Monday, January 5, 2009

State of the Person Address 2009

Let's take stock, shall we?

I thought that now would be about a good a time as any to reflect on the past year. (All right, the best time would have been about a week ago, but we work with what we got.) 2008 saw two fairly monumental developments: the completion of my MA Thesis, and moving to Blank to start my PhD. Let's address each in turn.

January through April was basically the second half of my year of work on the thesis. In case I haven't mentioned it before, my thesis was an 82 page investigation of social issues that present themselves in the works of Tamora Pierce, a young adult fantasy writer. As a subject for academic research, it was a bit of a stretch, and I was very lucky to find a professor willing to stand behind the paper. A colleague told me that the second year thesis should be enjoyed more than anything else in my academic career, and she was probably right. I've always believed in a "pressure makes diamonds" sort of approach to essay writing; each month, I'd waste away the first three weeks, then write a chapter over a weekend. In my defence, I'd spend the three weeks planning, if not writing, and then edited the heck out of the paper, but I was hardly a poster boy for hard work and diligence.

Perhaps the most productive thing I did that year was sit in on other grad courses. I sat in on a year long course on 18th century and modern reproduction texts, which was probably the most interesting class I'll ever sit in on. Between the discussions on porn fetishes, the trip to the morgue, and a pig anecdote that is too filthy to bear repeating here, it's generated more dinner party stories than anything else I'll ever do. And really, isn't that what grad school is for? I also decided that it was embaressing that I had reached this level of study and never taken a course on Canadian Literature or Modernism, so I sat in on a course on Ross' As For Me and My House (one of the most depressing prairies book I've ever read in a genre that wallows in 30s depression era. Great course though.) and a course on Virginia Woolf. Note to self: Take an excuse to study Orlando at some point.

Speaking of Orlando, (smooth segue) in March, I went to the International Conference for the Fantastic in Arts to present a paper on ecocriticism in Robin Hobbes and Tamora Pierce. It was poorly attended, but hey, it's looks good on a CV and I got to go to Orlando. So, win.

The thesis defence itself was traumatic, troubling, and other bad things that start with t. (Oooh! Tumultuous!) I'm glad some friends showed up to support me. Each professor took a turn in reeming me out, and then (very grudgingly, I thought) allowed it to pass, with revisions. So that's that chapter finished with.

The other big change was the move to Ontario. Without much exaggeration, I think I can identify this as the biggest move in my life, excepting maybe the move from the small town to the city eight years earlier. I'm not going to go into too much detail describing what happened next (hint: I started a blog.), but the general some general reflection is in order. My SSHRC application never made it beyond the University round of inspections, (clearly, the selection committee can't appreciate GENIUS) but everything else turned out ok, even the 18th century course I was so worried about. (In fact, it turned out GREAT. I think my mark on the final paper may be the best I've ever received in an English course.) I guess what I really see when I look back on the year is how much unnecessary stress I caused myself not just from overthinking, but overworrying. Most of the problems didn't take care of themselves, but got fixed because I was willing to work hard on fixing them. For the next year, I don't want to stop that hard work, but I do want to stop worrying so much so I enjoy more.
And with that, we'll start on a list of "Things to Accomplish for 2009." It's like a resolution list, but I call it something different so I don't feel guilty when I fail.

--I want to find an agent for my novel. I've been sitting on it for nearly two years now; enough's enough. It's time to get that masterpiece out there.

--I'm going to try to stick to my exercise routine a little more stringently. I had been planning on starting this one in December, but considering that most of December in my home province averaged at about -27 degrees, there was a minimum amount of running accomplished.

--More romantic conquests! Hey, gotta start at some point, right?

--I want to watch more TV. Because there needs to be something on this list I'm actually going to do.

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