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!

 

 

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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.

 

Doctor, Doctor, give me the news!

And the news is…drumroll…

I am now a Doctor of Philosophy. Apparently I was conferred last week. Who knew?!

I just got the letter today asking me to confirm my mailing address. And to pay my long-overdue library fine. In the same letter. Different paragraphs. But only just.

The subject line was: Clarification of address for RHD Testamur, Transcript and AHEGS. Nothing about conferral of my degree, for which I have been waiting 10 days.

But the first paragraph reads: Congratulations on fulfilling all requirements to be awarded your Doctor of Philosophy degree.  Your conferral date is 27 February 2015 (this being the date that your award was signed off by the Provost).

Gee, thanks for that.

Then they say in the next paragraph: I note that you currently have an outstanding library fine. It would be in your best interests to pay this fine as soon as possible. Failure to pay may affect future applications to the University.

Erm, not sure what I would be applying to the Uni to do – I’ve done the highest student study I can do – the only thing I have left is a DECRA or some sort of Post-Doc (not bloody likely).

Then they request confirmation of my address for sending out of testamurs etc.

Ta da. I guess this means my student days are OVAH.

And now for my next trick: watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.

 

 

D Day awaits

Oh. My. God. The waiting. I received an email this morning telling me that once I had followed a series of complicated instructions to the LETTER I would be conferred in my degree. They were very pleased.

For the third time, I have uploaded my FINAL thesis copy to the university’s espace. I have resubmitted my 800 word abstract, my keywords, my FoR code. (190499 for those of you interested). Three times.

Apparently this is normal. Now I await the email confirming I have done this and instructing me on the next bit. Then I have to upload a 100 word abstract and confirm the title is correct.

After all confirmations have been received, I can call myself Doctor. Some time today. 😃

Then someone will send me another email telling me my award has been conferred. Then someone will send me a print version of my certificate I think. Then I will be able to get print copies organised. I think. Who knows?

It’s the FINAL COUNTDOWN

Well, (you know, I’ve learned I frequently begin my sentences with “well”, or “so”, and I keep removing them so it doesn’t become boring). Let’s start again. Well. I met with my supervisors today and my thesis is, wait for it, drum roll… FINISHED!!!!

I uploaded the final documents with the corrections to the E-space. Sometime tomorrow the grad school will send on the corrected thesis to my supervisor, who has already seen the document (circular, much?), and then my supervisor plus other important people will sign something that says, yep, this thesis is fine, and then someone else will sign the conferral document, the grad school may read the changes too, they will sign the conferral document, and then, a maximum of 10 days after this, I will become a Doctor of Philosophy.

I dare not add the doctor moniker to my name until it is conferred, but I really really want to. When I renew my passport (to be done quite soon because Europe) I’m definitely adding it. When I’m introduced to my new students by my boss I’m definitely making him add it. Because I think I’ll be conferred pretty soon – like, in 2 or 3 weeks. And the Graduation ceremony is in late July, blessed be, so I won’t miss out on it while I’m away in Europe.

It’s all good. And now: cake. Well, ok, no cake, but I’ll walk the dog and feel virtuous and maybe play some computer games. BECAUSE I CAN!!!

(ps I’ve been exercising and it hurts a bit and I’m barely eating anything and now my stomach is eating itself but I am SO doing this dieting thing for my health and waistband.)

 

Calling yourself Dr.

So, my immediate question to myself upon reading my awesome email from the Grad School was this: when do I get to call myself Dr?

This is only important for the three months prior to calling yourself Dr when you’re desperate to get the degree conferred and the year or so after getting the Dr tag when you’re desperate to show it off. In my case, I need to know when I can call myself Dr so when I apply for loans, official documents, jobs, and other such nonsense people take me seriously. (As a 40-something-year-old woman, I am deeply distressed by the ongoing sexism inherent in our society which invariably determines that my husband’s sex, name and status is greater than my own, and that I have little to no legitimacy when buying a house or car, borrowing money or stating an opinion. Banks are particularly guilty of this sexism, as are car people. Cars and houses are about the most expensive assets/liabilities you will own and them that run the banks and car yards still seem to think I am unable to manage 1/ a car, 2/ a budget, 3/ signing stuff. I’m not sure my status will change very much given that as a woman I’m still a second class citizen, but I’m willing to give it a red hot go. Let’s see if anything changes. I know my DH is dying to call me his partner Dr O’B. He has even started calling me his partner and colleague when in polite company. I like this, because it raises my status from wife to academic, and we all know this is really important, amirite?!)

Also, and I think every Dr of Philosophy (and other) would agree with this, the doctoral journey is such a bloody hard one that the title is deserved in every way. But everyone else thinks the Dr title is a bit of a wank (everyone else who’s not working in academia tends not to appreciate the stupid amount of work that goes into getting this degree. Gardeners don’t get it. Chefs probably don’t get it. Certainly students don’t get it – they think it’s definitely a wank, but then they think everyone who is 5 years or more older than them is ancient and near death).

Aaanyway, so I think to myself, I’m sure there’s an answer somewhere about this. I’ll Google it. But before I Google it (or Bing it), I think to myself, I might just check and see if my alma mater says anything about it. I don’t really think they will, but hey, it’s worth checking at the source. So I get onto the Grad School website, and lo and behold, there it is, clearly a FAQ at the bottom of the thesis examination information: When can I be called a Dr?

The answer: If you are a PhD candidate you are able to use “Dr” once your degree has been conferred by the university.  The conferral process generally occurs within 10 days of receiving notification from the Graduate School that you have met degree requirements.

It’s still 2 weeks until I meet with my supervisors about my corrections (wot I have already done). I have a feeling they will sign off then and there as I meet this criteria:

Changes – Changes are required as indicated in examiners reports and are checked by the Chair of Examiners. Three (3) months are given for these changes to be made.

Then the thesis goes through this process:

If you are required to make changes to your thesis after its initial review, upload a copy of your corrected thesis to the university eSpace along with a list of the changes made. The Graduate School will forward these documents to your School/Institute for review by the Chair of Examiners, the Principal Advisor and the Postgraduate Coordinator. When the thesis has been reviewed and the revisions assessed as satisfactory, your School will forward a completed Recommendation to Confer Degree form to the Graduate School.

So, I will be able to make some further minor corrections to the thesis when I see my supervisors, but I’m not sure it will be wanted. I’ve already ticked off all the boxes and done the revisions. It’s made the thesis better.

This means that on the 2nd February or near to it I will upload the amended thesis, the list of corrections, and I’m pretty sure forms will be signed as quickly as humanly possible so that the School of Music can be rid of me once and for all.

So I think I will be able to call myself Dr sometime in March. That’s my forecast. The most peculiar thing about this process is that over the years I’ve had an ongoing nightmare: what if I die and my thesis is unfinished, or I lose all my data, or I lose all my words, or I’m on a plane crash and have to try and save my computer because it has all my data on it? These nightmares are real: they have happened to people I know. Well, maybe not the plane crash, but it’s possible.

Now I have worked out many ways to save my data short of printing it out, and about 10 people have copies of my thesis. I have a DropBox account which I LOVE, and flash drives are still good in a pinch. But now, I don’t care as much about saving my Very Important Work. It’s just not important enough. I’ve moved on. Which means, I guess, I deserve the Dr title very much.

I’ve got it, by George!

My dissertation has passed with minor changes. Huzzah!!!!

Just thought you’d like to know. Got the news on Xmas eve, a fabulous gift if ever I’ve had one. I was at the South Melbourne Market with friends, idly reading my mail because I truly did NOT expect any news about my PhD until after New Year. It’s Xmas, after all. People go on holidays at Xmas, and some universities shut down all together for a week. South Melbourne Market is a fabulous, noisy, busy market, doubly so on Xmas eve at 3pm. I was standing near the Gozleme stall (mmm, yummy yummy Gozlemes….), contemplating a late lunch.

Aaaanyway. The email subject header was: Outcome of Thesis Examination. Gulp. With kerthudding heart and trembly hands I tried to open the email on my big new shiny iPhone 6+, fumbling with gifts and bags and the crush of too many people having a good time. Too much noise. Appetite gone. I sat down on a bench. Legs not working too well.

The first thing I read: the Graduate School has now reviewed the examiners’ reports on your thesis and is pleased to advise that you will be awarded the degree, subject to completion of the following to the satisfaction of your enrolling School/Institute and the Dean of the Graduate School.

PLEASED TO ADVISE. The magic words. PLEASED TO ADVISE THAT YOU WILL BE AWARDED THE DEGREE. Ugg ugg ugg. PLEASED TO ADVISE!!!!!!!!

That’s all I managed to read for a bit.

After what seemed like a LONG time I read the rest of the email and eventually found the examiner’s comments. Huzzah. Positive comments mostly. A few critiques of analysis approaches and some awkward juxtapositioning of methods I needed to fix. Some minor editing throughout, and a minor exhortation to be consistent with meanings.

Otherwise easy peasy. Hooray!

Last week I did the changes. I know, I know: people who get their theses back are often shocked by the amount of changes they are asked to make. Not me: I’ve already published. I’m used to being critiqued. Also, being a musician, we’re always critiqued – it’s part of the feedback loop. Sing for someone, they tell you what to change, you change it. Done. Plus, I work better with concrete suggestions. I spent a week crafting the edits in line with the reports, then sent it to my supervisors. There are probably a couple more things I could do for added perfection, but I think I’m really done now.

In a few months, I will be a Doctor of Philosophy.

But don’t ask me to explain my thesis – I still can’t explain my study to the lay person without their eyes glazing over.

The Christmas special

This might be the last blog I write in 2014, as my time gets taken up with a ROAD TRIP south and Christmas celebrations with the family. I take a moment now to reflect on all the stuff that I have been through this year, and my plans for 2015. Take heed: it’s a long post. Grab a cup of tea and a biscuit.

Firstly, my beautiful daughter M. After coming out as transgender in September 2013, she moved unwillingly up north to Brisvegas in January of this year, to be cared for and supported by me and her step-father. This was a traumatic move for her, given her dislike of the hot humid state generally. She has been through a lot. So have we all as a family, now. M’s experiences as a transgender mtf woman have been typical of this marginalised group. She has been misgendered, she has suffered discrimination and abuse from trolls in Logan (a bogan suburb now proven beyond doubt), and despite help from health care professionals and a truck load of pills, she has suffered mightily from her own demons. These demons were the hardest to manage.

Before she found peace in her appearance with a stonking great new haircut and gorgeous red dye job, she was seriously depressed about it. Her male-pattern hair growth and male looks cause her great heartache, and she often thinks about suicide. My daughter is tall, model slender, and, to my mind, absolutely beautiful as a trans woman. As the female hormones kick in and the testosterone blockers do their work, she is becoming more feminine-looking, softer, and smoother, with clear, fine white skin and beautiful grey-green eyes. But she doesn’t yet see herself that way. She started hurting herself. It was a low point for me as a mother to see my beautiful girl cut into herself and hate herself so much.

It has taken quite a bit of encouragement to get her to see her health-care providers and manage her condition. She is not out of the woods yet. But already her increased medication is improving her well-being, and she is in contact with her health-care providers who have been very supportive. And of course, she talks to me, and I to her. Talking helps, and we are starting to see the triggers for her unhealthy behaviours. One of them is mis-gendering by strangers. She needs to call them out for it. Another trigger is her appearance and hair style. She needs to feel in control of that, and have enough funds to cover her look. I’m sure there are other triggers, and I’m sure one of them is me, when out of fear and concern I say things that might inadvertently hurt her.

But my daughter, despite living in the margins and interstices of life, can be incredibly black and white, and tends to stubbornness. Actually, she has always been as stubborn as a mule. Nothing there has changed since she was 2. And, bless her, she sometimes fails to give a little. We parents have to do all the compromising, and most of the time it’s fine. But there are some minor moments when we also need that compromise from her, and this is when the problems arise. Mostly it’s about the condition of her room, or her sporadic contribution to the housework, or the people she invites to stay over without asking us, or her clothing when she is going out with us. Stupid things. Adolescent things. Things that mean nothing in the grand scheme of life, but that mean a lot in the day-to-day living.

I finally snapped a few weeks ago and realised I needed support from others in a similar situation. I’ve contacted PFLAG in Brisvegas and already have had the most wonderful outpouring of support from parents with transgender adult children, who, like me, need someone to talk with and to share stories with.

But, more importantly, I’ve received the most wonderful support from my friends and family and work colleagues. They have been understanding, quiet, and caring. After all, there’s very little they can say or advise me on – they do not have the experience of this. Instead, they have listened, silently offered their friendship and love, and for that I am truly grateful. One great woman is Deb. Deb is M’s employer. M, with help from me, my boss and Deb, was given work near my work’s local coffee shop. M is fast becoming a great employee, given up to 25 hours work a week at the moment while another employee is on maternity leave. Deb has been a marvel of patience and love and I don’t know how to thank her enough.

Second on my list of 2014 happenings, I finally submitted my PhD. Today is the day when the reports are due back. As if. (Actually, I just checked online – one is already back. And now my stomach is churning.) But who knows? I certainly know I will be a Dr by this time next year, and with any luck I can call myself Dr by March next year, when it actually counts. In the end, the last gasp to the finish line wasn’t nearly so horrible as others make out. I took small vacation breaks to write in: 3 days here, a week there. And at the end, it was 2 hours here, a day there. After shrinking from my Lit review for most of the 5 years, I finally sat down to do it in July and found a way through. It was a rewarding, engrossing time of discovery and, once again, epiphany. The last 3 months of my PhD weren’t hard, as I have previously reported. On the advice of a friend, I compiled my entire thesis into one working document, formatted it early, got most of the frontispieces done (although obviously missed something as I had to keep going back and revising it for stupid bureaucratic reasons), and organised the appendices early too. That way, I was just adding to the lit review and the reference list as I went. My final weeks were about me reading the whole document through, finding tiny edits and enormous sentences and fixing both. In the end, I was writing as if I was dancing. It felt joyful.

But I didn’t really count on the grief I felt at finishing this big thing, and not having something else to work towards in the future. My job is peripatetic, without security, and I have no way of knowing what income I will receive next year. As someone who has struggled to get by for so long, I am rather sick of it. I have teaching at university since 2008, I’ve published and will continue to do so, I’m researching, I’m doing everything a good girl entering academia should do, but am struggling to convert all this work into a full-time gig. And I’m angry at the people who take the system for a ride and refuse to contribute while people like me are on the sidelines waving their arms about saying “pick me, pick me!” Anyway, grief and anger have been my friends the last month or two. Not helped by M’s emotional turmoil, of course.

Thirdly, work. Work has been engrossing, rewarding, at times frustrating and also heartbreaking, when the people you teach, care about and care for, sometimes reward you with insensitivity and thoughtlessness. But at the same time my expertise is getting ever better, my approach more thorough, my interactions with work colleagues more relaxed. It has been a good year. I teach too much and it is exhausting work, and it is certainly not something I would have wanted for myself when I began my performing career, but I’m pretty good at it. But there’s no denying I would like to balance my teaching work with research and more performance. All to come, I guess.

Fourth, travel. This year has mostly been about me escaping home for anywhere else. Noosa in QLD, Aireys Inlet in Victoria, Montville; all these places I have stayed at to finish my PhD. And of course, there’s NYC. A big trip but not a perfect one. Note to self – leave DH to his own devices so I can shop without him being all grumpy guts in the corner.

Fifth, house and home. We’ve been planning our renovations and we have money actually sitting in the bank gathering dust (certainly not gathering interest, FFS). But it’s not quite enough to do all we want to do, and the plans have stalled and my designer, who has great ideas, is very bad at staying in touch. DH and I are both annoyed, but I am particularly annoyed because I cannot keep teaching in my studio space – it’s just not good enough or quiet enough for the money my students are spending on me to educate them. The waiting around has become a pain in the butt.

Sixth, Poppy love. I love her, she loves me, nuff said. Oh! And I’ve finally worked out how to artfully clip her poodle fur using the right equipment, so it should be easier and cheaper now on to clip her ourselves. Huzzah.

Seventh, shows. Lots and lots of shows. So many shows. Many, many shows. Am I showed out? Nah. Love it. Bring it. My experiences make me more critical, but this is a good thing. Always aim for perfection, even if it’s impossible to reach. Highlights? Desh at the Brisbane Festival, Honeymoon in Vegas on Broadway, and It’s Only a Play, also on Broadway. I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and Into the Woods at our place. Rigoletto at Opera Queensland and Frizstch’s last conducting gig with QLD Symphony Orchestra performing Mahler’s 3rd. Lowlights? Old, outdated and overblown: Aida at the Met, The New York Theatre Ballet with a turkey of a Swan Lake.

Eighth, DH and me. It has been a huge year. He has taken on the top job at our workplace, and I have been finishing my PhD, and my trans daughter has been living with us. It has been a bit of a rocky time, and at times we have struggled to maintain our connection to each other. It’s there, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes other commitments get in the way of a strong, loving connection with one’s life partner. But he is coming on a road trip with me, and we have to spend 3 days in a car together. That’s a good thing! And when we head to the beach house (my folk’s place at Aireys Inlet) I think he really will relax. Even his work colleagues are beginning to complain that there’s no evidence of tapering off at his work! In other words, he came dashing into the top job and everyone has been frantically dashing about ever since, trying to keep up. I think they want him to go away on holiday. For a long time. Me? Well, I long since stopped trying to keep up with my workaholic hubby. We pull together pretty well, and I bully him into stopping work every now and then.

I’m sure there’s more. But now I have to go shower, get ready and lunch with a fabulous friend. Happy Christmas, everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York, New York: here I come!!

My gift to myself for successfully submitting the PhD – a trip to New York City! DH and I are leaving in a week, my precious Poppy and Lucy the Cat being cared for by my daughter in our absence. There will be home parties and fun times, I’m sure. (And then we’re going to Seattle for a couple of days too, and it’s great as well because I’ve been there – I know.)

My DH mentioned a story about a colleague of his, whose partner had recently submitted her thesis. He romantically asked of her: “where would you like to go as a GIFT for completing and submitting your PhD?” They’re in Spain right now. Clearly, her choice of gift.

My DH felt he wasn’t being very romantic because he hadn’t done the same. Nonsense, quoth I, we’re going to New York City!! (I just removed some exclamation points because it looks uncouth. Despite Elaine from Seinfeld thinking the lack of exclamation points lacks appropriate joie de vivre.). New York, New York, what a wonderful town. I have a sneaking suspicion that I will love that crazy, noisy, loud city. I have a sneaking suspicion that once I go once, I will need to go again and again. And again. Maybe for a month at a time. Maybe to write. There. I have plotted the perfect scenario to visit NY every year in the height of our summer (which is horrible, by the way – all steamy and hot – too darn hot), and spend a month writing. And yay. Or maybe I will hate the frenetic pace, and the Americans. Man, they can be LOUD. This is coming from a noisy blond Australian soprano, BTW.

I’m still anxious, though. When does the anxiety of doing a PhD end? Does it ever end? Has it now morphed into a generalised anxiety about life? Will I ever feel – just – DONE? Calm? Relaxed? FINISHED? I’m trying to self-medicate, but it’s not working.

I’m on my second gin and tonic (ok, it’s November but I swear Monsoon season has begun early this year), and I’m too old and tired to get really hammered. Besides which, getting drunk doesn’t really affect me the way it used to. My gums ache from dehydration (I’ve still not got the hang of drinking 3 litres of water a day during the wet season) and I get an early onset headache when I’ve not eaten enough food when drunk. Man, I sound old!

But next week I’m going to New York! And tomorrow I’m going to Melbourne for the weekend. My home town. Which I miss. And later on I’m going to New Zealand for a wedding, and in the June break, the whole famn damily are staying for 2 weeks at a rather nice Chateau in Bordeaux, thank you very much. I think we’re ok for the travel.

New York, New York! Hellooooo!!!!