Taking stock: 18 weeks to go.

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So, as time has willed, I’m already at the halfway mark of my stint with the MMTC. This also means it’s eighteen weeks till the submission of my thesis. ermergerd.

I often struggle with feeling like I am perpetually underproductive. It doesn’t matter how much I write, or how good or bad these words are – I always feel like I can be, and therefore, should be, doing more.

In the earlier years of my PhD on my old blog, I was trying to get a hang of my writing habits. At that point, I was also working up to six casual jobs over sixty hours a week at any given time, to pay my way through grad school as an international student. Depending on the time and day of the week, I was changing diapers, giving piano lessons, shelving books at 0400hrs in the morning, tutoring primary schoolers, grading high school English, transcribing for realtors at a dollar per audio minute with 8hr-notice deadlines, tutoring undergrads, or marking undergrad assignments.

It was a period when I hardly slept, and wrote my thesis and papers on my commute, on my iPhone, in between jobs, or in the car while being ferried around by my dearest partner. I learnt to write in little nuggets, and not to expect to have a long stretch of free time to sulk in front of the laptop in order to make words happen.

Despite this recent history being an incredibly fatiguing time of my life, I was super motivated with my PhD and writing. I made short and long term goals. I learnt about my writing habits, and attempted to reeducate the praxis of my writing. I made sense of separating myself from my work, made self-care goals, and integrated some semblance of a quality of life into my PhD rush. I learnt about what didn’t work for me, and what did. At one point in time, I was even hyper-policing my writing output to see how best I worked.

I think, by some twisted logic, the more I had on my plate, the more productive I was. I believe this is probably the same for many of the people around me?

In the last six weeks though, I have had no job obligations and have been very blessed to be able to concentrate on writing full-time. And it has been supremely blissful. However, I am also no longer on a stipend (long story), which 1) makes me anxious; 2) motivates me to want to write the best thesis ever in order to reduce my unemployment gap between the thesis submission and my first job.

I am now learning that negotiating job applications (and rejections!) requires a different sort of emotional labour altogether. I am probably going to have to manage more of that as I become more serious with my job hunt, but for now, it’s time to piece together a super kickass thesis that I would want to be proud of.

I’d also very much like to make the most of my remaining six weeks here at the MMTC. It’s been a wonderful writing retreat away from my usual responsibilities and the white noise of an environment I have grown accustomed to. My colleagues are the very mentoring sort, and often offer me advice on the job hunt (oh my dream job!), positioning myself strategically, managing family and a kickass academic career (i want five kids!), and lifehacks in general.

Too bad they also keep trying to get me to eat vegetables (!!!), and to take the stairs up six stories instead of being a lazy pudding in the lift (!!!).

The icing on the cake is the amazingly diverse faculty we have on our floor – every lunch time is an anthropologist’s dream! Imagine seven persons of seven nationalities and cultural backgrounds with seven different cuisines for lunch. The interspersing accents and vocal modulations and personal stories have also been soooo glorious. I will squirrel away pockets of these happy moments for a rainy day.

And on to work!

Dear Crystal, this is what you’ve done in the last six weeks:

Thesis chapters x2
Book chapters x1
Book reviews x1
Creative writing x3
Popular media x3
Conference abstracts x3
Conference panels x2
Talks x5
Grants x3 + Rejections x3

And this is what you plan to do in the next six weeks:

Thesis first full draft x1
Thesis second full draft x1
Journal articles x2
Popular media x1
Talks x4

In the next six weeks to come, you will struggle with your completely unrealistic goals. But presentyou hopes futureyou will look back on this post and remind yourself of the transient euphoria you once experienced at 2148hrs on a Tuesday night, and be hopeful about your kickass-thesis-to-be and the job hunt. You once thought the thesis would be an impossible task, but look how far we’ve come! We’re almost at a first full draft :) Everything always feels less dreadful and less dramatic in retrospect. You’re gonna be okay. Keep writing. Keep breathing. Keep on keeping on.

Love,
Crystal at 2148hrs, 17Mar15.

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