I decided dissertators everywhere could use some grumpy cat…so I’m going to keep this in the background while I work to my deadline. MY DISSERTATION IS DUE IN THREE DAYS!!! aaaahhhhhh….
So astronomically speaking it’s now SPRING in the northern hemisphere. Here in our frozen wonderland the windchill was below zero on the official equinox, which felt like a cruel joke, but the last two days it’s actually been above freezing! I’ve been walking around my neighborhood running errands (and distracting myself) without a hat and hopping around puddles.
I’ve been absent from blogging for a while but now I’m trying to crawl out of the winter hole of academic semi-despair I’ve been in and get back at it! Since I’ve last posted, I had a campus visit!! Finally!! And it was in a warm place. And the people were awesome and I got to spend the whole day talking about teaching and social justice issues and even got to see some friends while I was out there. So even though I probably won’t get the job (damn statistics…even once you make it to the top three, your odds of getting the offer are still less than half. Sometimes I wish I just didn’t understand numbers), it was a positive experience and at least I’ve now survived the campus visit monster and am that much more knowledgeable about the academic job search impenetrable death star-type thing.
Current stats about ABD on job market / trying to finish this damn Ph.D. next month:
51 jobs and postdocs applied for. 6 phone interviews. 1 campus visit. 22 official rejections (so far). 180 solid pages done of the dissertation. FINAL VERSION DUE IN 8 DAYS OMGGGGG
Anyway, today it’s Saturday, I have a to-do list that includes things like “write one page. vacuum the living room.” so I think I can handle it! I also feel like I’ve exercised self restraint by NOT buying the kind of amazing giraffe print skinny jeans I found at a consignment store on my morning walk…I could hear Gardenia in my head telling me to back away from the animal prints lest I sink further into wannabe cougar fashion. Yesterday I did a major wardrobe sifting in spring cleaning style, and the only consistency I can see in my selection is an obvious love of knee length patterned dresses.
So although I said no to the giraffe pants, I’ll continue to think that maybe if you’re already a loud person, wearing loud prints just matches personality to fashion. Raising my coffee to toast all the bitches out there that say with their words, actions and sartorial choices: look at me, and LISTEN! You have important things to say.
Off to retackle Chapter Five!
-the writing fairy
Uggghhhhhhhhh!!!! Just throw me back into the ocean already!
-the attempting-to-be-a-writing fairy
We need to talk.
I had so much hope for you in the beginning. You were eager to extract the metadata from various websites I visited on data collection quests, you organized my PDFs into nice little folders, you added citations to my article-length screeds with ease. I ecstatically proclaimed our new relationship status on Facebook. But now, now that I’m in the depths of dissertation writing, NOW WHEN I REALLY NEED YOU, you do things like not recognize obvious journal publications when I import them, you repeatedly misrecognize state policy reports as “statements from the State Liquor Licensing Commission” (what are you trying to do, get me accused of inventing all my data when I have a works cited list for an ethnographic analysis of educational policy that references booze management?!), and even when I sigh and agree to input all the information for a reference manually, you won’t provide me a field for “editor” when I choose “book section.”
We can’t go on like this. I know we can make it through the next two months to the end of my defense, but I think we should consider the future.
To give you an example of what kind of changes I’d like to see in your behavior, let me describe how exceptional robot-minions serve their employers. So Gardenia has a Roomba, and it’s awesome. Not only does it love to eat dirt and work independently, it cheerfully announces the completion of its assigned tasks with a triumphant electronic trill when it returns to its little dock, to snooze and nibble electrons. THAT is what good “plug-ins” do, Zotero. Why don’t we start with some small acts- how about you just don’t freeze at all today while I try to fix all the citations in my chapters one and two? I know you can do it, if you’d only try harder.
You know I left RefWorks for you. Don’t think I won’t leave you for Mendeley.
the writing fairy
The title is true- I’m one of those glass half full types that are annoyingly unable to tell you “yes, your life sucks, no one has ever had it worse than you, might as well give up now!” Even when I should maybe say that to myself? Then again, if I listened to such advice I wouldn’t have ended up in this purgatory of grad school completion. Based on my goals from the beginning of January, I should have a positive balance in my checking account (nope), have at least one campus interview invite (nope), have lost 4 pounds (nope, but I did lose 2), and have written an entire new chapter of dissertation and officially published another article (nope).
But in spite of all that, I’m still a pretty damn fortunate person with great people in my life and experiences and opportunities and all that. And on a day when the high temperature is 0 degrees F you gotta look on the bright side anyway. So, good things about this week:
1) Dissertation is on track, all interviews are coded, stats analysis finally worked and actually have some p-values lower than .05, document analysis underway. First draft of entire thing is due to adviser on March 4, although I’m currently in denial of that fact and just painted my nails instead of working on the outline for chapter 5.
2) Almost done with the hell of postdoc applications. Why are they all so different?! And simultaneously super narrow in focus and incredibly vague in application direction giving? Plus, there are so few in my field my odds are close to 0, which makes spending time on them even more maddening. Current stats: 39 faculty apps completed, 1 to go. 4 postdoc apps done, 1 to go.
3) dancing tonight!
4) maybe dancing tomorrow night!
5) the students I work with are awesome, and so were the visitors yesterday.
6) new Tegan and Sara album love it!
7) eating an entire head of sauteed rainbow chard for lunch.
8) chatting online with Don Xaxa while she’s closer to the equator
9) photos of Shetland ponies wearing sweaters: http://www.thefeaturedcreature.com/2013/01/shetland-ponies-wearing-sweaters-guess-im-off-to-scotland.html
10) amazing new “True Facts” video, this one about tarsiers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Jz0JcQYtqo
-the writing fairy
So don XaXa has been on the down low blog post wise, I am glad the writing fairy uses her powers to keep the readership going. But today. Under the sunshine and between the drags of a cigarret I allowed myself to enjoy, this bitch has to rant, reflect, and share.
I have been in Guatemala conducting research on mental health. Guatemala is my home country so for the first 3 months I indulged in all the wrinkles and creeks I had missed. I got dressed up for dec. 12th la Virgen de la Guadalupe, I have eaten everything the market place has to offer, I even gifted myself 3 pounds of Guatemalaness to keep close to my veins and heart. I visited the montains, and rivers and even said hello to the Mexican boarder called: “gracias a Dios,” as in a thank god Mexico is so close or we are still in Guatemala, I don’t know. I saw old friends, I bought roses to mysef and I played with my niece and nephews, gossiped with sisters and fought with my mom. I let my dad spoil me, and my skin tan under the Guatemalan sun. I learn to drive stick shift and have been getting lost in the street of the city in an uninsurable 1987 jeep with an unlicensed driver. I soaked everything that I missed about Guatemala. That I forgot I missed. I payed reverence to what I longed for but no longer found appealing, treasuring my memory. I nested and carefully marked my way into the position that I hold as an American educated ABD bitch, a ladina women that wears guipiles and a freckly French passport holder that akwardly orders wine at keggers.
As the ethongrapher that I hope to become when this rite of passage is over and I am validates with a piece of carton paper, I first readapted to the culture I was in. Understand it as an insider, but in my case rediscovering it with the insider privilege I hold. I took three months, before I started looking at this world with my journal and pen. But then I dived to look for mental health.
What is Mental health? Theoretically, in western culture, mental health is the absence of mental illness. Take the DMS-5 a catalogue of mental illnesses and I can tell you, you will find hard to imagine what mental health looks like. So I describe it as (Don XAXA, 2013): “the ability to overcome the obstacles life throws at you, recuperate from events that are averse to your life.” I go from there.
I started by conversing with forensic psychologist, psychiatrists, the poet on the street, the bar tender, the clown that cracks jokes on the bus. I took pictures of graffiti, visit the archives, question my spiritual guides. Every person I have an interaction of more than 7 minutes, I ask about their “mental health” most people laugh at me, someone actually fell out of the chair, but there is always a reply. There is always something. So it feels good. I know where to go from there: I schedule observations of hospitals. Psychiatric wards. And asylum.
They are hard to visit. And I am not sure how to enter them. But I do. I have only been to one: The national mental health hospital.
I have yet allowed myself to think about what it means to be able to chose to enter someone’s reality. To live a life that you only witness to understand and explain but want and can completly detach yourself from. I have yet come close to resolving what it means to “schedule” a visit, then go home, and debrief from it. No resolution, but many reactions.
If I have to describe the place that I visited, I would say it says more about myself as an observer than the place itself. But in my head this hospital fell into no categorization. I wanted to be in a Hollywood set for an apocalyptic, Rambo-nesc zombie retake so.bad. After two years of reading about mental health stigma, I hated myself when I locked the car door anxiously and couldnt rolled my windows up fast enough. As I entered the hospital that was surrounded by barbwire and had a 2 feet sign “enter at own risk” I did not know what to expect. But then suddenly the car went into the “recreation area.”
The hospital counts with 6 “pavillones” and a total of more then 300 housed patients, even if the capacity of the hospital is technically for 150 patients. Each pavillon is only cared for by 2 nurses. Except for the “detained” pavillon. In Guatemala people that have committed crimes but are considered mentally ill are placed in this hospital. Even if they have a special pavillon, they hang out with the rest of the patients. There are 150 civil policemen for 50 convicts. all together.
Everyone goes outside to the area where the car has to go thru. When I did, some detained men sent kisses and cat calls my way, making the 3 guards surrounding them laugh as they looked at me. Many patients where naked, bloody and not able to walk. I felt scared. I was able to interview a resident doctor maintaining my posture, but as soon as I walked outside. I was not able to stop crying. I drove home, crying, got in bed and opened my computer. News came as the homepage that day: 6 women had been raped, strangled and murdered, one of them was 10 another 6 years old. They had been left on different spots of the City. Some of them a few block from my house. I could not stop crying. So I got on facebook. To find out that the one of the few critical social science research unit had been sacked that morning, all computers, thesis, books robbed. I could not stop crying. I could not stop crying I could not stop crying. So I asked for help.
I went into his office for therapy. I vented about research. About being a women in Guatemala. About the hospital. I had taken the bus there, and in the way 8 men cat called me. I counted. I got lost and got very stressed. I took a random taxi, which I never do since a good friend in December got kidnapped in one. So I looked twice at the way the doors locks before I got in. I was treated of sexydoll and sweatheart. I got to my destination.
I cried “It is hard to be a women in this country. Specially when you are cat called 18 times a day. you come home to read 6 women have been murdered and you cant even find refuge in research, cause that too is a threat. I am tired to be afraid of how much I am at risk for being a women that thinks. And I am tired of realizing every day how real that risk is.” I cried. To this my therapist offered 3 insights.
First, he expressed surprise, as HE had not noticed how bad sexual harassment was in this country. Only, he said when he goes out with his apparently very attractive partner does he notice men checking her out, but he is too civilized to be a real macho and offer the other men punches. [breath in]
Then, he offered his opinion, telling me he thinks I have yet to culturally adapt to Guatemala. Where hissing and cat calling are not considered sexual harassment, these men did not touch me after all? So why would I choose to suffer from their comments. They are just validating my beauty. Culturally insensitive bitch that I am. I should be thankful. He ended this argument by saying that anthropologist write theory about this violence, I will soon realize that they are in most cases not from Guatemala, so they also are not culturally adapted to make these deductions either.
Politely I told him he should consider the fact he was a man, and that he did not read in last week’s news that 6 men, were thrown on different side walks of Guatemalan City. To this he replied, as his coup de grace that I should abstain myself from reading the news.
I don’t know if my mental health was bandaided but my anger got reinitiated. And I respect anger, it is an action driving force that pulls me from the heart. That has taken me all the way back to Guatemala. Anger from injustice, and invisibility. So I write this post to rant, but also to thank this therapist of mine for not acknowledging for one second my mental health but reminding me why my work is important. For sparking anger and with it the soldier in me. Because I am in a battle zone, let me never forget that. I walk in an invisible war, that never kills women at ones. It robes women, rapes, and mutilates women in order to even make their corpses sensationalist threat. If you are not killed, you are dimmed to death. It is the worst of abuses, that of telling women they are not working hard enough to be sane, when it is the world they walk in that is crazy.