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New Routines

Last night I was tempted to drop out of grad school.

I was at a party with a whack of smart, interesting graduate students (yes! a weeknight party! Every day is Saturday in grad school!) last night. Because I was meeting a number of them for the first time, I inevitably had to trudge into the ‘so, what’s your research?’ question that I hate, hate, hate. One of the reasons I hate answering that question, I think, is because I’m doing a thesis project that doesn’t fit into a neat little box that can be summed up in a pat, one or two line answer.

Instead, I’m delving into a complicated, personal history project which I intend to finish on video. I suppose in academic-speak, we’d call it an ‘autoethnographic’ project — one that involves trudging into family history and personals  stuff. The result won’t be a formal paper. I won’t really be a ‘Master’ of anything in particular. But it will, theoretically, give me a chance to do some important personal work (and really -isn’t that what grad school is about? Isn’t it supposed to be a chance for us to delve, indulgently, into something that we want to know more about?).

The thing is, that personal work is HARD. Eek. It’s totally hard. It makes you vulnerable. It sits in the back of your brain and asks tons of questions, including the ever-present “am I crazy to be doing this?”

Which is probably why I have been doing everything BUT the important work of starting to draft up this puppy for serious consideration. I have been writing articles. I have been tidying my apartment. I have been drinking coffee and writing emails and interviewing people for the School of Graduate Studies website. I have been feeling REALLY BUSY, but if you actually pin me down and ask me how much work i’ve ACTUALLY been doing on my ACTUAL thesis project, I wouldn’t be able to give you a very satisfactory answer.

Which is why, when asked once again about my thesis project, I had a small moment of ‘ohmygodmaybeIdon’treallywanttodothiswhyamiherewhydon’tiIjustgobacktobeingafulltimefreelancewriterandbedonewithit?’

What didn’t help was a wise friend pointedly saying, “Mer, maybe you just don’t want to do this?”

Sigh. Maybe. It would sure be easy to run away. But the fact is, that I think I DO want to do it. I think I’m just scared. And really, who wouldn’t be? It’s way easier to distract yourself with all the other fun, easy stuff that’s out there in the world. Why would I put myself through all this internal growth and hard questions, when I don’t have to?

But I know that I need to do this. I do. Even though it’s hard. (gah!).

That’s why I am very pleased to report that I set myself a very small goal this morning, and I ACTUALLY achieved it. That’s right: I told myself that I HAD to write about my project for 15 minutes. That’s it. 15 minutes. Just to feel like I was doing something. Just to get the slow-moving, near-rusted cogs turning.

And? I wrote for 45 minutes! It worked. And I’m going to try again tomorrow. Tah dah! Small goals, friends. Small goals.

Posted in SGS Blog 2010-2011, Student Perspective, Uncategorized
2 comments on “New Routines
  1. Amy says:

    I totally think tiny manageable bits is the way to go. I remember a friend talking about writing her dissertation and breaking it down to paragraph-sized chunks. Even though she’d never written a dissertation before, she knew she could write a paragraph. She wrote the whole thing, one paragraph at a time.

  2. Fiona says:

    You are wise. I think your project sounds very cool. It will be something real.

    I find this little gimmick helps with the actual mechanics of focusing (thanks Barbara!):


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