Awakenings and Reckonings.

Alongside the re-evaluations of iconic relationships that I’ve been forced into undertaking recently, I’ve been virtually – and thankfully – on auto-pilot regarding other big issues in my life. It’s funny how I work sometimes. When the Emotional is stable, the Physical and the Intellectual suffer. When the writhing impulses that make up my inner empathy become too overbearing to manage, the Academic and the Occupational take over and carry me through to safer, less silt-laden shores. No whirling eddies. Fewer Crabs.

So I had a meeting with my supervisors this morning, for a review of my final proposal and to see what they think of my subject matter before I start writing the Big One. Or the Smaller Big One, as some PhD students might attest to. Regardless, after getting above average grades on my previous work and acknowledgment of diligent methods and sound research but without any real accolades on the content, it seems I’ve finally given them exactly what they wanted.

What they wanted (and I’m beginning to really get it now) is a critical eye. In academia, it doesn’t matter what your thesis is as long as you’re thinking critically, and demonstrating that you have the ability to see things from a a wide-perspective, with a working knowledge of what already exists on your subject and a sober presentation of what you hope to achieve by adding to it. I get that now, and they’ve confirmed this. It’s been somewhat difficult thusfar because I’m interested in the ‘bottom-up’ – if I’m going to be an historian, I’m going to be a social and cultural historian. I like the human perspective, and the individual stories that shape history.

But in a way, up ‘til now it’s been like my undergraduate years all over again. The first rule there is ‘Figure out what your professors want and give it to them’. We were always told that you spend that time developing your own voice but letting your instructors shape it, and Higher Education is where we finally have the opportunity to speak for ourselves, and in the way we choose. That’s not entirely the case here, but it doesn’t really bother me too much. The research and the writing is still mine, and I’ve learned to put down my pride and take what they say as truth, and use that to my advantage. And it’s finally gotten me to where I’ve been wanting to be: respected and being shown interest, which helps motivate me in the right direction. To some degree, I’m not writing yet for an audience of many. I’m writing – and communicating – to an audience of three, all of them postgraduate supervisors and distinguished professors.

If I would have known of this expectation before, and been supported in it, I’d possibly be continuing on right now instead of resolving myself to pursue other projects in the fall. By then, the Emotional might be comfortably stable again, and all my energy and effort will go into fortifying the other things that are just fine right now, but will need large amounts of work then. This is how it works.

But it’s not the Universe, and it’s not luck. It’s just me.

Or as I told dear seolta the other day, these things that test our mettle are nothing more than weedy, cunning, snappily-dressed Victorian villains lurking around the corner, waiting to vex us at every turn, and from every shadow. We can’t knock them off because every Hero needs an Antagonist…a reciprocal, inverse entity that keeps us on our toes. To get rid of your villain is to get rid of yourself. Hers goes by the name of Chalmers, I think, and he has a spectacular black mustache that spirals like the crowning decoration on a wrought-iron gate surrounding some lonely mental asylum somewhere in the English countryside.

Mine doesn’t have a name yet, but I’m sure he’ll let me know before too long.

6 Responses to “Awakenings and Reckonings.”

  1. defenestr8r Says:
    June 4th, 2004 at 9:15 am

    tell me again when you are going to be back in cali?

  2. FunkyPlaid Says:
    June 4th, 2004 at 9:20 am

    Mid-October. You gonna be around?

  3. defenestr8r Says:
    June 4th, 2004 at 9:46 am

    no. 🙁
    i was hoping you were going to say august when i likely will be around.

  4. FunkyPlaid Says:
    June 4th, 2004 at 10:12 am

    There will be a time soon, dear. I promise.

  5. anjylle Says:
    June 4th, 2004 at 10:06 am

    lol I really don't give a shit about what instructors expect and do what I want. It's what's gotten me into trouble and given me lower marks in my earlier public-schooling years. But I was more satisfied with the fact that what I'd presented was all mine.

  6. FunkyPlaid Says:
    June 4th, 2004 at 10:14 am

    One must give a shit if he wants to be a serious academic and wants to make a career out of it.
    The work is still all mine, but there are conventions and expectations to ascribe to and learn from.
    High marks assure good placement later on.

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