Now and again, when the trade winds blow just right, I spend my Fridays thinking about questions for the Fashion and Beauty Friends group that Katy at Modly Chic poses. This week, our topic comes from this thought: we all have dreams, goals, aspirations. Putting them down
on paper is often the first step to realizing those dreams. So!
1. Fess up – if you could do anything professionally what would it
be? I want to be an English professor, which is why I’m in a Ph.D. program. If I’m being really specific, I want to teach at a small but rigorous liberal arts college, teaching upper division English courses in postmodernism and literary theory and working in the composition program, both as a teacher and as an administrator, working to make composition programs better and more useful. I want to have small class sizes and actually teach my own classes, but I also want to have time to devote to my own research and to conferencing, publishing, writing, etc. I want to live near the campus (preferably in the Pacific Northwest or some other wonderful place that isn’t LA) so that I can invite students over to my house once in a while for coffee and cake and literary conversation. I want to be involved in campus clubs and events, as an advisor perhaps for the English honor society or the campus feminist club, and I want to sing in a faculty choir. I want to defeat the two-body problem and have a few dogs. I want to be the kind of mentor that I so loved as an undergrad and be really and passionately involved in my students’ lives while also continuing to push myself as a scholar.
2. What draws you to this? Oy. Well. I was an actress for a long time, most of my childhood in fact, and it took me a while to realize that though I love performing, I wasn’t intellectually stimulated by the work; I like to think about how a play works rhetorically as much as I like to perform it. This lead naturally to academia, which is intellectual theatre through and through. I like reading and thinking and talking about things and researching and teaching and writing and thinking some more and staying up late and getting lost in books and drinking too much coffee and getting caught up in an idea and reading and reading and reading. So really, I have nothing else to do with those desires.
3. When did you first start dreaming about this ideal? It wasn’t until I was in my junior year of undergrad that I realized I loved academia and wanted to be a part of it forever. But once I realized that I had what it takes (and I do still wonder all the time if I have what it takes), then I was on the path and nothing was going to stop me.
4. What’s holding you back from going all in? I am all in! Honestly, this is not a reasonable thing for anyone to do, this whole Ph.D. thing. If there was anything else I could do or loved to do, then I would try to do that, because I’m looking down the barrel at a long, hard slog through my doctorate and into an uncertain future that carries no guarantee of a job or a career or even a paycheck once I’m done. Here’s what a Ph.D. looks like: I’m already thousands of dollars in debt from my undergraduate degree. I’ll spend 5 or 6 years here getting paid subsistence-level wages to teach the classes professors don’t want to touch, taking really difficult seminars, getting my ass handed to me by professors, taking a round of brutal exams, sitting oral exams, and then writing a dissertation. After I defend that thing (which, by the by, should be anywhere from 300 to 500 pages long), I’ll be sent out into the job market where hopefully I’ll land a tenure-track professorship somewhere in the country I want to live and at an institution that I want to work for and near enough to wherever my partner (also a Ph.D.) landed that I can make a life there. Oy. So I’m all in, baby, whether it’s a wise choice or not.
This picture accurately sums up my feelings on the Ph.D. process: I can run screaming from this huge thing with claws and teeth that wants to tear me apart, or I can fight it back as hard and try to rip it up before it gets me, or I can embrace it and love it and try to make something beautiful out of it. I’m working on living the latter choice.
5. Sometimes the first step is the hardest… what’s one step you can
take now on the way to realizing your dream? I’ve just got to keep working, one step at a time, towards a future that I can feel proud of. If I try to think about the big picture (see above), then I get al bogged down in the overwhelming craziness of it all. Instead, I try to just think one year ahead at a time — this year I’ll take some classes, teach some classes, speak at some conferences, begin crafting my exams reading list, etc. — and not get too fixated on what’s coming in two years, three years, four insane years on. That’ll happen on it’s own, so my job is to be here, where I am, now and let my future work itself out on its own.