I’m gonna stop now.

I’m getting shortlisted for jobs but unfortunately I’m bombing out in the interviews. Next week is my last job interview. I’ll be retiring after this. It’s too hard to keep going.

What friends and family fail to understand is that I’m really terrible at Vivas. I seem quite robust and confident, but I panic when spoken words are required. So interviews, which are vivas for jobs, do me in. I can’t think on my feet. I respond to fairly asinine questions with even more asinine answers, and don’t even ask me to tell you a story about how magnificently I managed something. I won’t remember it, thus will panic and relate instead some terrible unrelated story.

I can’t remember my value proposition, and I think I’ve reached the end.

I’m done now.

Also, I think I’ll take a little break from this blog. If you’re all still interested in my renovations you can access my other blog The House That Jess Built at brisvegashome.wordpress.com, in which I chat about the endless house painting I seem to do.

Thanks so much for reading and sharing my research journey and other life events with me. I have really valued the small community I joined, your kind words and commentary, and camaraderie.

Take care.

 

 

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So. Two interviews then.

It never rains but it pours.

Two research job interviews within a week of each other. I know which one I’d take, but what if I were offered both?

Luckily, each position is part-time. It could work, totally. I could totally do them both. One finishes in December, while the other is a 2.5 year 3 and a half days per week gig. I could totally fit them both in.

Today is a good day.

happy dance

Getting Gritty with it: the real thing

So here’s a thing. I’ve begun some long overdue editing work. It’s kinda boring, because it’s editing, y’all, but I discovered something. In doing this, I want to start writing again. The editor of the book is a personal friend and writing colleague, and the book is about a particular form of qualitative research called Narrative Inquiry, which is my thing.

Narrative Inquiry methods “story” the data and findings. In lay terms, we make meaning of social science research by putting raw data into a readily readable narrative for humans to connect to. In true terms it’s of course a rather messy and frustrating approach to analyse data but in meaning-making it beats most quantitative studies in the social sciences, because in the end quantitative researchers, with all their numbers, still have to put their discussions of the findings in ways that make it meaningful to humans. In narrative form. Often in the form of storied case studies, that sort of thing. Which Narrative Inquiry does from the get-go. Does it make the research any less rigorous? No, however, there may be ways of interpreting the research that quantitative researchers find using other means. Now, remember folks, I said the SOCIAL SCIENCES. NOT medical or earth sciences, or biotech or any kind of tech, really. Medicine and biological sciences need quantitative data much more than, arguably, the social sciences do.

As I’m sitting here doing the editing (which has to be done in little increments because it’s impossible to focus for more than an hour at a time on the stuff without losing the will to live), I’m all fired up and excited about writing again. I’ve offered to write a chapter in the book – according to my friend the volume’s a little short, so I’ve taken the bait. I had originally offered to write something about 100 years ago but I wasn’t in a good emotional space to be doing that, so I never submitted an abstract. I’ve given myself a 2 week turnaround for a rough draft of 8000 words. This doesn’t seem overly onerous, but there’s a whole heap of extra research and reading to do.

For every article I reference, there’s about 5 I read and discard. So if I include 50 references then I’ll need to read up to 250 articles for this chapter. Luckily I already know the field so more than half of the references are stored away in my brain somewhere, to be dragged out as a hoarder drags out his favourite rusting, teensy doo-dad from under the piles of equally rusting detritus, which he kept just in case. I’m going to send my friend the rough draft in early March and she can make the decision as to whether it’s good enough for inclusion. It’s a tight turn-around but it’s doable. The review process might be problematic because it’s usually very slow but the editors will no doubt send it to someone in the field who is known to do things quickly.

Seriously. It’s not as if I have better things to do with my time.

On the the Live Below the Line thing. I’ve been having another think about my starchy foods, and I’ve taken a little inventory of the food I usually eat on a normal day. Toast, eggs, sandwiches, pasta. I’m thinking I could buy a loaf of day-old bread from the bakery (cheap as chips), and some ready-made pasta, and this will do me just fine for 5 days with the other things. I’ll need to get fighting fit for the challenge. Perhaps a 2-day challenge to see how I cope with no coffee and wine? Not that this will hurt me, as my girth is back to its old chubster state.

I’m thinking on it. As you may have noticed, I’m a problem solver and this problem is rather delicious to play with. Also worthy. And as a cis-heteronormative white woman living near the 1% dream, I have very few excuses to shirk my duty as concerned world citizen. 😉

Sayonara!

The wheels of change grind slowly…and then they don’t

Feeling slightly bloggy today. That is, I want to be saying something, yet I’ve nothing much to say.

This week is the week of waiting and editing. Waiting for the bathroom to be done (ONLY the electrician is left now); waiting for some editing jobs to come in; waiting for Friday.

Friday is job interview day. I’m asking myself why I’m not walking the dog or doing some shopping but hey, there’s not much to be doing here other than TV watching (now onto season 3 of The Good Wife – a step down from The West Wing because it’s not as complex and just a little bit more melodramatic, but otherwise excellent).

I’m waiting for something to start. And start it has. I’ve just had a phone call from a colleague who may have some project work for me. So for a few weeks at least, if I don’t get the Friday job I now have some editing work, a DECRA grant to prepare, teaching singing to organise (although not much because I’ve been winding it down slightly), a possible project, and 4 singing gigs.

The year is gearing up again. So I really should be planning my research work. For those who care, I have a PhD in music. I have a bunch of stuff to do with this research, even if I don’t have a paid job to go to. I could plan and write my monograph, I could write a couple of research articles. However, as everyone in research knows, writing research articles is like pulling teeth. I get engrossed in it but I hate starting it off. It’s like writing a term paper but much, much harder. Nearly everyone you know hated writing undergraduate term papers. It’s no different just because I’m a grown-up. Luckily everyone I know procrastinates on journal articles, too.

Stooges pulling teeth

Anyway, so. Editing. It’s a thing. Yesterday I wrote a Flash Fiction piece, 130 words long. Today I edited it. Let go, much? It’s better, but not much better. I read it aloud this time. It helps to read stuff out aloud. One gets a feel for scansion, flow, word placement, comma placement, narrative and dramatic tension. I’m no good with grammar rules or poetry / narrative / syntax / phrase rules – I wasn’t taught any memorable English language rules as a child, and as an adult I struggle to retain information like that. I might remember a Kardashian moment, but I won’t remember syllable emphasis. I have to go with intuitive rhythmic/ melodic placement of the spoken word.

editor_2

Fiction so short is like poetry. Smells, sights, sounds, interactions, and a narrative arc told in 100 words. Brevity is vital, quality is paramount. No passive voice. Very few adjectives. The right word for the right scene, no excess or repetition unless the repetition adds narrative value. Tricky but doable. I’m getting better at it, I think. At least, my eye is sharpening.

So, waiting and editing is my thing this week. And now: to walk the dog.

Adios!

 

 

Today is a good day.

A new day, a new year, a new life, a new something else.

For those who are interested, I left the house. Yes, I have been a little bit agoraphobic. It basically comes down to this: if I leave the house I know I’m going to spend money, so best not.

I had breakfast with a girlfriend. It was good. A delicious Eggs Benny with bacon (that’s an Eggs Benedict for people not in Australia – we insist on shortening every proper noun). Then I went and deposited a cheque, and then I bought more groceries because that’s what I do when I’m about to be seriously broke.

And then I watched the last 5 episodes of the 7th and final season of the West Wing. Who do I love the most? CJ Cregg? Toby Ziegler? Josh Lyman? Donna Moss? Leo McGarry? Sam Seaborn? The completely hunky Matthew Santos? (I’m talking characters here, he’s the even more gorgeous Jimmy Smits in real life). I probably love CJ the most. She’s the woman every strong woman wants to be. Smart, funny, thin and fashionable, driven, in charge. But Josh Lyman. The thinking girl’s hunka hunka burning-up-because-he-never-sleeps love. And we all know he had a six pack under those white shirts (thank goodness they finally started wearing white shirts by the end – grey and green blech at the start). And then there’s Eeyore Toby Ziegler. Soulful, sad, smart, a little bit morally superior, with brown eyes to die for. And Donna Moss, the character who grew the most over 7 seasons and who steadfastly loved her man despite him being an idiot. I loved these characters and I loved the actors and I loved the show and I loved that after Aaron Sorkin left the 5th season the show got a bit meaner and sadder and more difficult. It needed it. Sorkin lives for the soapbox and his characters are well-meaning but a little morally elevated and a touch grandiose. The writers who took over insisted on making the characters more human. It had a remarkably consistent cast, all of whom came back for the final few episodes. It wasn’t perfect TV but it was close enough for me. I shall miss it. That’s no joke – it was 125 hours of TV, 156 episodes. I’m nearly ready to begin The Good Wife, but I’ll need a few weeks of mourning time for my favourite ever TV show.

westwing

Perhaps I should start to read The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro, now sitting on my bedside table, and begin my Goodreads pledge.

In other news I’ve been sniffing around for work and have been offered a bit of copy-editing to do. It’s boring work but I learn stuff every time I do it, and I don’t have to teach people, so yes, thanks! to that. And I’m about to start gunning for an ARC DECRA. I have interest from a local uni who have offered to sponsor me and give me support to apply. Wow.

Today is a GOOD day.

 

 

Weekend coffee share

If we were having coffee you’d notice I like my coffee in strong espresso form. Black. 2 cups. You’d see me drinking out of a bright red espresso cup, thick rimmed and sturdy, with a white interior. You’d be sitting with me in my new study area, me at my desk and you in the old velvet chair in the corner. You’d notice I’ve brought 2 house plants in there because the room is bright and light filled and you’d wonder whether I’ll remember to water them because I always forget and I’m near-famous for my black thumbs. 

We’d be talking about what’s going on in my life and I’d tell you about the disappointment I felt on Friday when I opened the rejection letter regarding my first-ever Post Doc application. I’d tell you how sad this rejection makes me and how that even though I knew it was an exciting project, well constructed and useful to the institution to which I applied, that the competition was always going to be fierce. And I’d tell you that while the assessment panel didn’t seem to have issues with the project itself my submission just wasn’t as good as other applications because my publication track record wasn’t strong enough and my project’s alignment with the Research Centre research areas wasn’t as close as other submissions. 

And if we were having coffee you’d notice I would be crying because I have no resilience in the face of failure. You’d be chiding me for my distress and telling me it’s just one rejection out of many to follow and that Post Docs are notoriously difficult to get. You’d be telling me to pull my socks up, suck it up and go for the next thing, and the next, and the next. You’d be telling me about all those people in their 40s who applied for hundreds of jobs before they succeeded. You’d be reminding me about the experience of my own supervisor who for three years unsuccessfully tried to get a Post Doc, until she got lucky.

You’d be telling me to become more competitive: get that book written; publish journal articles from my thesis, be more strategic. 

And I’d be inconsolable because I know that approach might be good for younger people; people in their late 20s and 30s. People who are hungrier than me, more desperate. Try telling that to a woman in her mid forties with time running out of employability because there are people younger and hungrier than me, and HR departments filled with people who’d prefer younger employees because ageing is an impediment to job creation. And I’d tell you the sad truth that without institutional affiliation any academic work I do will lack value. 

And I’d look at you trying to make you understand that it’s not even about that; it’s that I can’t cope with failure and that I don’t bounce back and that I don’t have reserves of resilience because I think I’m just a bit beaten by life. And that if I look at my life it’s characterised by me surviving, not thriving. That at every roadblock I’ve experienced in my life I’ve not found another way through: I’ve just given up. And if we were having coffee I’d tell you how I don’t know why I’m like this. But I’d tell you how in my childhood I was always the same. That I was terribly sensitive and would withdraw at the first sign of difficulty. That I would give up rather than try to finish something if it got hard. 

And I would cry again because I don’t want to feel so damned sensitive and skittish. I would recite to you the quote from LOTR, spoken by Galadriel as she refused Frodo’s offer of the Ring: “I will diminish, and go into the West”. I would tell you about the fear I have of diminishing. Of becoming useless and of losing value; of having no worth. And you would see the frustration I feel at not having hard ambition and the resilience to get back up, dust myself off and try again. You would wonder why I have such little self confidence that one little rejection can floor me. You would ask why I chose to enter a field-music-that is so competitive you need to have nerves of steel to succeed. 

I would tell you I don’t know. 

Whoops. Well, that was quick.

I quit my job on Friday. It’s a casual singing teacher job at the local university which pays by the hour. It’s well paid but without any entitlements such as sick leave. I was due to work 120 hours this semester which is a substantial amount of money for what amounts to 3 full-time weeks worth of work. Problem was, a student decided they wanted to quit mid-year and learn from someone else, and then I was informed my pay scale was being reduced by $24 an hour. The combination of those two events tipped me over the edge. They were the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

I have been struggling with teaching for a while now. I am not a vocational educator. That is, I went into teaching because it was convenient. Teaching allowed me to take school holidays with my kids, it stopped me from being really poor and it was a stopgap between what I really wanted to do and poverty. As a performing artist, teaching is a valuable means of support between gigs. Paid by the hour, it’s quite lucrative. Divided by the year it’s not, but my work is specialised. 

I’m a good teacher. But I’m not a natural one. I’ve had to work hard to be competent because it’s a draining and exhausting occupation for an introvert. I give a lot of myself. The relationship between singer and teacher is pretty intense because of the complex interchange of embodied instrument and soul urge and sense of self. So when a student decides they want to change teachers it’s heartbreaking. There’s a lot of trust that goes into the relationship. Last week that trust was broken by this student, 3 days before the start of semester. 

Now, in my private practice I don’t give a rats if students want to leave. We’re performing a transaction here and it’s a negotiated one with a financial basis. They come and go and I don’t mind. They originally chose to approach me and I agreed to teach them. That’s fine. I have the authority and responsibility to control and conduct my business as I see fit. You’re only bound by the length of the invoice. So if students choose to stay it’s a positive affirmation of your worth. At the same time, I can choose to cease teaching a student if they’re not up to scratch. 

But in my tertiary position I wasn’t able to select the students.  So when they wanted to shift teachers I had no recourse. It’s a finite pool of students and I couldn’t just fill the space with another student. When you take on a tertiary student you are basically taking them on for 3 years. It’s a long term arrangement. Therefore you plan their education accordingly, and you can only trust that they will accept this long term planning. It’s also about sustaining a positive relationship with the student over this time. So when a student quits, it feels like you’re being told you’re not worth the investment. That’s heartbreaking. 

I’ve had a few moments like this in the last 6 months, and it has been getting to me. Last week I was given a teaching commendation by the university. Awarded every year to the top 3% of teachers across the university (that’s about 60 teachers, so guess the size of our academic staff), it’s based on our student evaluations of our teaching. Students have said they like me. It’s now proven. But if one rejection can send me in a tailspin it’s time to reevaluate my priorities. 

I felt like I was the teacher students wanted to switch from. It became a trickle I couldn’t control and it was impacting on my mental health. Combine this drop in self esteem with a kick-in-the-teeth pay reduction 3 days before the start of semester and I was done. No loyalty to their staff? I felt no loyalty to the university after these events. Luckily as a casual staff member without a contract or entitlements all I needed to do was give an hour’s notice of intent to quit. 

What about your other students, I hear you ask. What about leaving the department in the lurch? Actually, loyalty to the department is only as good as the treatment of its staff. I was not being treated kindly or well. As for the students: I’ll miss them. But I had stopped trusting them. I never knew which of my students would decide to up and leave my studio. Every semester I would hold my breath, waiting for the axe to fall. The anxiety was too much. And too painful. Because as a teacher you love your students very much. You want the best for them and you give them every opportunity to achieve their goals. But if every semester you wonder if you’re going to be dumped you start to protect yourself emotionally and this is not a good place from which to be teaching. It burns you out.

On top of this was my desire to do something that filled my soul’s urge. I’ve finished my PhD. I have the floppy hat picture and the testamur and the conferral letter. What now?

Well, it was time to give myself a push. Take a risk. Take a leap into the unknown. Challenge myself and stop using teaching as my safety blanket. 

I have a book proposal to write. I have jobs to apply for. I have a house to renovate and children to care for. I have a supportive, loving husband whose salary can support us for a little while on one income, and I have some new directions to find. I have a mid life crisis to manage! 

Time for a change. 

Submission feels good, m’kay?

Hah! Got you there. You thought it was a BDSM site. Nah, I’m not into that kind of submission. Ew. Each to their own. Aaaanyhoo.

I submitted my Post Doc application today. The first of many, probably. But I got it signed off by my Research Centre Director, so that’s just the first step of joy in a long, long, long process that will probably be ultimately unsuccessful. And it’s the first independent study I’ve had an idea about since I had the aha moment to begin the PhD.

Why would I want to do any more study, my mother asks. Well, mum, I say, vaguely annoyed that she thinks that research is about studying when clearly to her I’ve been a “doing” person all my life (singing, teaching, NOT studying or writing down stuff or learning stuff). Um. Because I like learning about stuff, mum? And it’s an interesting job?

Now get this. My sister (Australian Indigenous Rights lawyer) has been “studying” her whole adult life, because most of her work is doing stuff like looking up stuff and writing down stuff and that sort of thing, reports and such. She is also undertaking PhD studies (submitting hers 7 months after I submitted mine), and she just got a great new job at uni. Blessed mum has not said anything remotely like this about my sister’s new job at the university, which is also about research and teaching. And studying.

SIGH. Apparently being a teacher and singer means I don’t write down a thing. Um. Yes I do. It’s kind of amusing to wonder what my mum and dad think my job actually is. I co-edited a book with DH about teaching singing. My name was on the cover. I sent a photo of me holding my book pointing to my name. On the cover. My mum and dad thought my DH had written the book ON HIS OWN. Even though my NAME WAS ON THE COVER.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my mum and dad to bits, they are awesome, generous, kind, thoughtful, lovely people. They are sending me and the fam to France to spend 2 weeks together in a CHATEAU. They paid for the plane tickets. They lent me a lot of money to buy our house. They are AWESOME. But moments like that give me pause. I mean, c’mon! My NAME WAS ON THE COVER.

Anyway. Life is pretty good, actually, proofs have come for my journal article which I have to complete by this week because Spain, and my students all seem to think I’m ok. Which is good, I guess.

But I want that Post Doc. I really, really do.

The job hunt begins in earnest!

I am well aware of the futility of that statement. As a woman in her mid-forties, walking into a new job in any field is near impossible. I mentioned it to hubby today because I realised I will need to earn an income over the summer months: that’s November, December, January and February.

I will be without an income during that time (and possibly longer because who knows whether I get to keep my current contract into 2016?!). Now DH earns nearly enough to support us both, but given our current expenditure and his ongoing child support payments and school fees, his nett income is not enough to carry us through. So I need to work. Besides, I get bored, grumpy and too hot if I have to stay at home in summer.

I am currently preparing some fellowship and Post Doc applications. I am not expecting to succeed in my first few attempts so I will have to prepare myself to fail this year. So that leaves me with a very uncertain future in 2016.

On the plus side, here is a photo of my bound thesis (name hidden for privacy reasons): huzzah!

 

Thesis

I’m a little bit proud of this one.

So I’m preparing a book proposal based on my thesis. I have to prepare a book chapter, which will probably be harder than writing the actual thesis itself, if for no other reason than I have to humanise it. I can write quite well but rewriting for a semi-lay audience is a little more difficult. And I have to prove it’s worth publishing, too!

So 2015. The year of grant writing, book proposals, Fellowship and Post Doc applications. Fun.