Hey, I figured out why I’m working towards a PhD.

It’s cos I want this job:

We are seeking to fill a research post within the Centre for Higher Education Research and Information (CHERI) of the Open University. CHERI is an internationally successful research centre and operates from both the Open University’s campus in Milton Keynes and offices in central London.

You will join an expanding team of researchers interested in different aspects of the changing relationship between higher education and society within the UK and also internationally. The Centre is currently undertaking a range of externally funded research projects on topics such as student learning, graduate employment, the academic profession, widening participation and related themes. You will have opportunities to develop your research in relation to these projects and to contribute to the development of new ones.

You should have a good first degree and a research qualification in a relevant field preferably a doctorate, together with experience and publications in a relevant area of educational or social research.

Yep. That’s what I want.


thesis-ing no more

I’m sitting on the patio at Pekara getting a nice sunburn, drinking water, and listening to pretentious Ebertfest assholes talk about how great they are. Gross. I never want to be that kind of person.

That is not the point of this update.

This week has been about getting my shit straight. I made significant headway this morning. I’ve been struggling under the weight and pressure of a masters thesis – not required by the department or the PhD program – and today I talked to my adviser, who agreed that I could turn it into an independent study which, for the number of credit hours I’m taking, means I’m pretty much done with the work – I just have to do the write up. This means that instead of thesis-ing all summer, I’ll be taking an online class through CTER, and doing whatever I need to do to finish up the research and present it to people who will actually benefit from it. I feel like there’s a tremendous weight off.

thursday this ‘n’ that

I just rode my bike to school. It is lovely here – 61 and sunny, with a little bit of a breeze. I’m sitting at my desk with a thermos full of lemon ginger tea – my attempt at staving off the bug that is going around. I can’t get sick now – I just don’t have time.

Speaking of bugs – there are bugs in my apartment, and it’s making my skin crawl. I’m the first to admit that I’m not the neatest housekeeper – but I’ve lived in far worse places, and have never had the kind of problems I’m having now. I have tiny ants in my cupboards – apparently a recurring problem – and ickier bugs elsewhere. As much as I like this apartment, I never would have signed a lease had I known this was a problem. I have traps lining my cupboards and floorboards, and I hope that will take care of things.

Bugs and ickiness notwithstanding, last night I made hummus and tabbouleh in my little kitchen from things I had lying around. Shane came over, and we ate everything out of glass bowls with cucumbers, olive oil, and warmed pita. I have a lot of tabbouleh chilling in my fridge, and I’m looking forward to eating more of it tonight.

This has been an exceptionally difficult week for me for a variety of reasons that I’m not going to go into – here, or anywhere else – so please don’t ask. I have a lot on my mind and heart right now as I wrap up a long semester and prepare for a trip that is going to be exhausting and challenging physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

The other day my friend Leslie posted a list of songs she’s calling “Hoppity Hop Songs” – songs that evoke some kind of powerful emotion – happiness, sadness, anger, love, frustration – even if they have no logical association with anything that’s happened in her life. They are called “Hoppity Hop Songs” because of her exhilarating memories of her Hoppity Hop toy which she continued to play with long after she’d outgrown it, and which was cruelly taken from her by her parents. Here is one of mine:

Jem- Falling For You (right/command click, save as)

voy a viajar a santiago

I picked up The Pilgrimage just now while looking for something to read with my morning bagel and NPR. I flipped the book open and read St Jean Pied a Port and was hit with a wave of longing. After all the planning and reading and praying and doubting – it’s real. I still can’t believe it.

soy peregrina. voy a viajar a santiago.
estou peregrina. estou indo a santiago

what’s new?

I reached a serious burnout point earlier this week. I’ve done pretty well with stress this semester – in no small part because I took a much lighter course load – but right now I’m just ready to be DONE! Done with classes! Done with work! Done with pressure! etc. Of course my release will be brief – I’m gone for 3-4 weeks, and then back to the grind, with an even heavier semester in the fall – but right now I’m counting the days til departure.

On the work front, I’m equal parts frustrated and fired up – today I’m going to tackle a project that has been hanging over my head since Christmas, and my goal is to finish it in the next two weeks so that I can go to Spain and forget that I ever heard of Sakai. Hold me to this one, kids. I’ve got to get this report done.

Yesterday was Shane’s birthday, and we celebrated with breakfast at the OPH, the return of his car, and drinks at Boltini with a large crew of friends. His party and the party of a fellow student took over the entire back area, and it was fun to see so many people out, even with the specter of papers and class projects and interviews up ahead. I spent the entire evening on the couch, having a series of serious-er conversations with friends, which was good too. I love my friends but I always feel slightly odd and out of place in these big groups, even if it’s a party I’ve planned. Shane got the birthday drinks he was hoping for and seems none the worse for wear, so the day was a success all around.

It has been ridiculously gorgeous around here, which has only exacerbated my fed-up-ed-ness with being at school. Yesterday Greg and I sat out on the back patio for a couple of hours doing work, and I came home with an honest-to-god farmer tan – the back of my neck and one arm are nicely burned, which makes me think that I need to go tanning or at least spend a lot of time in the sun in the next couple of weeks so that I don’t get miserably burned when I’m walking for hours at a time.

I’ve decided I love Avalon Organics. I picked up their Tea Tree Mint shampoo this week, and it seems to be making a world of difference. I’ve struggled with psoriasis and the ineffective treatments prescribed by my dermatologist and recommended by the Internet, so finding a product that helps, even if temporarily, is just – fantastic.

university math

so, i have a 12 month appointment with the graduate school. my contract is for 1206 hours, or 26 hours per week (approx). right now my math looks something like this:

monday 7 hours
tuesday 9 hours
wednesday 8 hours
thursday 2 hours
friday off
total: 26 hours

as i may have mentioned before, my schedule is really flexible. we’re all scheduled to run classes in the afternoon/evening – i run five two-hour classes per week – but other than that, our office hours are flexible. if i have homework to finish or am under the weather, i can come in late or take the day off and just make up the hours later in the week. for this reason we almost never take sick time, and vacation time is used for things that require being out of the office for a week or more at a time.

which brings me to my second point. because i have a 12 month appointment, i get 128.6 hours of vacation time and 70.2 hours of sick time. don’t ask me where the extra .2 hours goes. i really don’t know. now, the sick time is non-compensible [SIC], but it is time that can be taken off regardless.

so here’s my current math:

1 day taken off before Thanksgiving 6 hours
2 days (excluding holidays) taken off over winter break 10 hours
16 days (three working weeks) taken off in May 83 hours
current total vacation time taken: 99 hours
vacation time remaining: 29.6 hours
current total sick time taken: 0 hours
sick time remaining: 70.2 hours

from what i understand, staff can bank either sick or vacation time (or maybe both), but for GAs, that time has to be used by august 15 or it is lost. i may be developing the plague sometime between now and august 15, just so you know. in the words of my boss, “i can’t sneeze at the benefits of working at the big u.”

deja vu

This weekend was awash in deja vu.

Thursday night I drove to Chicago to see Metric at the Metro. I drove home alone through a wicked storm, my ears and heart full of a conversation late at night, driving home from the Nine Inch Nails show a year ago, tired from the end of the semester, from wandering around on Fullerton in clunky boots, from months of wondering what this particular phone call and the conversations to follow would bring. My ears and heart were full of the Camino that night, and of things that I so desperately wanted, and things that would never come to pass. On this night I drove home white-knuckled and quiet.

Because I see and know so many people, I am constantly doing double-takes, making sure the person I see is who I actually think they are. On Saturday I was working at the cafe when my breath caught in my throat at the mis-sight of a customer. She had her back to the counter and was wearing a long skirt, a lace-y, macrame-y sweater, and had her hair clipped up in a messy ponytail. When she turned around, I knew she couldn’t possibly be who I thought she was – she was at least 20 years too old, with graying hair and a darker complexion – but when I waited on her and smelled the familiar sweet and warm vanilla perfume, I found stinging tears in my eyes. “You remind me so much of someone I used to know that it’s freaking me out a little,” I said, lowering my milk pitcher to make the foam for her cappuccino. She just laughed.

good things

good things from the last few days:

  • brunch at allerton with good friends and walking in the gardens on a sunny day
  • working with hot doctors and seeing my uterus bump up against my belly during an exam
  • coffee ice cream with a cute boy in the sunshine before class
  • giving a successful (if rambling) two hour talk without being overly nervous
  • realizing i really know this stuff inside and out
  • renting a locker at the gym that is 2.75 miles away from my apartment by bike, meaning that every workout will also include 5.5 miles on the bike to and from
  • girl talk with my best friend
  • winning (1) pink plaid hightop chucks ($10 on ebay) and (2) tickets to see ladytron (for freeeee!)
  • the weekend is almost here!

over the last week i have had a number of internal debates featuring a small version of myself writing “i’m 26. what am i doing with my life?” repeatedly on a chalkboard in my head. the answer i keep coming back to in response is “if nothing else, i know i’m helping people with my vagina.”

that said, i work with my second group of med students tonight. it’s good to know that even if my research never helps anyone, the work that i’m doing with this program will directly improve the experience of at least a handful of doctors and their subsequent patients. i feel pretty good about that.

Part of me wants to get rid of most of my stuff – or put it in storage, or something – and shack up communally for the rest of the time here, or until I get a “real job” and decide to stay in one place domestically for more than a year and change. It seems easier in some ways – and I’m sure is harder too.

Today I took my morning slow – waking up with sunshine and coffee and NPR, eating a bowl of Cheerios at my kitchen table, drying my hair. Between morning workouts, meetings, and the boy, I rarely get a morning to myself – which is OK, it just means that mornings like this seem like a luxury, which I think I prefer.

Tonight I worked with my first batch of med students. They were earnest, intelligent, good listeners, and observed with their hands as well as with their eyes. They talked through the whole exam, asking questions and giving information to me as the patient. Both students thanked me and the two other instructors when they were done. Part of me wanted to hug them. Instead I did a little dance while eating Cheezits, and then helped another student. After we were done, Karina and I talked about how empowering this whole thing is – and how while at first the disconnect between our bodies as sexual and our bodies as clinical was hard, it’s now really kind of cool, and we’re both very glad to be involved.