Transitions

I am no longer lost in the Midwest. I am lost in the world.

I became a Doctor of Philosophy in Comparative Literature on August 4th, 2019. Two days later, I rushed to finish packing up my life in Wisconsin. We packed up our lives in the smallest U-haul and left our friends, our familiar surroundings–the place where we met, we fell in love, and got engaged.  After a short stay in Chicago, my fiancé and I moved to New England.

We are in a transitional space. Two doctors of philosophy in search of “real” non-academic jobs. Two doctors having the hardest time finding a job. Two doctors searching, wandering, transitioning….

Through this uncertainty, I have learned a couple of things about job hunting and soul searching.

  1. Enjoy the transitional space/time in your life: This is harder said than done. The scrutiny of job searching can make even the toughest of applicants break. However, I am trying my best to enjoy this time in my life. There’s a certain stillness to this moment and I want to savor it.
  2. Expand your network: Most job-seekers apply for jobs online and most companies seek candidates through inside promotions and referrals. What can we do about this discrepancy in the job market? Expand your network! Ask your parents, your friends and your acquaintances to connect you to people in their respective networks. Send emails and make phone calls. This will increase your chances of landing your dream job.
  3. Take plenty of breaks from job applications: Job seekers are typically hired within three months of a job search. Those three months aren’t going anywhere. Make sure you apply to jobs during the work week and take tons of breaks! Try to have a little fun: go for a walk, meet up with old friends, watch your favorite TV show. Do not talk about job hunting every day of your life. Don’t let this consume you!
  4. Be picky: This one’s the hardest for me. Some days I’m so desperate that I’d be willing to take any position available, but I can’t do that. I know what I want my career to look like and I need to make an effort to make it happen. I can’t just accept a job that I’m unsure about. Don’t tell yourself you’ll be able to “deal with it.” Set some boundaries with yourself and narrow down your career interests.

So, yes…I am still lost and will probably be lost for a little bit. I can’t wait to be out of this transitional time in my life, but in the meantime, I will smell the ocean water, eat some lobster rolls and enjoy life as much as I can.

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Maman, Papa, I don’t want to leave Paris

And so it begins…the countdown to my departure.

I feel like I want to savor every moment of Paris. I am progressively saying, “À bientôt” to the City of Lights and “Can’t wait” to get back to my life in the Midwest. Paris, a city that has worked its way into my heart, yet has managed to anger me the most. From the bustling métro rides to my strolls along Le Marais or Montmartre (two of my favorite neighborhoods, the latter I’m proud to call my own), I have to admit: I have fallen in love with Paris.

Take a left turn to take the métro? Run into a fabulous festival. Walk alongside la Seine? Fall in love with the beautiful sunset and have a little apéro. Forget to say Bonjour to the waitress? She’ll forget about you. Take your time taking out your Navigo Pass? Prepare yourself for the dirty looks, sighs and groans of Parisians

Paris is a contradiction, but it’s my contradiction and I love it so much.

Je ne veux pas quitter Paris, mais I have to…I’ll no longer speak Franglais with my expat friends or French on a daily basis. I’ll go back to an Anglophone world with no surprise expos, concerts or bisous avant de partir. The pains au chocolat and cheap wine will be limited [guys, Two-Buck-Chuck doesn’t count]. The sense of adventure will be gone from my Madisonian routine, but hélas, that’s the way it has to be.

Time has flown by, but I cherish every single moment I have spent here.

Living in Paris, even for such a short amount of time, has been an incredible and unforgettable adventure. I have a sense of melancholia and nostalgia that is endearingly inexplicable, but I appreciate it nonetheless. Paris, unlike other major cities I have lived in or visited, has worked its way into my heart and has produced the most complicated of emotions within me–emotions that I am unable to adequately describe in English.

Maman, Papa, je ne veux pas quitter Paris, mais I’ll be back !

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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!

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.

Broken

After Hurricane María devastated the island of Puerto Rico, I was left speechless, shocked, and broken. There are no words to describe how awful it felt to not have any information on the state that the island was left for hours on end, how horrifying it was to not be able to communicate with my family for days, how helpless it felt to not be able to drive home to meet my parents for a hug and a home-cooked meal or how inefficient I have felt wanting to help out my tiny little country and not being able to…

As a child, I remember not knowing much about hurricanes. We covered them in History class briefly and learned about “hurricane season”,  but I never had a real understanding of them until I experienced one myself. I was merely six when Hurricane Georges, a category three storm, passed through the island. My parents moved their giant mattress to the center of the house and they built a fort for my sister and me. Through the scariest winds and thunder, my mom and dad made sure that we were loved, comforted, and cared for. There was not a joke or a game in sight that my parents spared just to make us feel safe.

It breaks my heart that I was not able to be there with them trying to make it through the day, playing with their pets, and knowing that we were all safe.

Art Credit: The Mommy Lifestyle

I feel lost and broken unable to be with my loved ones. Thankfully, I am not alone. I have received countless messages, prayers and thoughts during this tough time. This unsurmountable amount of love and care that I wish I could immediately pass off to my island, but I unfortunately cannot.

Unfortunately, Puerto Rico is not receiving the help it so desperately needs. There are towns (including my hometown) that completely flooded, there are thousands of refugees without a home, and there is SO much left to do. If you feel inclined to do something, feel free to donate to any of these organizations:

📣 Fondos Unidos de Puerto Rico: http://www.fondosunidos.org/
📣Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico: https://www.fcpr.org/
📣ConPRmetidos: http://www.conprmetidos.org/

OR call Congress or the White House and let them know that Puerto Rico needs our help. The lives of 3.5 million American citizens are at stake. Living without power or running water for months on end should not be an option.

For some heartbreaking images of Puerto Rico, click here.

Les Cinq Petites Choses #2

It has been a very difficult week for me due to Hurricane María’s devastation in Puerto Rico. However, there are some things I am grateful for.

1. I had cut back on caffeine this past Summer, but being away from my family during this difficult time has left me sleepless this entire week. Thankfully Mayan Super Dark from Just Coffee Cooperative has been a life saver this week. I love getting up in the morning and making a fresh cup of coffee.


2. Being informed has been the most important thing for me this week. I am grateful for facebook groups, American media, and Zello (the app).

3. When I’m under a lot of pressure, I definitely like indulging in some calligraphy. I love the perfect symmetry of lettering and the various combinations of it. Pinterest is my favorite place to find calligraphy inspo. Here is my latest work. 

4. I was in need of a lot of distractions from the natural disaster in Puerto Rico. I loved spending hours on end with my partner’s roommates watching The Great British Bake Off. I highly recommend this mindless and incredibly polite cooking show.

5. Amongst other set of distractions, I LOVE podcasts. My favorite podcast at the moment is The Tolkien Heads. The hosts are graduate students who specialize in historical linguistics, lyricism, Tolkien, and landscapes.

Crisp Fall Weather

After finishing my preliminary examinations, passing my oral defense and finally acquiring dissertator status (YAY!), I can finally enjoy some time to reflect on what is to come. As a child, I was always fascinated by Fall. However, growing up on a tropical island really did not allow me to experience the majestic beauty of Autumn.  I used to watch scenes of movies set in New York and envy the characters’ outfits, warm beverages and point de vue. All of that changed until I moved to the Midwest in 2013 (can’t believe it’s been that long!).

Red, orange, yellow leaves falling on a cool Autumn Day…

I absolutely adore Fall in Madison. I love strolling down the Farmers’ Market and all the produce—cranberries, apples, pumpkins, squash…every single item makes me so happy!

Here are a few of my favorite Fall Things To Do in Wisconsin:

  1. Farmers’ Market: We have the best Farmers’ Market in the Midwest (maybe even the country…ok, ok…maybe not). Our FM is right on Capitol Square, which is already a beautifully constructed building. There are so many options in terms of produce, pastries, and local, organic items. I definitely recommend the Dane County’s Farmers’ Market to anyone.                                              
  2. Arboretum:love the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Arboretum during the Fall. It is so breezy, calm and relaxed. Visiting this part of campus is definitely one of my favorite Fall activities and I wouldn’t change it for anything. If you have an arboretum nearby, you should definitely visit it before the leaves fall off.
  3. Corn Mazes, Hay Rides, and Pumpkin Patches:love going to Treinen Farm or Mayr Farm every year. There’s nothing quite like getting lost in a corn maze with friends, riding in a horse drawn carriage through the beautiful scenery and reaching the best pumpkin patches in the land. I still cannot believe I get to do this every year surrounded by great friends who have turned into my own little family.
  4. Pumpkin Carving: I always have a blast carving pumpkins with my friends. Everyone tends to get really creative and we just have a great time lighting our pumpkins and taking great pics while we have hot beverages.
  5. Halloween: While I have never been great at choosing a Halloween costume, I have always loved the idea of creative costumes and spending time with friends.

Enfin, I love Autumn and all of its little details. What is your favorite Fall activity?

PS. I have a couple more blog posts lined up for you! Hope you enjoy my Fall recs.

Hope

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about Fear….of being afraid of bigotry, racism, and sexism. And, today, I have no words or strength left.

Yesterday, I voted in the US Presidential Elections hoping for the best. I also did not just vote for myself. I voted for my family: my mom, my dad, my little sister. I voted for immigrants all across the United States. I voted for my fellow Latinxs. I voted for women…and, most importantly, I voted for the United States of America.

I voted for these things, but mostly I voted against hatred, white supremacy, and misogyny. Most people will not understand what I mean by this. Most friends will disregard my fear, my tears, and my disgust for our current decision. This, like most things, breaks my heart.

But, in times of despair and hardship, I have always learned that hope is my silver lining. Hope that hearts will change, that minds will act consciously and thoughtfully, and that love will reign. I know it may seem naïve, but I have nothing left to give.

I refuse to dwell on fear, on hatred, on brokenness. I will hope, not just now, but forever.

Autumn 2016

The end of Summer came rather abruptly. At one point, I was working two jobs, working on my Prelims Reading List and then suddenly, I was back in school.

Do you remember that Summer List I made? I am incredibly happy to say that I did all of those things and I feel very lucky that I had the opportunity to accomplish them.

Life, in general, has been good, but tough to manage and balance.  I’m in the middle of the process of finishing coursework, taking the preliminary doctoral examinations, teaching two brand new courses, presenting a paper at a German and Dutch Studies  conference (0.0 I know) and trying to keep up with life’s demands. Nonetheless, I always find joy in spending time with friends: laughing, reading, long walks.

Here are some pictures of the beautiful moments I have shared with friends and loved ones over the past few months:

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I love my life. However, this chapter of my life can be challenging sometimes even though it’s good and fun. Sometimes I don’t even want it to end, but all things do come to an end.

All I want is to savor the moment. Breathe. Enjoy.

An Update

Hello fellow readers.

Yes, I do realize it has been a while since I last wrote/published anything. I guess you could say I am in a bit of a rut. Thankfully, life in 2016 has been mostly okay. Grad school, however, has been ridiculously hard.

I am currently in the process of wrapping up coursework for my PhD. This means I have been taking a series of class requirements that I am not particularly too thrilled about. From Latin to Early Modern French literature courses to teaching classes I’m not particularly fond of, I have started to operate mechanically in some ways. I wish I could work on my research instead of dealing with pesky tasks, but that is not really the case and it won’t be for a while.

I came to the realization that life is full of a lot of things that we do not want to do, but we still do them. Why?

  1. Because we learn something: As much as I complain about Latin or French Lit, I have learned so much this semester. Latin has taught me how to better understand languages and how to construct sentences and ideas in ways I had not thought of before. (It helps that the boyfriend patiently tutors me on all matters of scansion and the ablative absolute.) On the other hand, my French has gotten so much better after rereading a lot of early modern books. From reading Laclos to Molière, I have learned to write a pretty damn good dissertation in French and eloquently express my ideas about literature in class. (I have also randomly learned a lot of colloquialisms)
  2. Because we simply just *have* to: Obligations are a scary ordeal. The fact that you have to sit through a lot of things you don’t particularly care about in order to move forward with life is not pleasant at all. However, it gives you some sort of structured guidance. For instance, my PhD degree has a lot of requirements. From languages to PhD minors to breadth requirements, it gets to be a lot. Nonetheless, I love how well-structured my program is. I like knowing exactly what I have to do next (INFJ trait).
  3. Because the fun parts of life become more fun: Right now I barely have time for anything. I am wrapping up the semester (this blog post is my procrastination task of the day) and everything is ridiculously stressful. I try my best to take the time to be present: in the moment. I enjoy long walks to work, cooking a simple meal, brief quality time with friends, and doing work next to my significant other. Even if I am working with people, we always take the time to have a brief conversation, share our lives, and stay on track. Grad school is a hard, sometimes lonely place and family, friends, and fun make it worth it.
  4. Because it teaches us to balance things: The biggest game I have learned to play this past academic year is how to balance it all. How can I keep up with friends, schoolwork, multiple jobs, and all the extra academic work you have to do? These class requirements have taught me that there really isn’t time for everything…and that’s okay. All we need is time to reflect, to have fun, to work, to destress, etc.

If it isn’t clear from the blog post, I still struggle with all of these obligations. I have long, never-ending to-do lists, a mess of languages in my head (guys, I started teaching myself Ancient Greek!), a ridiculous pile of books I need to read, lesson planning, job hunting, and so many other obligations and responsibilities that will not ever fit into a simple blog post.

However, life is more than all of these things. Life is a rapid stream of water and, when you least expect it, the waters will settle and it will all be worth it.