Oct 28, 2014

Repello Muggletum

Academia is a funny place. A place of dark, statistical magics and mysterious grand wizards, whose names are plucked from serious tomes and whispered with reverence in dimly lit libraries.

Basically, academia is like Harry Potter.

On the one side, you have your Muggles. Muggles live in the real world, and have to deal with real world problems, using real world tools and real world technology. The Muggles are like... well, really, they're like most of you.

And then you have your academic magic folk. Unlike the Muggles, academics are not constrained by reality. Real, schmeal, they say. Instead, they have magic wands, which they wave at problems the real world has never had to face, usually because the magical men and women of academia have conjured these problems out of thin air in order to have something to wave their wands at. It's a beautiful thing. Occasionally, the world of Muggles and the world of Academia will collide, but for the most part the system runs smoothly enough and neither world has to be overly troubled by the other.

But there are great divisions in the academic world. Disciplinary, for one. Disciplines are like nation states, divided by history and geography and irrational ideological attachment. For the sake of metaphor, we shall call my discipline Hogwarts. Molded by tradition but barely able to paper over a deep, sinister divide.

Within each discipline, comes the sorting by school. (You might think within each school, comes the sorting by discipline, but you would be wrong). Much like the Sorting Hat, the PhD application process (and later, the job market process) appears at once completely arbitrary, and deeply fated. My school, I posit, is Hufflepuff. Mostly harmless, but diligent and eager to please.

So here I am, a second year at Hufflepuff, trying to make my spells work and my wand behave. Danger and death awaits me, I have been told. Not real world danger and death, though, just magical danger and death. Which somehow doesn't sound quite as bad.

Do I miss my life among the Muggles? Sometimes, I admit. But I find it harder and harder to remember a world without portkeys and trolls and confundus charms.

I am no longer a Muggle. Now, I am a Hufflepuff.

Oct 2, 2014

Not quite like riding a bike

I'm not sure I remember how to do this. I'm not even sure how much I want to.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that keeping a blog like this is like being a Kardashian: all shameless self-promotion and precarious stilettos, all the time. But for someone like me, with a blog like this, it's hard. Truthfully, you never know if you betray yourself more by writing it, or by not writing it. Or whether the self on the screen or the self behind it is the one that matters.

But here I am. Res. Me. One of us, anyway.

So it's been a year. I suppose that warrants a bit of a fly-by recap.

November - December '13: Things start getting dark. Weather-wise, but also, you know, otherwise. I'm not sure I even remember much of the end of 2013. I'm fairly certain it involved statistics. Oh yes. It's all coming back to me now.

January - February '14: And look at that! I moved to a different country! Although to be frank, I'm too shell-shocked to tell the difference. The library's pretty much the same. And there's still a lot of statistics. It just comes with a side of sticky rice and a permanent outdoor sauna.

March - April '14: Things are starting to pick up. I've left Asia behind and realized that I was the one who chose to toss caution aside like a flea-market handbag and embark on a five-year degree. Me. And I'm pretty bright so I must have had a darn good reason. I just wish I'd written it down somewhere.

May - June '14: Oh-my-goodness-look-there's-sunshine-outside! And so what if I'm the maid of honor and no one will dance with me at my best friend's wedding? I'm going to be a doctor! Of philosophy! One day. And when that day comes, the exact same number of people will not want to dance with me. Cause doctor of philosophy just doesn't scream sex-appeal, does it?

July - August '14: And I'm in a different country again! I think three in eight months is a record, even for me. Maybe not so helpful in convincing people that I've resolved my commitment issues, but at least this time it's fun. There are blue skies and friends and cocktails and long runs by the river and everything just seems that little bit brighter. And this research thing? I may be totally nailing it.

September - October '14: Or not. Nailing it, that is. The statistics (damn those statistics) keep pretending to throw up stars just to snatch them back again. (That sentence will make sense to anyone doing research involving statistics. Translating for the rest of you: "Stars good. Please don't take my stars away.") And soon it will be time for another move, away from the place with the friends and the cocktails and the blue skies. A small nugget of fear settles into the pit of my stomach.

And that's where we're at. It isn't very far. There's been a lot of moves but little forward motion. Mostly there's been a lot of statistics. And libraries. And fear.

But I'm a big girl for such a little person. And I'm gonna catch me some damn stars.