is time for it to come home.

The Scamp has Some Feelings

I have long neglected this blog. I didn’t mean to. In fact, I started this blog to be the exact opposite. It was my safe little corner of the world where I could work through being so far away from my family for the first time, and be able to share what it was like for this little Scamp to live abroad.

It then morphed into a way for me to process my grief and my reverse culture shock. From there it become my coping mechanism for the horrors that I went through with CSUF. It was a place to share my gratitude and voice my fears.

I am not sure what it will be now. I haven’t sat in this space for a long time. I was too emotionally drained to even try and write for fun. I was too much of a zombie to try and be witty and pithy and admit to the world that my life was reduced to writing, stressing about writing, and trying to get all the work done for all 47 jobs that I took on….or that I failed the UK driving exam for the second time.

Today I handed in my PhD. A month ago I started a full-time job. I commute almost two hours one way, work from 9-4ish and still sort of worry about money. Soon I will have viva prep and hopefully by October I will be a full fledged doctor. My travelling and adventures will now be limited to preset times during the year with prior approval from my boss (who I love and will give me the time off).

Today I ate two cupcakes.

Today I saw a photo of a woman I went to high school with at her sister’s graduation. Standing next to them was the woman that told me I was a cheat and a plagiarist and that if I didn’t apologise for being white I’d never be a good academic.

Today I text an ex who used me to cheat on his gf and (I’m pretty sure) is a complete sociopath. I knew that if I messaged him I could justify feeling crappy about myself and pretend that I was not upset by seeing a photo of the woman that all but broke me.

Today I should be happy about finally submitting my thesis….and I was. Then I spent a little too much time overthinking and creating a plot of misery. So, in order to not waste my first time back in this space by sharing the acknowledgement page from my thesis. It is but a small gesture to the people who refused to let me fail. There were a lot of people who did not make it to the list, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love them or appreciate them. Here it is, exactly as it looks…complete with a thanks to my supervisors that I am still on the fence about. This means I can end this day with feelings of gratitude rather than feelings of self-loathing.

This thesis has been a labour of love (and sometimes loathing), and there are several people that deserve much more than a few lines at the start of this work. Thanks to:

• Tansy Jessop for having lunch with me at the 2015 Assessment and Higher Education conference and making sure that my TESTA journey was a successful one.

• David Carless for helping me refine the recommendations and pointing me in the direction of a strong definition of feedback. • David Nicol for saying to me, ‘You should be critiquing my model! It worked in the time it was written, but it is time for something new’. You will never know how much that bolstered my self-confidence.

• My supervisors, Joan McLatchie, Velda McCune, and Mark Huxham – thanks for taking a chance on a cat loving Californian. I know that I have tried your patience a few times, but we got there in the end.

• The Llama Ladies- You are the best friends a girl could ask for.

• Errol Rivera- You talked me off many a ledge and helped me outline many a draft chapter. I’m forever grateful.

• Joe Ameen- A million thanks for the chats and life advice.

• Dr Ana Georgieva- You kept me sane and reminded me to be kind to myself.

• Martha Caddell- You are the best mentor a girl could ever want. I hope I’m half as great as you one day.

• Anne Tierney-Because everything’s better with puppets!

• Kelsey Austin- My travel buddy, my heterolifemate, my unwavering support. I love you and our many adventures.

• Declan- you know why.

• Mondo, Brandon, Jackson, and Matt- I love you.

• Wombmate-You gave me nephews, you listened to me cry and you never let me forget that I am better than my anxiety.

• My parents, Rick and Michelle- I’ll never be able to pay back what you’ve given me. Thank you for never squashing my wanderlust and for all the support. I love you to the moon and back.

The Scamp Needs to Be Reminded

Storytime: In December I got my dream job at the University of Glasgow….literally, this job is perfect for me. It’s teaching, it’s research, it’s in Scotland. I told a joke in the interview and they never blinked at sponsoring a visa.

Basically, they are the opposite of the office that I currently work in.

I had to expedite the visa process so that I can start work in April. I’m transferring from a student visa to a general visa. The process was fairly straightforward, and the application didn’t as for a lot. Just my bank statements for the last 4 months, proof that I was in school, my first born child (especially if it is a male) and a blood oath to queen and country. When not doing the expedited process, you have to mail all your documents (passport, visa, and all the other requested paperwork) to the fancy office in London and you wait 2-3 months to get a reply. I got to make an appointment to go to a fancy office in Glasgow and do a face-to-face.

I paid extra for a Saturday appointment. I joked with some of my colleagues that I may not be able to fulfil my roles in the group because UKVI may make me disappear during the interview.

I get on a train on Saturday morning with two hours to get myself from Edinburgh to Glasgow. The journey takes about an hour. On the train for 30 min…and the train isn’t going anywhere. Then they announce that the train is busted and that we need to get on the train behind us that is also going to Glasgow. Not a problem. I have an hour and a half to get there. 15 minutes pass and the busted train is still on the track. All trains to Glasgow are cancelled. All trains out of the station are delayed. I panic, as I am known to do. I run to the bus station, which is only about a 6 min walk. Get there in time to see the bus leave. The next bus would put me in Glasgow at 12.30. I am now crying. I can’t find a number for the visa office. I just have a QR code for my appointment. I call my mother sobbing on the street. It is 2 am her time.

She tells me to get in a cab. I’ve cried off all my make-up that hide the bags under my eyes. I hail a cab and freak out the cab driver. He doesn’t really want to take me to Glasgow, and I have to show him the address for the visa office because I can’t speak coherent words. I call three numbers and finally get to the visa office and let them know that I may be late. By the time we get on the motorway, Google Maps tells me that I will be at the office by 11:58. I’m still sobbing. Halfway through the journey and the cab starts slowing down. He pulls to the side of the road, shuts off the engine and it starts smoking. Thank God I carry water with me all the time….too bad it didn’t keep the cab from catching fire. A busted hose caused the engine to overheat. I am back to sobbing. Send a sobbing video to my mom. Text everyone I know (including the nasty ex who has a car) because I just can’t handle my life. It is 11.30.

The cab driver calls his company and gets them to send them a new cab driver. He shows up at 11.50. I’m hiccuping. I am no longer producing tears. I don’t have any water because it was wasted on a dead cab. When we get into Glasgow there is so much road works and one-way streets that the Edinburgh cabbie has no idea how to get to the building. It is now 12.30. $115 later, I get him to drop me off in the middle of the street and curse the fact that I could have spent a tenner on the bus to be there at the same time. Run like the wind (or an out of shape Jew with a bag full of paperwork and a winter coat that weighs more than her). I show up the building and the security guard lets me in and walks me up….tells me that the office is empty and it is no problem.

I die a little on the inside.

The women in the office could not have been nicer. They let me cry and tell the whole tale before they tell me I have to have my photo taken for my new visa. The make-up is long gone. My eyes are red and swollen. My hair looks like it has gone through a wind tunnel. I’m sweaty. I’m still sorta crying (but no tears because there is no more water in my body). They have to take the photo twice because the computer couldn’t make out my eyes the first time.

I’m in the office a grand total of 15 minutes. It took 2 and half hours to get there. I leave the office and call a friend of mine who is in Glasgow and cancel plans. I walked to the train station….it’s the wrong one (think of the two stations there like an international airport and a domestic airport. I went international, I needed domestic). By the time I on a train I fear that I will literally go postal if something goes wrong….but I made it back to the city okay. I walked from the train station to my house and stopped for pizza and chocolate to make myself feel better (but it just made me feel sick).

Saturday I was a mess, but now I can laugh until I cry when I tell the story. I found out on Monday that the visa got approved. I’m no longer a student in Scotland. I am now a member of the full-time workforce.

But the lesson here: Do not make fun of the UKVI process before you’ve actually completed it. If you do though, ask your friends to send you photos to cheer you up. My friends and family came through in a major way and made me feel better.

The Scamp Remembers

Today is a hard day for my mom. Today is the day that she lost her mom to a horrific car accident. Today is a day that we usually eat a club sandwich from iHop, drink a diet coke and watch Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I wrote this last year for her birthday, and I don’t think I can write anything better to capture how I feel. So here goes:

2014-07-16 15.56.58-2
2014-07-16 15.55.36
2014-07-16 15.58.17
2014-07-16 15.58.56-1

The woman in these photos is Frances Ann. Today is her 80th birthday.

Or, it would be if she believed in wearing her seatbelt. When I was in the third grade she died when she overcorrected her car on the highway. The car flipped and she went through the windshield. Her best friend was in the car with her and survived. Before the funeral, her friend insisted on telling the story of what happened. I remember the crazy curved couch that everyone was sitting on. She was sitting with her husband, my mom, aunt and grandpa sat and listened.

Sometimes I think it would be better for my mom if she hadn’t heard the story.

I can’t remember what her voice sounds like. I can’t remember the way she felt when I hugged her.

I can remember the way she smelled. Sometimes I go to the cosmetic counter at the shopping centre near my house and spray the sample of Red Door into the air just to trigger a memory.

I can remember where we stood when we spread her ashes in Indian Canyon. I’ve only been there one other time since then, and it was to spread my grandpa there after he died.

I can remember the horrible photo she drew of me when I had to go to the emergency room for an ear infection. The picture was me in a hospital gown with my butt exposed and a doctor with a very very large needle ready to give me a shot. In the butt. I have a few scarves that belonged to her with me now.

They smell like my mom.

When my mom smiles, she looks like my grandma….or at least how I remember my grandma in my head.

It is a smile that involves teeth. I know this because it is the same smile that I have (most people tell me they know I am American because of my smile…all those teeth).

This is a hard day for my mom. She can’t call her mom and wish her a happy birthday. She can’t call her when one of her children (cough the oldest one cough) drives her crazy. It is a hard time for me because I have to think about the day when I won’t have my mom.

and that terrifies me.

A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with my great uncle who was in town on holiday. We haven’t seen each other in 10 years or so, but he knew exactly who I was when I met him for brunch. He gave me the best compliment that anyone could ever give me: he told me I look and act exactly like my mother.

2015-06-30 18.52.19

 Since my mom sometimes looks and acts like my grammy, and I look and act a lot like my mommy, it must mean that I am a little like my grammy too.

I’d like to think that she would enjoy what I am doing with her smile.

The Scamp Persists

2018 was not my year. In fact, it was one of the worst years I’ve had in a long time. I stumbled a lot. I had some of my worst lows. I thought about quitting the PhD. I thought about quitting Scotland. I quit on my diet. I quit on some of my friends. I quit making emotionally healthy choices.

There were some days that I felt 2018 quit on me.

Nevertheless, I persisted.

After 25 failed job applications, 2018 did me a solid. I got a full-time job in Scotland. I think it was quite poetic that I got the news while I was in the lift at Napier. I told my supervisor first.

No, that’s not true. I did a happy dance and cried in the lift. Then I told my supervisor.

He actually hugged me! I think I wanted to tell him first because he has been so hard on me and we spent most of 2018 not seeing eye-to-eye on my work.

The best in-person reaction was from my mentor. She is the only reason I got the job. She has given me work, let me publish as lead author and sent me a million and one jobs postings. When I told her, she jumped up and gave me the best mom hug ever. It is exactly what my mom would have done. She also told everyone in the office, including the two women on the hiring committee for the post in the office. Those women refused to even look at my application. I spent a week feeling bad about the fact that the place I worked for the last three years wouldn’t even consider me for my own position. I met the person they did hire on the day I got my acceptance letter….and I have to tell you, I did not engage with the new person at all. Didn’t introduce myself, didn’t make conversation, and did not care one little bit that I was being rude.

I have spent three miserable years in that office. People who work there still have no idea what I do or how far along I am in the process. Not too long ago, one of them introduced themselves to me thinking I was new. I have been taken off projects, removed from the staff page, been moved to a closet, had my desk taken from me, and have my every move tracked for ‘audit purposes’.

Nevertheless, I persisted.

I am very very very behind on my thesis. I don’t care. I’m very very very behind on work for one of my jobs. I don’t care. It is not the way I want to start the new year. I’ve scheduled a meeting with my favourite supervisor to get the kick in the ass I need to get everything finished in time. I want to start 2019 on the right foot by putting Napier behind me. It saved my life by getting me out of California after CSUF, but that is just about the only good thing I can say.

So, in an effort to make up for a rotten year, and to live up to the promise of this year, I will persist.

The Scamp Fights the Winter Blues

Thanksgiving has passed, but the post turkey day depression has not. It doesn’t help that the sun sets here at 4pm and I have to wear extra layers when I leave the house.

I  used to love Thanksgiving. I’m a sucker for mashed potatoes and gravy, go crazy for stuffing, and love the fact that it was one day where all my family gets together and hangs out. After my MSc, Thanksgiving was a weeklong getaway for me. First it was graduation, then it was Estonia, and since I have been back in Edinburgh full-time, it was a chance to see my mom and dad. Last year we were in Switzerland. 

This year I was at my desk by myself.

I made up for it by eating my weight in what Tesco calls ‘Asian inspired snacks’. I haven’t seen my parents in over a year. I haven’t seen my brother, sister, brother-in-law and the babies in 2 years. I miss my family.

Thanksgiving now sucks.

When I am by myself and not on an adventure it also reminds me that 3 years ago on Thanksgiving my dad found my brother dead from alcohol-related complications.  I had just thrown my first (and only) Thanksgiving dinner at my flat for the people that I worked with (and the lying cheating scumbag Dan). I started getting my parents to go on adventures on Thanksgiving so my dad wouldn’t have to be at home. 

He had to be at home this year because I am not graduating on time. I haven’t seen my family because I am not graduating on time. I’m sad because I am not finished with my PhD yet which means that I am an undesirable candidate for jobs that I am completely qualified for (including a job in the office where I currently work). I’m burned out from the 6 jobs and I feel like the only thing I am doing well right now is procrastinating. 

Well, that and eating chocolate. I’m really good at that right now. 

I am about three weeks away from submitting a new draft of my thesis to my supervisors and about a 6 weeks away from sending a draft to committee to put me in position to my viva. I am looking forward to that. I cannot wait until that little monster is someone else’s headache. There is nothing I love more than giving someone else a headache.