Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Rites of Fall

September is over. October is well underway. I leave for a conference in New York City in 2 days, and again, the paper is, I think, finally written. Or at least, if it isn't, I don't want to know about it at this point. One co-author sent out her final draft, the other co-author and I have read it and are relatively happy. The powerpoint and handout are done, and will have their final check tomorrow. For the first time ever, I think I'm going to a conference and I'm not worried about the paper.

That worries me.

I am TA-ing a class this term, and I still can't seem to get past the anxiety. I prepare and prepare. I read the students' readings (even though I read them as a student myself many times). I write out word for word what I want to say. And yet I am still in a nervous tizzy every Wednesday night at 11pm, when I should be preparing for bed. Tutorials go well, although I still talk too much, and sometimes they get me with a question I just can't answer, even though I should be able to. Someone, please tell me this goes away. Otherwise, I have no chance at this teaching thing.

I have discovered that I'll do almost anything to get out of doing the work I should be doing, including nurse a Venti Caramel Macchiato for two hours, brush the cat(s), order board games, play board games, read the rules to board games, wind yarn, knit the yarn, shop for graphic novels, read the graphic novels, write my first blog post in two months, help clear the backlog of TWPL paperwork that's been building for 4 months, organize the files on my hard drive, begin organizing the hard drives of two school computers, attend meetings, schedule more meetings, spend unusually long amounts of time preparing tutorial materials, going to band rehearsals, and sleeping. I don't watch much TV, but that's just because TV truly sucks, for which I suppose I should be grateful.

But I still can't deal with the work thing. I have a paper to rewrite to journal submission size and send it. I have an article to edit. I have crucial emails to send about upcoming work that I'm avoiding. I have a second general's paper to start - which should have been started two months ago and which must be finished and defended by April - and it's taken me 3 months to come to the conclusion that I'll have to revise the old term paper I already have rather than start something new. I spent months trying to think of something, anything that I could do besides rework that fucking paper, and yet here I now am, resigned to my fate and no further along than I was in the spring. I have a pile of grading staring at me, which must be done before I leave for the conference, and since that's in two days, it won't be.

I want to cry. But I'm too busy avoiding all of these obligations to cry about them. That would be admitting I'm in a hole and won't see the light of day for the next month.

Perhaps I should go and do fieldwork. See, linguists who go away on trips to do fieldwork are smart. They have a reason for not getting anything else done, for not taking on any other obligations. They simply won't be around. They have to devote their time completely to their fieldwork while they're there, in order to make the most of the short time. Good linguists do fieldwork. Better linguists do a lot of extended fieldwork. I have done no fieldwork - I use written sources for my data. What kind of linguist does that make me? One who likes her home and her non-academic life just the way it is, that's what. I refuse to sacrifice my happy home life to the gaping maw of academia. I will not move to where the jobs are. I will not spend months away from my husband in order to emmerse myself in field study. There has to be a middle ground. I have to find a way to have both.

I'm surrounded by fellow students who are either gung-ho about finishing their degree "on time" and other students who are, quite simply, angry. Angry about the demands and expectations placed on them, angry that those who came before them were given more time to discover their paths and take their time while we are now expected to "just get it done" and are being threatened with having our program terminated if we don't conform to an arbitrary timeline. And then there are those who are past anger and into resignation. That they might never finish. That they will have to go through this hell and jump through the hoops for 1, 2, 3 more years before they're done. These are smart people. Hard-working people. A lot of them are better linguists than I am.

Time to brush the cat.

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