I am in a bit of a strange place in my life right now. Old things are ending but new things have yet to begin. A week ago was officially my last week of my last quarter as a student in Oxford. I have […]
To be honest I had a hard time finding a T-Swift song to match my life right now, probably because my life is pretty different from Taylor’s! In college I felt like almost all her songs spoke to me in some way, but her more recent stuff hasn’t hit the same chords with me. Most of my favorite Taylor songs are from those college years, but I couldn’t truly choose most of them because they remind me more of how my life used to be than what it is right now.
In the end I picked Taylor Swift’s “Ours.” It’s typical of the kind of song of hers I like, cute and happy (not like her edgier new stuff). The lyrics don’t actually reflect my life that well because I don’t actually think I’m going through any kind of rough patch, but one scene in the music video fit me so perfectly that I actually laughed out loud. Taylor’s at work in her boring office , and when she goes to the copy machine, it’s out of paper. She comes back and it’s still not working. She comes back with a new toner cartridge and the copier isn’t even there! This is so typical of how “technology” works at my school. The internet is working, then suddenly it isn’t, then suddenly it is but half the websites are blocked, etc. We have constant issues with our printers and copiers, and I end up sending passive aggressive emails to our tech guy 3-4 times per week when I go to print something and find that there’s no paper, again. These are minor annoyances, but they’re the kind of thing that grates after a while. We’ve even had a couple of teachers up and quit already this year because they couldn’t handle all the things that just don’t work right.
I guess what I’m saying is, the worst things in my life right now are really quite minor, stuff like being frustrated about a broken printer. The rest of it is like the upbeat, catchy tune of this song: fun and happy.
Hmm. Tough question. Not only because I feel slightly removed from Taylor Swift and her music lately, but also because I have no idea how I feel about my life right now. I went to a doctor’s appointment last week and they asked me to talk a little about my life – you know, small talk to make me feel comfortable – and I had a really hard time answering. I told them I work a lot, which is definitely true, but I felt really weird that I didn’t have a solid answer for who I was. I know I like things, and do things, and work towards things, but lately (and maybe always) I feel pretty unsure of whether I’m taking steps to become who I want to be. Most days I’m fine, there are things to do, distractions to take over, but other times I let the fear in and worry that I’m missing out on something.
So after a few lyric searches and YouTube videos, I’ve settled on Change as the song that best represents my life right now. It’s a positive anthem about how life is hard sometimes but also a reminder that as long as we don’t give up, things will get better. I don’t necessarily feel like anyone is pushing me down, or even that my life is particularly difficult right now, but I like the idea that the more we do fall and struggle, the stronger we become. Sure, I’m a bit lost right now, but as long as I keep moving forward and winning little battles within myself I’m still good.
Because these things will change.
So, in case anyone forgot, I am currently pursuing my doctorate at a very big name school in the UK—you know, the one with all the medieval buildings with walls like castles… And this year, I have even gotten the chance to teach a group of undergraduate students, which has been great. Most of the time I love this place. I really do.
But there is just one thing that gets to me. It’s called elitism. I have to admit: this school is an elitist place. Now, I know this might come as no surprise: Havard, Yale- most famous universities- somehow hold this special reputation. However, I myself had never really felt this before- or at least not nearly to this extent- before I started teaching.
It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what is wrong. Is it the nice clothes people wear? Is it the fact that at lunch there are ‘staff’ who come and take away your used dishes? Is it the fact that at dinner there are two many forks and strange silver goblets to drink out of? None of these things are very wrong in and of themselves, and most could be shared by any group of profession people (well, probably minus the silver goblets). But underneath it all, I feel something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
I can honestly say that I never really encountered social classes before I came to England, at least not the way it is here. The difference was illuminated for me by Harry Potter. One day my friend explained to me: “Americans are always describing the Weasleys as ‘lower class’” she said, “but I had to explain to them: no, the Weasleys are upper class, they just don’t have any money.”
I honestly think that this example helped me to understand a true difference between our two cultures. In the US, everything is money, money, money. You either have it, or you don’t. But in the England, it’s something different. Sure, money still matters but so does something else, something like breeding. I think it comes from the influence of having a landed aristocracy for so long (and although they are less powerful now, it certainly still exists).
Although it is subtle, class difference is definitely there, and British are if anything way more tuned into this than I could ever be. It’s not just what you wear, it’s how you move, it’s what you like to eat, but most importantly: it’s your accent. Brits can tell everything from your accent: where you are from, did you a ‘posh’ school, etc. And it matters.
Honestly, I hate this. I hate the sense of entitlement and class that abounds here. The sense of being better than everyone else, something which if anything is only enhanced by attending a school like Oxford. Now, I am not trying to bash on England, or on my university– I could go on and on about the things I love about this place. But I have to say, this is something that really bothers me, and one of biggest fears is that elitism will slowly, subtly worm its way into me too.
This year I have been teaching for the first time. I am teaching first year undergraduates Old English. And it’s great! Except, you know, when it’s a pain. In this post I decided to write my thoughts about the best- and worst- things about […]
Dudes, you want to know something scary? I have started to think about… jobs. It’s a terrifying word, I know.
I’ve still got some time but I feel the scariness of job-hunting breathing down my neck; soon it will catch up with me. I am in third year of my PhD right now, with the aim of finishing in my fourth. So, while I don’t need a job RIGHT THIS SECOND, I have realized that pretty soon (like really soon) I need to start thinking about them. If I want to have something lined up when I finish my PhD then I probably need to be applying this fall… If I want to be applying this fall, I should probably have some programs picked out by the summer. AND SUMMER IS COMING SOON!
I am not looking forward to the process. First, it will distract me and I am already busy enough finishing my PhD. But secondly, I just hate applying for things. It is all pride, and this-is-how-good-I-am, and this-is-how-relevant-my-research-is… basically: yay me! And then you have to get recommendations, where you have to ask people to write a letter for you… just so they in turn can boast about how great you are, and how much better than anyone else you would be for the position.
There is just something fake feeling about the whole process.
Beyond just not liking to apply, however, there is the hard truth that academic jobs are incredibly scarce. When it comes to applying for post-decorate positions you always hear about people applying to tons and tons of places and never getting it. Of course, all aspects of academia are competive, but I have been observing this post-doc horror lately in the life of one of my friends. This fellow friend from the monk house (the cool where I live) finished his PhD over the summer and spent all fall applying for positions. And now is … being rejected. He applied to something like 18 positions and has heard now from all but two. Rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection. I mean, it could be one of the last two- but the situation isn’t looking good.
This is what we are told to expect, but still- it’s hard to keep your spirits up when program after program rejects the proposals you have slaved over, trying to perfect every aspect.
I don’t look forward to it.
Luckily, I don’t absolutely need to find a job next fall, because I could probably keep teaching at my university and earn enough to get by. Then, the year after I finish my degree, I could keep applying. So at least there is a backup plan. But still… where did my carefree days without applications go? So quickly they fled!
Le foglie.. cadono bene.. riescono a mettere una loro ultima bellezza in questo viaggio, sia pur breve, dal ramo alla terra.. E, malgrado il terrore di imputridire, vogliono che questa loro caduta abbia la grazia di un volo..
[O child of many winds! As suddenly / thou comest as the memory of a dream / Which now is sad because it hath been sweet.]
So, as you have all heard, Cinderslut has become a teacher. She’s passed all of her classes, done her student teaching, and landed herself a new teaching job this fall. Many congrats to her! However, this post is about me. It turns out that two of the naughty princesses will be teachers this year. My life got turned upside down about a month ago when—out of the blue—a professor I know emailed and offered me a teaching job. Now, in America being a Teaching Assistant is an integral part of most PhD programs. However, in the UK teaching experience can be hard to come by and teaching an entire course is definitely not a given. So basically: I had to take the job. Although I am both flattered and excited, I have to admit: the prospect of teaching this class is pretty scary to me. As I did my undergraduate in the US, I am not super familiar with the systems employed for undergraduates at my university. Almost everything is different than what I am used to: classes, lectures, and tutorials are all separate things, and students aren’t given exams and their papers don’t have scores—instead their entire grade is calculated after two weeks of exams that happen at the end of their final year. My undergraduate experience was nothing like that! The other scary thing is that practically no assistance has been given me in crafting this class. There is no established structure or routine; instead, all I keep hearing is ‘everyone does things differently. Figure out what you like!’ Now on some fronts, this is empowering. I can teach however I like; I can structure the class to emphasize what I think is important; I even get to decided when and how often we meet. Empowering for sure, but also… terrifying. Especially as a first time teacher, I wouldn’t mind having more structure given me. I am worried about making the wrong choices, worried my class will be less good than those given by other teachers who have had a few years to iron out wrinkles. I feel a bit like I have been tossed into the water—it’s sink or swim. Hopefully I will be swimming like a dolphin sometime soon (or at least flopping around like a jellyfish).