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

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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.

 

 

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. 

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.

 

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?

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do I do now?

As I approach the end of my thesis I am reminded of the words of Agnes Gooch from the show “Mame”, when her “field trip” to explore life resulted in an unexpected pregnancy. As she returned to accuse her “teacher”, Mrs Burnside, she bewailed “what do I do now?” I feel rather the same way.

I am so close to the finish line I can smell it – in fact, give me a few more days and I think I will have the bulk of the thesis complete, with just a few loose ends to tie up. I don’t actually have a few more days, but I used an unexpected free day today to do some more work on the discussion chapter and conclusion. I worked reasonably consistently and am happy to see more loose ends knotted off now. Friday is my next full day for work and then perhaps some of the weekend. Yes, that’s how close it is, folks. Weekend work on the thesis.

But my thoughts keep straying to the thing after the thing. What next? Am I willing to stay a peripatetic teacher (with a PhD) at a university, or am I meant for more? Not that teaching isn’t awesome, but teaching 40 hours a week during term time isn’t awesome. As I explained to DH, I like teaching just fine, but I am exhausting myself trying to do this much teaching for a relatively small reward.

As he himself admits, if I were working full time in the uni system I would not be doing as much teaching as this. In fact, I would be doing a range of other things, based on a 40/40/20 model. 40% teaching, 40% research, 20% service. For me, this break down of work is greatly appealing. But it shows that the amount of teaching I do is well in excess of normal teaching arrangements at either secondary or tertiary level. Add to that workshops, master classes, performances and administrivia, and it’s no wonder I’m tired.

But as I enter my 45th year (and the irony of the mid-life crisis hasn’t eluded me, folks), I’m wondering if this is it. What do I do now? I’m at the peak of my working life, cobbling together a career out of bits and pieces of consulting and teaching work, and I’m now feeling like it’s not enough.  There’s no forward momentum, no career pathway for this life. No sense of striving, and no real sense of belonging to my main employer, although I feel as loyal and connected as I can to the place. My boss gives me as much higher duty work as he can manage but he has to be seen to be fair and I can’t do it to the exclusion of other employees. Besides which, DH is the Grand Poobah and any work I DO get might be seen as nepotism.

It doesn’t help that I’m nearly grieving for the loss of thesis-baby as she grows up and leaves home, and that we have plans for the house that requires me maintaining my income. I can’t afford to take time off to think about it – I need to keep working. So, what do I do now?!

Using reference system APA 6 is a B***H !!!!

OMG APA 6 is horrible. I thought I knew APA pretty well, but APA 6 just blows it all out of the water. For goodness’ sake, how many different referencing approaches can we fling together in this ghastly system?

*If you didn’t already know, I am a tutor for a few Uni courses at my workplace and I get to mark them as well, oh joy, oh rapture.

So, here I am marking 60-odd annotated bibliographies (marking is not an issue for me unless it exceeds 100 papers), and every new paper I open I have to go and research whether they have followed APA 6 protocols and formatting. EVERY SINGLE PAPER. Because if it’s not a book it’s a journal, and if it’s a video it’s something else, and if it’s online with an ISSN or DOI or URL it’s different AGAIN. And don’t get me started on newspaper articles and online encyclopaedias and MUSIC SCORES. Because music scores aren’t represented in APA 6. At all. WHO THE and WHAT THE?????

I OWN the APA 6 publication manual. Since APA 4 (forget about 5, we all have) protocols have changed for some pp. and not others. For example, you use pp. in an edited volume, but not in a journal. You use pp. in the in text citation but not in a magazine reference. Gah.

And then I need to go check the referencing tools at about 6 universities as one tool is simply not enough. Gah.

Oh, BTW, American Psychological Association, consider yourselves lucky that we in music research use your referencing system and for Pete’s sake give us some musical scores and manuscript options!!!!!!

Rant over. Back to marking.

(ps I’m a little bit ill today – took the day off yesterday and stayed at home, sitting down studying, thought I would be fine today and all was going quite well but got to work and worked with one student for 30 minutes and gave up. Felt all weird and dizzy and faint. So I’m home again, marking and doing PhD work. Because I don’t feel so bad when I’m sitting down.)

November is nearly here! And you know what that means: PhD LAND!!!!!!

So, at 8:13am on a Monday morning, at home with the dog and the cat and an unfinished RSME article and the cleaner due today, here I am, ready to reembark on my PhD studies full time. Whoop whoop!

Ok, I AM panicking a little about the lack of funds coming my way through November/December/Jan/Feb, but PhD land is looking SO inviting! And PhD land keeps changing its boundaries so that one minute it is my hot-box studio in Brisbane and the next a lovely beach house in Caloundra. Then it’s a sweet 2 weeks at the beach house in Victoria should I choose to bother my extended family with exhortations for peace and quiet in the busiest time of the year down there on the Great Ocean Road.

Sooooo happy. So, instead of talking about doing it, I’m getting off my sorry blogging arse and just doing it. I may or may not blog regularly about my progress but given that I need to submit my intent to submit documentation in February, it had better be close to completion by then, which means no skiving off and wasting time doing things OTHER than my PhD.

Ciao all!

bye