The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 40

Although it is week 40, I definitely have not written 40 posts for the challenge. Somewhere along the way I got lazy and then super focused on my thesis. I haven’t been making much progress on that, so the last thing I’ve wanted to do was do any kind of writing, for work or otherwise. I’m currently feeling guilty about sitting on my couch eating bad Chinese food and watching TV, so I thought I would give this the attention that it deserves.

So back to the challenge, or at least a chance to write in a focused way with no right or wrong answer. I’m hoping that a little of free writing will get me back on my game and help me figure out what to do with my literature review and theory chapter.

The challenge for this week is as follows:

Express yourself
Tell us about a time you couldn’t quite get your words or images to express what you wanted to express. What do you think the barrier was? For bonus points, try again.

This is an easy one, and I am hoping that when I explain it here, I can work out some of the issues that I have trying to structure a really important chapter in my thesis. Explaining critical theory is the foundational basis for what I am trying to do with feedback and assessment at the university, and if I cannot explain it in a clear, but academic sounding manner, then I have no hope in moving forward with my PhD. If I cannot make connections between the previous research and what I hope to accomplish with my study, then I am not working hard enough, or smart enough for a PhD.

The problem is, I know where I went wrong. I spent the whole summer obsessed with word counts and the number of pages that I wanted to have written that I went for quantity over quality. My methodology chapter came together pretty nicely, and now it is in its third draft and gets a little better every time. That was a really easy chapter to write, the first draft came together in about three weeks. I thought that if I followed the structure and the guide I was using for that chapter while I was writing the theory chapter, I would be in good shape. I became focused on getting my 500 words a day in, and really did not stick to the outline I made at all. I was so disappointed that I did not make it to 30 thousand words by September 1st that I sent off a really crappy draft that was all fluff and no substance. The feedback I got from my supervisor sucked. It was hard to hear. I have to start over. The part that she did like was the part that was written by the group for the paper that is up for publication. I spent two years on that paper, and at this point, after 17 drafts, there is very little of it that is my words. So, the part that I wrote myself is shit, and the part that my supervisors wrote is great, but still doesn’t quite set out to do what I wanted to do. I have a lot to try to redo, and the outline of how to do it, but when I sit down at my laptop, or at a computer at the uni, I cannot seem to get anything written that ‘sounds like it belongs in a PhD’. I see that as having wasted three months. Three months that I needed.

This brings me to the second problem. My funding ends in July. There is no way I am going to get more from the programme, and when it runs out, if I am not done with my degree,, I am not sure that I will even be able to finish. I cannot take out any more loans, cannot afford to stay in Scotland, and will never be able to finish my PhD. I am so stressed about finding a job, trying to get something done in three years that usually takes people four years, and worried about the fact that I will probably have to leave Scotland in a few months. I am so worried about all the things going on in my life that aren’t related to my PhD that I am too stressed to be able to sit down and focus on the work in front of me.

I’d really like to be able to take my mom’s advice and just write out the chapter in my own words and then go back to make it sounds all fancy and pretentious, but I just don’t have the time to do that. I also hoped to work it out here and demonstrate that I actually understand critical theory, and that I can use it, critical pedagogy, and the Ideal Speech Situation to explain why the research on feedback, while it has done a lot to help students in terms of their learning, does not do enough to help create a dialogue between students and teachers and allow them to use feedback as a learning tool. I thought a lot about being able to just free write here and then hopefully get some feedback from my lovely readers. Then I realized that if I did, I’d probably get popped for plagiarism when I turned in the draft because it is published here before it gets published in my thesis.

Sometimes I really hate the fact that we have to be a slave to Turnitin since it not only claims the rights to your work once you submit something there,  but the people at the university who swear by it, swear that if too many words or phrases are strung together then you might be cheating, or if you do not cite your sources correctly then you are trying to maliciously dupe the university into thinking you are smarter than you are. But that is a rant for another day. I’m also a big believer in collaboration, and posting it here and then discussing it with others means that it would not be my own thoughts and ideas, and that is a big no no in the world of the tortured PhD student.

I’m not sure how it happened, but I started this post thinking that I could work through some writing issues, and ended up feeling grouchy and angry that I am having trouble getting the thoughts in my head onto paper, and that now I am falling further behind in my quest to become a doctor of philosophy. I’m taking yet another day off when I cannot afford to take another day off.

Jogging. I am going to go back to jogging. At least being really tired after a run is a better excuse then I am too afraid to sound stupid.

 

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 35

I left work early today. I left work early because I was pouting because I feel like I am invisible. I’ve been sitting on my couch munching on salt and vinegar crisps and feeling sorry for myself.

The challenge this week is to think about the things that scare me. I guess this can be taken a lot of different ways. I am terrified of elevators. They freak me out so much. The one in my building is something out of a horror movie. It is small with a lot of graffiti and because it doesn’t make a lot of noise, it is hard to know if it is at the correct floor or not. I’m always so relieved when the doors open and I can escape to the freedom on the correct floor. The lift at the hotel in Malta was even worse, but it was way too hot to climb the stairs to the fifth floor. I take the stairs whenever I can, and try not to cry/panic/sweat when the lift is unavoidable.

The stupid death traps are awful…but so necessary.

I guess my one big fear is that I am never going to get a handle on my depression. I do not enjoy being depressed. I do not enjoy the up and down of my emotions, and how the depression interferes with all the other aspects of my life. I have a hard time with motivation to do my work, I have a hard time maintaining friendships, and being in a relationship with me is stressful at best. I take my meds, go to therapy, and do the homework that my therapist gives me, but I am scared that I won’t be able to get a handle on the dark and twisty. It doesn’t help that I compare myself to people around me, and see them succeeding while I am struggling. I am very lucky that I have a really strong support group, and I am self aware enough to know that I have to work hard to maintain my health.

I’m also terrified of being stagnate. One of my biggest fears is that I will wake up in ten years and being in the same boring routine and not know where the last ten years have gone. It is part of the reason that I move every couple of years, part of the reason why my wanderlust is so bad, and part of the reason why I am scared of what happens when I am not a student anymore.

All of this talk about what scares me makes me want to eat chocolate, which is not on my list of things to eat, so I am going to try and do some yoga.

The Scamp All Packed

but ready to go?

Today I moved the last of my things that will not be going with me to Scotland. All of my pots, pans, Tupperware, cooking utensils, forks, knives, and a desk that I barely used, but did serve as a secure place for all my bills, pay stubs, and kept all of my notes, textbooks, and school related things while I was working on my MA.

I haven’t actually looked at most of this stuff for the last three years, but when I was moving the box of Tupperware, it broke open and I was flooded with memories of the last ten years with some of those things. It seems so final now that they are gone, most of my clothes and shoes are packed, and the things that I cannot take now are already postmarked to be shipped for a later date. It all seems so permanent now. I am not coming back to live in the United States. By this time next week, I will be in London, about to get on a plane for Madrid for a little bit of time to relax before I make my way to Scotland to start my dream job, in my dream city, and finally reach my goal of completing my PhD. I’ve always wanted adventure, I’ve always been prone to wander, I’ve never been afraid to take a chance, to do things on my  own, or to march to the beat of my own drum.

I’ve had the dream of going back to Scotland for two very long years, and the goal to earn my PhD and work in higher education for the last seven years.

I am three weeks away from reaching all of my major goals….and I am fucking terrified.

See, the thing that nobody tells about reaching all of your goals is that it is the scariest thing in the world (and I’ve jumped out of a plane, I have multiple tattoos, travel by myself, and get in a car with my father). I am so terrified that I am going to wake up tomorrow and it will all be a dream. I will still be miserable at Cal State Fullerton, still not have enough money for real insurance, my own apartment, or my massive student loans, and still be profoundly depressed

To be honest, there is no way I could survive a cruel joke like that. Not to mention that I have already sold my car, and most of my possessions.

I know that this fear is normal, and the finality of the situation is starting to sink in, so I am having a momentary freak-out, but it is still a little bit scary.

I’m doing it though. I’m jumping in with both feet, and going to settle into Scotland, and I am going to be a kick-ass expat.

A Scamp and the Springtime

Today marks the first day of Spring (well, not really in California since it has basically been like summer since last summer). Spring is a time of rebirth, a time to clean out the old and make room for the new.

It is a time for change.

But who gets to determine where the old ends and the new begins? Is it a day on the calendar? A birthday? A new year? Is it an event?

That change, ideally, should be something that gives us hope. It gives a new way to view the world, a new way to view our world. It is about letting go of old habits, bad memories. It becomes vital that we never stop believing that we can start over, that we can create a new beginning. It’s important to remember though that sometimes, amongst all the shit, bad habits, and bad memories are a few things worth holding on to.

I have been saying for the better part of a year that it is time for a change. I’ve been saying it, but the change I am seeking has yet to really happen. I’ve been trying different things, figuring out what works and what doesn’t. I am now one year removed from heartstompapolooza, but I am not quite sure I have changed and matured enough. At times, for every one step forward, I took three steps back. For every little mountain I climbed, I tripped and rolled off a cliff. I’ve been lucky enough to have a good support system to help me through the backsliding, but it leaves me to wonder: why is permanent change so scary?

I was recently asked why I constantly say I am going to change some of the more negative aspects of my personality. but then fail to really do so. That made me think of a quote from one of the Grey’s Anatomy episodes I continually binge on:

 Change… We don’t like it, we fear it. But we can’t stop it from coming. We either adapt to change, or we get left behind. It hurts to grow. Anybody who tells you it doesn’t, is lying. 

Anyone who really knows me knows that I hate hurting. I take a lot of medication to keep myself from hurting. I avoid emotions and keep myself closed up to keep from hurting. I stubbornly refuse to change aspects of my personality because I do not want to go through the pain that comes with breaking down old habits, and trying to build new ones (for me, that usually involves a lot of tears, and let’s face it, I am a messy crier).

A year ago, I weathered the pain to make some very necessary changes. I spent the last few months in Scotland happier than I had been in years. I had the help of a professional, but I was finally (and somewhat painfully) learning how to break old habits and change my way of thinking.

Spring means the fast approaching deadline to sign up for insurance.  Even though I am less than thrilled about my options on that front, I am looking forward to having the option to see a professional for more than the four sessions the school gives me to put me back on the track I was on in Scotland.

Because in the end

berry-break-27-71