I decided to work on my dissertation proposal, finally. I feel strange writing that first statement, because in some ways, I feel like I "deserve" time off. But in the exact same breath, I know I have also been beating myself up over the fact that I "wasted" my summer and "what do I have to show for it"... other than being rested, happy, and restored...
I think that's the funny thing about academia, that has been a hard transition since being a working professional. You can always do more, so resting becomes guilt, restoration becomes a luxury; and days off are undeserved. My summer was and still is wonderful. And yet, I keep having this nagging feeling— like a splinter you haven't addressed so it almost seems forgotten until the occasional snag, about what I could, should, and need to be doing to push my career forward. And the scary part is, those things don't seem to have room for the summer that I just had and am arguably, still trying to have.
And yet at the same time, I also have to come clean that I have used this summer and used "resting" as the justification to hide behind my fear and anxiety of working on my dissertation proposal. Much like how I justify my procrastination as "self-care," I also know that deep down, I have been putting off work, not just because I needed a break (which I did and I have been enjoying), but also because I'm scared to go back into this space I'm still carving out of what my research is and who I want to be as a scholar. So today, I decided to work on my dissertation proposal, finally.
Earlier this week, the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) sent a message about how it is temporarily suspending submissions for its journal, The Review of Higher Education. To read more about the impact, I highly recommend this article from Inside Higher Ed, which talks about the pressures for professors to publish, journals to review articles, and so forth. (If you're unfamiliar with the publication process, I wrote about it here.)
But I think that the article also scratches the underbelly of academia— specifically about pressure and performance. While I'm not 100% sure about my future path post PhD program, I feel the pressure to perform the Ps: propose for conferences, present at conferences, publish, and all of these alliterative verbs are tied to power: the power to make decisions, the power to put pressure, the power to hold, create, disseminate, legitimize knowledge.
When I entered academia, I was told of the top tier journals, with which Review is included, and that this was the type of journal I should aspire to submit to. The journal has a high "impact factor" (which means who reads it) and is very selective, which is often correlated with high quality (thought that can also be unpacked). And this is not a critique about the Review, but rather a challenge about how we rank journals and view the publication process in general, especially when we start thinking about how knowledge is constructed.
Knowledge is power. We know this. So then how are we, as people who read journals, submit articles to journals, reinforcing these power structures and the larger hamster wheel of performance? Because ultimately, to perform means we are being evaluated— whether that's from the reviews we get, the potential promotions before us, the submission acceptances we strive for. And all of that is laden with power. Power that becomes pressure that twists our identity into metrics of production and perfection.
[Author note: I didn't want to publish this post because I think it is poorly written and a little disjointed with a lot of other thoughts I have related to power, privilege, and publications. But I also recognize that if I keep trying to only show the final product of things, while that helps with my perfectionist temptation, that does nothing for helping to explain the iterative process that happens and is natural when it comes to forming thoughts and ideas. So here it is: the post as it is, with numerous rounds of edit but still not quite what I want.]
After spending two weeks on the road in a combination of vacation + conference + work trip that went coast to coast, I returned home a week ago, and am very thankful to be back. I loved traveling and writing while traveling was a luxury I hope to repeat, but nothing beats home for me and the routine for myself.
In Korean, there is a phrase "평범한 인생" that loosely translates to something like "simple, ordinary, routine life" and that is the life I lead on the regular. There's not bigger, deeper thought other than this: that I am grateful to be back to my ordinary, simple routine.
In a year, I read somewhere around 100-200 books. I don't have a TV and I use reading as a form of escape, and I especially like reading outside of academia. It also helps with improving my writing :)
When I'm trying to concentrate, I like having background music that's super dramatic. For some reason, instrumental music is instrumental (pun!) in helping me concentrate. Most of the songs are Korean-drama OSTs (original sound tracks), w/ a few classical music scores in the mix!
I don't categorize anything other than my "random round-ups" because it takes too much work (insert laughing emoji).