Lost in Paris: the art of getting lost

Coucou from Paris !

As I had mentioned before, I will be living in Paris for the Summer, which is fantastic and a dream come true, etc etc etc….BUT dang it, it is a hard city to get accustomed to!

It took me three hours to get from Charles de Gaulle to my apartment. After taking a well-deserved nap after a sleepless night, I started thinking about the art of getting lost. In the Catalan-French film, L’auberge espagnole, Xavier is in Barcelona for the first time with his luggage feeling lost and insecure. He says, “Quand on arrive dans une ville, on voit des rues en perspective des suites des bâtiments vides de sens…tout est inconnu, vierge.” [When we arrive in a city, we see streets in perspective of buildings empty of meaning…everything is unknown, virginal].

This short part of the film always always reminds me of life in a new city. Everything can be disorienting and bizarre. Even though Xavier knows the Spanish language (even though Catalonia’s official language is technically Catalan) and has a map that is supposed to guide him, he still manages to get lost. My biggest desire is always to find something to hold onto–something that feels familiar and not uncanny. Nonetheless, it is incredibly difficult to not get lost. It just happens to you. Oh, you were supposed to head west on Boulevard de Clichy, not east. Suddenly, the mind plays tricks on you spatially (regardless of how good you are at directions) and you find yourself in between two other fellow American tourists,  who are trying to find Moulin Rouge, trying to figure out where west is.

This feeling isn’t exclusive to Paris. I’ve felt this way in the many cities I’ve encountered: New York, Rio de Janeiro, San Juan and Madison (the latter two I live/have lived in for years too]. My first time driving in San Juan with my roommate turned out to be a two hour drive around the city trying to find this little bar that ended up being a block and a half away from our apartment. When I first moved to Madison, I went for a walk trying to find James Madison Park and I ended up in a crazy intersection facing Lake Monona instead of Lake Mendota. It happens, but then, magically, you figure out how to take public transportation. You figure out that the 14 in Rio is full of gatunes (thieves), so you try to avoid it. You realize that Lower Manhattan isn’t really that complicated to figure out even though it frankly feels that way after spending most of your time in Upper Manhattan.

My trick is to accept getting lost as a part of your experience in a new city. It’s not [as] tragic if you planned for it..or at least that’s what I tell myself!

 

 

Academia is full of surprises!

Grad school can definitely be a vicious cycle full of rejection, but there are many good things about it.  After a long and tough 2017 (hurricanes, rejections and disappointments galore), I was ready to give up on grad school. I don’t mean quitting because I’m not really a quitter, but rather taking a more easygoing approach to it. I have always been so high strung and overwhelmingly compulsive about everything that I tend to forget that it’s OKAY to have fun, be young and enjoy life.

Last Winter, I made the decision to finish my PhD without the intention of pursuing academia (i.e. academic jobs). I made this decision for a number of reasons: watching many of my colleagues get rejected to these jobs that they were more than qualified for, the unfortunate ghost of adjunct professorships (i.e. making the same lowly salary as a TA with none of the health benefits) that haunts the academic job market, and wanting a life (children, a house, and a livable income).

This resolution completely changed my life outlook, plans and overall mental health. As surprising as it may seem, letting go of academia has frankly been the best thing for my research, my applications and my well-being. How do I know this?

  1. Setting Goals and Meeting Them: I wrote my first chapter in one semester (~4 months) and I think I did a pretty decent job. I work best under schedules, so I planned multiple writing groups, and sketched out blocks of time where I could work solely on writing. I love the research I got to do and cannot wait to do more over the Summer.
  2. Work/Life Balance: Last semester, I got really into setting boundaries around what was my work time and what was my “life” time. One of my friends even got me into a TedTalk Podcast called “Work Life with Adam Grant”, which I highly recommend It discusses workaholic lifestyles, emotional labor, and many other important things. I decided that, unlike other semesters, I was not going to let graduate school become my number one priority in life. I would work 9-5PM (sometimes 6:00 PM) and I would avoid weekend labor…and somehow I managed to accomplish this. I did not respond to emails after 5:00 PM, but instead I did things that I enjoyed like reading for fun, writing or just binge-watching something on netflix.  I actually want to write another post about this specifically because grad school’s work obsession is frankly disturbing and beyond unhealthy.
  3. Grant/Fellowship/Scholarship/Job/Research Applications: In addition to writing time, I set times to work on specific applications that will help me further my non-academic (and academic) experiences. I applied to the same number of positions I do every year without expecting anything from them (I don’t think anyone wants to know the number because it’s so absurd…the amount of work that goes into these applications is crazy).
  4. Relaxed Outcomes Facing Rejection:.Out of  [insert ridiculous number here], I received about [insert adequate number] of rejections. Now, this does not mean that I was like yay, I didn’t get this one job I really wanted, but rather helped me keep myself in check. I went in with low expectations while still managing to dedicate a lot of time to my apps. Overall, I feel proud of myself for feeling OKAY about rejection and the great work I put into my applications.
  5. Actually Getting Awesome Grants (WHAT?!): As I said, I went into academia this past semester with very low expectations. I did not expect much from my applications, my dissertation or even my teaching (my pedagogy friends must be freaking out ). I received a fellowship that will allow me to further the field of public humanities doing a job that is very meaningful to me. I received a research fellowship AND a scholarship that will allow me to do research for my second chapter in PARIS, FRANCE.  This means that I get an all-paid expense research trip to Paris that will allow me to live there for most of the Summer!

When did it all change then?

I set out to find what I really loved and cared for in life: connections, philosophy, friendships, social justice endeavors, and celebrating accomplishments–even the smallest of them. In return, letting go of academia made me become a better scholar, teacher, friend, partner and person. I look into the details of my writing and research without becoming so focused on the general, big-picture outcome. I focus on helping my students enjoy themselves during class and understand tough philosophical concepts or complex narratives…and friends, this has paid off. 

I have made space for things that matter to me and have lessened my burdens. I don’t know if this blog post might actually help anyone, but this approach has really helped me. I feel lighter and less anxious about all the things that used to burden me. I feel like I have made the decisions that work best for me and I feel incredibly content and free!

The Importance of Latin

A couple of years ago, I embarked on my ancient language requirement journey. I had, for some dumb reason, decided that Latin would be an easy language to master….I was wrong.

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Latin is a ridiculously complex language. Knowing that, you get to learn so much about your own native language (s). Latin grammar changed the way I looked at the world. I started drawing connections between Latin and English and Spanish and all the other languages I know… and it was quite the adventure.

My question is…why doesn’t anyone learn Latin anymore?

Sure, some Catholics make somewhat of an effort to learn Latin, but it’s still Ecclesiastical Latin (different from Classical Latin) and some just learn the Agnus Dei and the Sanctus. No one picks up a nice Latin textbook anymore. Why?

As a modern language learner, the process of learning Latin was actually quite difficult. It was an entirely different structure. Because Latin is, well, dead, I had to memorize a significant amount of paradigms and take a look at things from a different perspective. Latin shifted the way my brain works. It allowed me to truly break the boundaries of language in ways that I had never imagined.

Perhaps that sounds a little ambiguous. However, it is the closest description to how it felt to approach a dead language like this. For the meantime, I have been trying to pick up Ancient Greek (without much success)…but my heart will always have Latin. ❤

 

 

Les Cinq Petites Choses #3

knew I would miss a Friday (or two), but this is the latest when it comes down to the five little things this week.

#1. It was about time the weather changed. I have been waking up to crisp Fall Weather while the leaves are turning right outside my window. I am so excited to wear a few of my favorite scarves. I love pashmina scarves ! I get mine from amazon and they’re so worth it: warm, fashionable, and awesome !

#2 I have been going to a Dissertator Group on campus where we meet weekly to talk about our writing struggles and spend three hours working hard on our dissertations ! I love being able to take some time to grab a cup of coffee, focus on my writing and my research. Grad school is a tough balancing act, but it is achievable with fellow grad schoolers who keep you accountable for your own goals.

#3. Lin Manuel Miranda, the famous writer and star of the award-winning play, Hamilton, gathered every single famous Latinx star (from Despacito’s Luis Fonsi to West Side Story‘s Rita Moreno) to sing in his new song, “Almost Like Praying”. Miranda’s song proceeds will go towards disaster relief funds for Puerto Rico through the Hispanic Federation. Listen to it on Spotify or download it from iTunes !

#4 I like to catch colds before they hit. I love drinking Traditional medicinal teas for this. For your immune system, I definitely recommend Echinacea Plus with Elderberry. Try it and you won’t regret it !

#5.  This past week my boyfriend’s parents took us out to his favorite (and what is soon becoming my favorite) steakhouse, Ruth Chris Steakhouse. I love their petite filet with shrimp and a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon or some Spanish Rioja.

The Perils of Teaching

As a graduate student, I  have to get to teach every semester in order to afford tuition costs and, well, living costs. However, teaching is not all it has been made out to be. I have been teaching a combination of college level courses for years. From Literature to Religious Studies to Jewish Studies, I have been working hard at getting students to engage with texts and better their writing skills.

Unfortunately, composition does not come easily to most students. For some reason, High School English teachers have been completely focused on getting the students to engage with awkward opening lines or weird paragraph structures. This means I receive a ridiculous amount of emails with questions such as How many sentences should each paragraph have? Do I need to cite? Is this really vague thesis statement okay?

Don’t get me wrong…as far as jobs go, I love mine ! I love being able to engage with students and teach them about all series of topics. I work hard and I get results, but teaching can be a dangerous, treacherous journey. The perils of teaching are the following:

  1. Spending too much time lesson planning: If I didn’t stop myself, I would spend three hours researching and working on the THE best lesson plan. However, I know that I need to have my priorities set straight. I have to work on my dissertation, other jobs, and my mental health !
  2. Lack of Organization: I have so many friends (and even some professors) who find it hard to structure fifty minutes worth of discussion. I recommend structuring things in ten to twenty minute blocks and leaving some extra time for discussion. Organizing your syllabus and scheduling your reading/grading time are also the key to success.
  3. Boundaries: When I first started teaching, I was very flexible when it came down to extending deadlines, absences, and answering emails at all times. It wasn’t until my second year of teaching when I FINALLY put down an email policy on my syllabus and it has helped a lot. I highly recommend including any kind of policy you deem important on your syllabus. I have grading, email, electronic, and participation policies. This helps establish boundaries from day ONE and it helps you manage your time wisely.
  4. Dress Codes: As a woman of color, I have not one, but two things against me. Some students tend to undermine my authority and I have a hard time dealing with that. However, I establish a professional relationship on the first day of class with my demeanor, but also with the way I dress. Dressing up to teach can be fun and it definitely does not have to be boring. I love choosing fun colorful heels, long necklaces, and fun dresses. If Jess from New Girl can do it, anyone can !

PS. I do NOT recommend standing on top of your desk !

Alas ! There are many more perils to teaching, but I hope that my struggles can help a fellow teacher of any sort.

Summer 2017

Hello!

It’s been a while. It always surprises me how tougher graduate school gets. I just finished my preliminary doctoral examinations (six weeks of pure hell, three (two-page length) questions, 80 pages worth of essays, and zero relaxation time). Alas, I am done with the writing portion and am anxiously waiting for my oral defense. Summer this year, like many other years, will consist on taking in Madison: more kickball, yoga, sunset viewings, reading for fun, beer tasting, research, writing my dissertation proposal, academic meetings, and knowing that my Summers here are limited.

I cannot wait to see what my next adventure will look like. Right now my life revolves around my dissertation, my research, and self care. Until next time!IMG_3631.jpg

Fun Summer Plans

With the end of the semester slowly approaching, I have been thinking a lot about my summer plans. After sadly getting rejected for a coveted German scholarship, I realized that I would have to spend the Summer in Madison. Lucky for me, Summers in Madison are magical.

  1. Travel to DC:

My friend Stephanie is getting married this May and she asked me to be her bridesmaid! Last Summer, I had the opportunity to be the bridesmaid for another great friend in NJ so I extended my stay and traveled to NYC by myself and it was a w e s o m e. This year I hope to meet up with friends in DC, go sightseeing (Holocaust Museum!),  have a blast at this wedding, and return briefly to good old Madison.

2. Roadtrip:

I will accompany the  boyfriend to his college reunion right after the wedding (crazy, right?). I’m jumping from a plane to a long car ride to Indiana with the SO and our friend. The boys will probably be hogging the radio, but I can just sit back, read a novel, and relax! I’m looking forward to listening to two-hour long riddles, napping, and long philosophical conversations. After that, it will be great to meet the SO’s friends and spend some time in Indiana (never been!).

3. Languages, languages, languages:

As many of you may already know, I am obsessed with languages. A year ago I decided to take Latin to fulfill my Ancient Language requirement…such a mistake. I really wish I would have learned Ancient Greek instead. Nevertheless, there is always an opportunity to rectify mistakes. I will teach myself AG, continue to practice German (German Conversations with friends! ), and teach the boyfriend some Spanish. It will be interesting to see where things go during the Summer. I’m excited though!

4. Work:

While I am still in the process of finding a good Summer job, I believe it will be an enriching experience regardless of what ends up happening. Finding Summer funding as a graduate student is a difficult task, but not impossible. Watch out world, I’ll be sending resumés and cover letters your way.

5. Reading List:

Ah, my favorite time of the year is here. Every Summer I compile different reading lists with classics, contemporary novels, lit theory books, etc. I cannot wait to read more Murakami for fun, Poetry Reading Groups (translating Old English poem Spanish translations…I know) or to delve into some complex Heideggerian book.

6. I sports, you sports, he/she/it sports:

Oh, the art of sporting. Somehow I was convinced to join yet another Summer Sports League. It will be kickball this Summer. I always get slightly anxious about it because I really do not sports at all, but it always builds good community and is great for meeting new people. So…we’ll see.

7. Hang out with Friends:

F i n a l l y…I will have the chance to see my friends more often, talk, and socialize! It will be nice to keep up with my friends (married, new, about to get married, etc). I cannot wait to happily balance alone time and friend time.

8. Prepare for the preliminary doctoral examination:

This one gives me so much anxiety. If it all goes well, I will prelim Summer 2017, which means I have a year to prepare with my advisor. I will start making my reading lists this Summer and hopefully it will all happen (scary!!!).

9. Weddings Galore:

After my 21st birthday, every Summer has consisted of friends and loved ones getting married. Luckily, weddings are always a fun opportunity to get dressed up, dance, and have fun!

10. Relax:

These are all great, fun plans, but I want this Summer to be relaxing. I do not want to be stressed about any aspects of my life, but rather enjoy time off from school.

I’ll let you know how it went!