The Scamp Celebrates the Return of Spring

I officially survived the winter of my discontent. It no longer gets dark at 3pm, I don’t need to have a heater on 24/7 and this weekend I wore a sundress with no tights (apologies for everyone who was blinded by the glare coming off my very white legs). I enjoyed every minute of the real Mexican food (thanks Taco Libre) and the crime beers (sorry not sorry).

The thing about Spring in Scotland though, is that it usually only lasts a day. It was a good Saturday in this case. Today I ran three miles in the rain and I am pretty sure the rest of the week has rain in the forecast. Only in Scotland.

Spring is supposed to be a time of awakening; a time of rebirth. This Spring is more a zombie crawl to a mound of fresh cut grass. After a year in lockdown, and almost a year and a half since I was able to travel, I’m feeling tired. I want to escape the UK for a warm beach more than I want to pay off my student loans, more than I want to lose the 20 lbs that are still plaguing me and almost more than I want a puppy or a kitty. I saw a news article that Malta will pay people to visit this summer, and if it already wasn’t my favourite countries, it is now. I’m hoping that the UK lists it as one of the countries that you will not need to quarantine for upon return because I have my entire annual leave allotment for the year and a growing disinterest in my job and being nice to people.

I know that I am not the only person who feels like this. Everyone that I know (especially in academia which already had a sucky work/life balance) is feeling tired. Today I was in a meeting at 11 am and a member of staff fell asleep. Camera and mic on in small discussion, straight up pushed their chair back, stretched out their legs and closed their eyes. I started off really annoyed and angry that I was wasting my time in a workshop that people clearly were not interested in, but having had some time to sit with it, I have a feeling that the person is simply just burned out. Everyday academics spend hours in pointless meetings, or teaching, or staring at their computer screens while they mark assignments. We are being told that we need to bend over backwards to meet all of the demands of our students and to create resources that will make life at the university easier. We are doing all of that without anyone doing the same for us. Most of us are also doing it on shitty equipment provided by the Uni, or, as in my case most days, using our own personal equipment. When my tablet dies, the Uni will not be replacing it. They also do not pay my electric or internet bills, and yet both of those cost me a lot each month.

I feel selfish complaining since a lot of people are out of jobs, the economy sucks, and many of the people graduating now will not be as fortunate on the job hunt as I was…..but I find it very hard to be grateful when I am over-worked, underpaid, and sometimes underappreciated.

So, I am hoping that the old adage of April showers bring May flowers is true and that better days are on the horizon. I also hopes it means I have less meetings with Napademics who would rather snooze than listen to all the brilliant things I have to say about assessment and feedback.

The Scamp Crosses One Off the List

For my 29th birthday I made a list of 30 things I want to do before I turn 30. It includes everything from learning to drive here to cooking an exotic meal.

This week I got to cross one off the list. Number two on the list: Present at an academic conference has now been completed. I will be able to cross this one off the list for a second time in June (and fingers crossed a third time in December). I got to peddle my wares at the first annual School of Life, Sport, and Social Science Postgraduate Research Conference. I am the only educational pedagogic theorist in the school, and I like to toot my own horn over that. The conference was a chance to get my feet wet, and a chance to master the Pecha Kutcha style of presenting.

After a few weeks of stressing I was able to present my 20 slides with just 20 seconds a slide. I’m properly chuffed with myself about that. I was really stressing over the format, but by the time I stepped on the stage, I forgot about being nervous and just talked to the crowd for 6 minutes and 40 seconds. I was even asked some really great questions, and the programme leader for a programme I am working with emailed me to tell me that he enjoyed my talk. One of my supervisors was able to make it, and my desk mate and friend came to support me as well. I forgot to have him record it or take pictures, but all in all, I think the day was a success.

Not bad for knocking the first one off the list. I am in the process of doing a few more of these, so it is only a matter of time before I can cross some more off the list.

  1. Learn how to drive in the UK.
  2. Present at an academic conference
  3. Start a new tradition
  4. Go back to therapy
  5. Visit three new countries
  6. Ride in a hot air balloon
  7. Quit the tutoring centre
  8. Volunteer for a literacy programme
  9. Read a book that has more than 500 pages
  10. Make my bed everyday for at least three months
  11. Have a solid draft of my thesis completed
  12. Master scorpion pose
  13. Attend the symphony
  14. Learn a rap song from start to finish
  15. Host a dinner party
  16. Create a  budget so I can pay down my student loans
  17. Create something original
  18. Create a solid workout regime
  19.  Go on a long hike (6 miles or more)
  20. Learn to dance
  21. Eat an exotic meal
  22. Learn to cook a fancy meal
  23. Yell at a football match
  24. Go horseback riding
  25. Master British spelling and punctuation
  26. Create a good sleep schedule
  27. See my favorite group in concert
  28. Fall in love
  29. Stop holding grudges
  30. Let go of my expectations

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 12

The single most depressing thing to my new found sense of Britishness is a bad cup of tea. I have become quite the connoisseur of tea in the last 8 months, and while I was in California I picked up a box of hibiscus passion tea that sounded amazing.

It isn’t.

It will taste great as iced tea, but as a hot drink, it leaves a strange aftertaste and smells a bit odd…of course, I have been sick for two weeks, and am currently producing more snot than should be humanly possible, so that could very well be the problem.

On to more important things. I’m supposed to be working on a script for a presentation I am giving on April 6th. I’m doing a pecha-kucha (my supervisor called it a Manchu Pichu, and someone else said bless you after I mentioned it). That means I have 20 slides and 20 seconds a slide to get my point across. I got the presentation done, but trying to say more than ten words in 20 seconds is proving to be a challenge.

I am not known for my brevity.

This quandary I find myself in speaks perfectly to the writing challenge for this week. The goal for this week is to think of one word that describes my life right now and one word that I wish described my life.

Let’s start with my current word: Stressful

Much the way trying to say everything I need to in 20 seconds is driving me bonkers, the state of my life right now has me feeling like one big ball of stress and snippyness. In addition to trying to get this presentation done, I am having to beat feet to collect the rest of my data for this year, and write the first draft of a paper I am trying to get published all before the end of April. Part of this was my fault for not getting the data collection done before I left for California, and for not working on my paper while I was there, but part of it is just the nature of being an academic. Couple that with the project being done at the university, and my work at the tutoring center, I am feeling a bit like my life is just a blur of diary appointments right now. I’ve been back for almost two weeks and I cannot even tell you what I had for dinner last night (wait, the dishes are still in the sink….I had pasta with garlic and herbs. Guess I need to add clean my flat to the list of things that needs to get done).

The word that I wished described my life right now? Adventurous

Don’t get me wrong, there is a certain amount of adventure that comes with being an expat and living in Scotland. There is a certain amount of adventure to my life no matter where I am living, but right now, the only thing that I want to be doing is traveling. I have been spending an awful lot of time planning trips to different places. I made the list of 30 things I want to do before I am 30, and visiting three new countries is on the list. I’ve been looking into a trip to Paris in November, and a trip to Malta in September. That trip to Malta is giving me so many problems. I am having a really hard time coming up with reasons why I shouldn’t book it right now. I don’t want to feel stressed. I want to wear cute sundresses and sandals. I want to wear a bikini and get a tan. I want to see sunshine.

I don’t want to feel antsy and uncertain. I don’t want to take hours to get something written because I am so afraid that it is going to suck or that people are going to hate it, or I am going to let my supervisors down because my writing isn’t strong enough.

But first, I am going to take a nap. Naps solve everything, even a bad cup of tea.

A Scamp Gets Ready for Summer

In the last 24 hours I have spent more time on campus then I have at home. I spent the day reviewing statistics and writing a paper that will hopefully change the lives of three hundred people.

I rewarded myself with an hour by the pool today. My first tan of the summer. Armed with a trashy romance novel, a hat, and sunscreen for the ink, I set out to unwind after a really really really long and emotional few days.

The trashy romance novel was bad (is bad), but there was a part of it that really stuck with me.

I used to believe that time was linear, that one event followed another. One action; one consequence. However, now, I sometimes have the sense that everything, all that I know, believe and experience happens in a great swoop of chaotic activity like the tumbling of dice in a cup.

This pretty much sums up my life right now….that great swoop of chaotic activity.

This pretty much sums up my life for the last year. I have been a swirl of work, school, homework, and a bad relationship. In 15 days I will celebrate one year of being back in the States. I say celebrate, but it is not really a celebration. I have been here for almost 365 days, but I have yet to really come home.

While I wish the tan and trashy romance novels were really how I was getting ready for summer, in truth, the way I am getting ready for summer has more to do with Excel spreadsheets, educational history, philosophies, and leadership frameworks. I will find time to feed my tanning addiction, but it will be with color coded flashcards, Paulo Freire, and Frederick Irving Herzberg. I have three classes and a qualifying exam this summer, so it will be a little more work and a little less fun. It is very reminiscent of the place I was in last year when I was writing my thesis…..well, ok, I wasn’t in class two days a week for 6 hours at a time, there was no need to learn about budget and finance, and there was no grueling (and somewhat pointless) test to take, but the feeling of a summer of discontent is pretty close to the same. I am not worried about passing the exam. I don’t want to take it, but I know that if I spend the summer properly preparing, I will have no trouble writing two very well thought out essays. 

…as long as I can fund the motivation to do what I know needs to get done.

I have to keep reminding myself that I chose this. I signed up to get the degree, and that means doing all of the ridiculous things that come with it. The good thing is, if I survive the summer then I will be that much closer to being able to do my own research. I am very much looking forward to that day.

I’m 33% done with the program.

That is 33% closer to being called Dr. Scamp and moving on to my next adventure.