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 49

It is 2 pm on a Friday. I’m still in my pjs, I’ve eaten a lot of cheese (which is not on my diet) and all the plans I made to finish Christmas shopping today so I could send out presents has not happened. In fact, this week has been really tough on me. I’ve cried more this week then I have in the last month. Probably because last month I was looking forward to my visit to Paris, and while I have a trip booked for two weeks time, I am a lot less happy now then I was.

When I am depressed I have the urge to run. I decide that the best way to make myself happy is to pack up and move elsewhere. Now, since I want to finish my PhD, I am just planning a lot of trips to amazing places instead of doing the writing and making sure that my degree stays on progress. I’ve got three trips planned, and have yet to even finish one chapter of my PhD.

But, in an effort to feel like I haven’t wasted the entire day, I will look to the writing challenge for this week: One way I would like to grow in the coming year.

I would like to turn this into some sort of funny comment about wanting to grow boobs, or get an extra few inches, but I just don’t have one of the muster to be funny today.

I think the one way I would like to grow in the coming year is to be more confident in myself. After CSUF my confidence took a hit, and I feel like for the last three years I have been fighting to be respected by people for who I am. I’ve lost friends, been called a lot of nasty things, and been completely demoralized. I’ve settled on a life path that most people do not understand, and I often feel defensive about my want to live overseas, to still be in higher education, and to not really have any desire to return to the US.

In the next year I hope to build my confidence in the choices that I am making, and be okay with the fact that I am not living what many people would see as a conventional life. I’m not married, have no kids, and would rather collect stamps in my passport than buy a house, settle in a city and live a ‘traditional’ life. Part of the problem I am having is that I have been so trained that I since I am almost 30 I should have a career, some babies, and a husband. Since I have my foot in the career bath and nothing else, I keep thinking that I am doing something wrong. I’m largely insecure about it…even staying in a horrible relationship with an emotionless robot incapable of doing more than hurting people (I’m really starting to understand why his last girlfriend cheated on him).

I also spend a lot of time being disrespected in the workplace, but because I am afraid to rock the boat and have a repeat of CSUF, I am not currently excited about going to the office. In fact, I avoid it at all costs and work at the other campuses. There are some great people in the office, but the snide comments about me never being in, the disrespect with a lack of communication and consideration of my needs as a member of the office have really ramped my insecurity and low self esteem. I’m still seeing my therapist regularly and trying to work on the issues, but it is a lot more slow going then I thought it would be. Every time I feel like I am making progress, I get knocked back on my ass. This time it was the boy and an incident at work, but next week it could be something else.

I am starting to feel like a burden to my friends and family that constantly see me in this depressed state, and tell me to do things that seem very simple to them, but actually, are almost impossible for me. I’m hoping in the next year I can fix all of that and get some of my spunk back. By then I will be almost finished with my PhD (fingers crossed) and will have a new niece or nephew, and hopefully a better understanding of how to get my groove back.

On the upside, I can cross some things off the list as time is running out

  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

I’m crossing off learn to drive in the UK since I drove in Ireland and do not currently have the funds to get a UK driver’s licence. That will go on my list of things to do next year when I have a bit more of a budget. I’ve also been able to cross off mastering British spelling and punctuation. I had a student turn in an assignment that I proof read, and not grammar or spelling mistakes! Thank you UK spellcheck and the grammar book I bought online. I’mm about halfway through and have about three months left to complete this list.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 16

I’m sitting in a window box.

I’m sitting in a window box of my friend’s house feeling sorry for myself.

My depression has gotten really bad. Really bad. It happens, and when it does, all I want is to be loved on. Instead, I got sent home from work because I was really pale and it is clear I have not been taking care of myself, and I’m pretty sure my relationship just ended.

So the challenge for the week is to write about the best part of my week.

I’m coming up short on this one. I undertook this challenge to follow up with the gratitude challenge that I did last year to help me remind myself that even though things were going wrong in the grad program, there was a lot around me in my life that was going well.

So, on this Friday as I sit in the window box wallowing in my depression, I guess the best part of my week was last night.

I met a cat named Loki last night. He was really friendly. I’m not sure how he got into the building, but he met me when I walked in. I’m a sucker, and I was sad, so I sat down to pet him. He rubbed on me and purred, and when it was clear no one was looking for him in the building, I let him follow me up the three flights of stairs and into my place. He spent about 10 minutes wandering around my place checking things out and occasionally coming back to me to rub and purr. I would have let him stay the night, but he had collar with an address, so I took him back downstairs and let him out back into the world.

I guess in the grand scheme of things my life is not that bad. I am living in Scotland, which is pretty fucking awesome. I have a job, my PhD is progressing nicely, and even though the depression is getting the better of me right now, my health is okay.

I just wish I could rewind to the beginning of March when I was in California soaking up the sun, hanging out with my muffin, and not surrounded by my never ending cycle of negative thoughts.

Now I would love to fast forward two year to when I am getting my degree and can figure out my next move.

Beach bum. That is still a viable career option right?