I sense a certain sentiment …

2017-09-09-12-32-52.jpgIn the last few days I booked a flight and my Dad found me a nice hotel in an ideal location between the university and the rest of the city I want to see and discover. Regarding the practical aspects of this little adventure everything’s already taken care of, everything’s fine. Which is wonderful and I’m so grateful that my dad, mom, and my sister, my whole family, is so supportive and helpful, even though I brought that on myself, thinking I could accomplish a conference/city trip to NYC ON MY OWN. Wonderguy too is just great, and he’s also already in the “goin’ to New York” mood (even though he is not coming with me), putting together a Spotify-playlist with songs about NY (from Sinatra’s classic to my favorite, Alicia Keys, he found some really great songs which I will listen to while out and about in NY). Furthermore, he gave me some of the novels he got that are set in New York, one being Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. I will take a closer look at this book in another blog post, soon. For now let me just say that certain fears not only Oskar but other protagonists as well talk about resonate deep with(in) my own dark places… 

And it can be dark down there … Sleepless nights filled with horrifying visions triggered by too many true crime podcasts and too much war crime material keep me awake. Have you ever seen “Mayday”? I have. Oh my, yes I have …
At the opposite end of this extreme emotional spectrum lies my longing for peace, being someplace where no one knows me and no one notices me and I will be invisible. And once again being invisible would make me invincible, at least deep down in my heart. “These streets will make you feel random” – I long for that feeling. The same feeling I loved so much when walking through the streets of New York the first time I was there, four years ago. No one cares about you, but not in a bad way. Rather like we are all parts of the surrounding, belonging to this street, this street corner, this certain place, nothin’ to fuzz about, just everyone going their ways. 

I felt safe there, always. True, I wasn’t out and about at 3am in the morning all alone as a woman, and I won’t do so in December. But still, I felt safer in New York than I felt/feel in London, though I love London just as much and I’m more familiar with the city, having been there several times. And I guess that’s the crux of the matter: because I’m less familiar with NYC I feel safer there than in London – knowing a place, being familiar with it means knowing its ‘good’ and its ‘bad’ sides; just reading about the dark sides does not change a thing. I read tons of stuff about war and war crimes and the like but I would never in a million years assume I “know” war – that’s not how it works.  Never. Of course I read about places where one should not go, what one should and should not do, especially as a woman, and that might be one reason why I can’t sleep at times, but this does not change my good memories about the place. Besides, “feeling safe” in my understanding also means being able to stay in my own little thought bubble all the time because I don’t know a single person so no one will disturb my thinking, musing, and wandering. I’m not sure if this corresponds with a general understanding of “feeling safe” but I don’t strive for unifying different views. Live and let live, wander and let wander …

For now, the “goin’ to New York”-theme is huge, listening to the playlist, reading books from/about/set in New York, most of this thanks to and inspired by Wonderguy. That’s because it’s my first trip alone to one of my most favorite cities. It’s a long flight and at average an expensive stay, so it’s not like I can see NYC whenever I want to – this is something special. And even though I feel total overwhelmed and panicky at times (thanks, weird wired brain) I really look forward to “goin’ to New York”.

Besides, let us not forget: I’m there for work as well … one more reason for sleepless nights! 🙂

Once more with … less feeling, please?

 

IMG_20170809_232328_236.jpgA few days ago I received an invitation to a conference in December. I never in a million years expected anyone to accept my paper because a) it’s not even a conference with a focus on literary studies and b) I’m no fancy academic pursuing her studies not looking left or right, but rather a freestyle academic, pursuing her studies when finding the time next to work, life, and stuff. So not exactly distinguished ivy league university material. Not even ‘attending a conference at a distinguished university I always wanted to see’ material… 

Obviously, no one ‘there’ knows that, which is why they are delighted to include my paper in their conference. And I’m delighted, happy, overwhelmed, and panicky all at once. For days now. And nights, which is worse. I sent a submission to give it a shot, “aim high”, as they say (I don’t know who “they” are, but hey, “they” for sure never suffered from anxiety disorders and shit like that) and try for universities (and cities) I always wanted to see or love to visit. I have been to New York before and missed my chance to see Columbia, at least from the outside. I may get a second chance now. 

Still, I have to finance this wonderful craziness – New York is pricey, especially in December (I guess). Also, I have to keep my shit together to go there. It’s not that I am too nervous to actually attend a conference and present a paper (I have nothing to lose and everything to gain, so that’s not the issue here); rather, the real challenge will be organizing the trip, finding a hotel and staying on top of things. I hate organizing because I’m really bad at it. Also, since receiving the invitation, tons of unfounded fears came creeping up from the shitty dark holes I forced them into; they caress my arms, creep up and down my spine, float into my semiconscious mind in the early morning hours, lay their heavy burden on my weary shoulders (yes I know, THAT sounds cheesy…). Depending on the mood I’m in, I can take them one at a time, pushing them back into the holes they came from, or I let them flow, because there’s no use in fighting it, not right now. 

I know, I sound like a whiny kid, and I don’t want to. I simply did not expect this to happen – some provincial freestyle academic presenting a paper at rather well-known university. London has already been great, and this too is a wonderful opportunity and it feels huge. Overwhelming. Unreal. And frightening.  

Greetings to my demons. 

Fast Forward: MIA for some reasons

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I have not been around for quite some time and this does nothing for my “go on and write regularly for someone else than yourself and your journal/diary/notebook/mazy mind”–plan. Of course there are reasons for this, though none of those reasons are good enough to explain my being MIA for such a long time.

First, of course, there was the conference; my trip to London followed shortly after my last entry, my talk went well (though there were only a few people in the attendance, but those who were there seemed interested and attentive) and I loved the atmosphere at the university. Of course we stayed for a few days, enjoying one of my favorite cities ever. London was amazing as always (I have been there 5 times, and maybe I can think of some interesting stuff to share in another post), and returning to this small provincial town where I live was hard (AS ALWAYS).

But coming home was not that hard for long because…

…second, I moved to a new apartment which I now share with wonderguy (and our cat!). This new apartment is pretty much downtown, and it is just wonderful. So in a way I returned home only to find a new and–in some way at least–improved home to return to in the future. Moving took some time, 6 weeks to be more precise, and it was exhausting. I seized this excellent opportunity to throw out tons of stuff I have not used in years – having read enough “declutter your life”-blog posts for a lifetime, this 6-week-move was the perfect outlet for all my idle knowledge.

Still, within all this chaos I found some time to read, even more than earlier this year. Also, I started writing and “writing” again, so there appear some light at the end of this tunnel I call PhD studies…Hence I will return regularly, finally (even if this includes hasty drafts like this one). Because that’s the plan, and now there are no excuses left. Not even bad ones.

Never finishing anything at all – 4 (or more) steps to succeed

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I have finished my talk some weeks ago, ready to edit it a bit here and there and in the end having weeks to rehearse it (…something that is reallyreallyreally important for non-native-speakers!!!) – at least that was my plan. Of course, quite the opposite happened. After finishing my first ‘draft,’ my supervisor and wonderguy (who is also my colleague, a fellow comparative literature graduate) both added their two cents, poignantly remarking that this paper will be great for all those who already know what I am working on – everyone else may feel a bit puzzled, asking him/herself what that chick out there is actually talking about. So I was obviously NOT finished. Not at all. It took me two more nights to recreate a sort of “finally finished”-feeling, and I still think it’s more a feeling than a fact. Especially since I’ve started rehearsing, realizing that I’m still changing certain passages to make them more understandable (and easier to read, to be more precise). So again, the final version is not so final after all. But editing can be tricky and a never-ending-story – it has always been very difficult for me to constrain my pedantic inner critic and carefully approach a final version I really ‘like’…

I know a lot of people are only too familiar with this struggle. For the lucky ones who NEVER had the joyous experience of questioning one’s own intellect and sanity over one small passage on page 5 of a) the last chapter of the second novel you wrote at the age of 22/31/40/53 OR b) the 235th paper you wanted to submit to a prestigious journal where you already published three other papers but still, this time they could finally realize just how awful and inapt you actually are … For those lucky ones I may offer some valuable instructions on how to finally stop finalizing stuff:

  1. Decide to work in a foreign language (at least NOT your first language) OR a jargon you are in no way familiar with – no matter how good you get and how hard you study, you will always feel inadequate, insecure, and not sure of even the most basic expressions. Always.
  2. Pursue new opportunities. Find some side aspect of your work you never before thought of investigating further, combine your familiar knowledge with new discoveries and realize that you might have missed some very important stuff which could have been really, really important for your study/thesis/paper at some earlier stage, meaning you should rework pretty much everything. This seems overwhelming, so you decide to go for a beer/coffee/tea/vegansoychailattewithextracinnamon to do some brainstorming, after which you decide to just never ever return.
  3. Purchase the book How to disappear completely and live free. It’s from the 1970ies, providing information totally unsatisfactory nowadays, and no matter what you work on, you will forget everything you ever wanted to find out about that thing you work on, instead imagining to live on some Mexican beach, selling homemade tequila. Then purchase the book How to disappear: Erase your digital footprint, leave false trails, and vanish without a trace.
  4. Realize there was a mix-up at Amazon after receiving How to disappear completely: On Modern Anorexia instead. Or maybe you mixed something up. Anyway, after reading it you decide that disappearing might not be that desirable after all and return to your research/work projects.
  5. Edit your paper/talk/thesis as much as seems necessary, but don‘t overdo it. Then give it to some trusted friends and colleagues, ask for their opinions, fear their opinions, and start editing again until either your deadline arrives or you retire.

If you need additional inspiration, go play catch in a parking lot, because you obviously missed the point of never-ever-finishing-anything at all. And yes I know, this apparently does not make any sense.  Welcome to my world!

Setting some priorities…I guess.

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As some may remember, I’m about to give a talk in a wonderful large European city (like, in 6 weeks, but nevertheless, again, let’s just feel stressed out already). Now, some may wonder how to prepare adequately for an occasion like that – at least I do. But obviously I am not the only one, as I got an impressive amount of results when asking auntie google “How to prepare for a talk,” “how to present at a conference,” and “lol best conference fails ever.”

So, I just finished the first draft of my talk 2 days ago and already I’m totally overwhelmed thinking about editing it – once something is done, I’m over it in some way, and I have to force myself to rework it, especially since I’m often too afraid to find too much stuff that needs editing. I prefer my tasks to be explicit and distinct, step by step, and once finished, they magically disappear and something new will materialize out of nowhere (and yes, or course I’m really looking forward to editing about 200 pages of case studies I wrote for my dissertation as first drafts, so it might get easier for me to develop a strong theoretical framework and some logic in my arguments. I finished the last of 6 case studies in January. I have not looked at one of them yet. Not even at the one I finished in January last year.).Because my mind is always on the go and I got the attention span of a 3-year-old, my life has to happen all around this very obtrusive feature of mine. Of course, this is also the perfect condition for working on a long-time project like a dissertation. But that is another topic. Today it’s about the talk, again. At least as far as I can remember.

So now that I accomplished the basic task – even though it is still too long and I already know some wordings are not appropriate, so I have to work on it at least once more before handing it to my proofreading-fairy – I move on to the next big thing for the big-city-event: what to wear for my big day (like, something comfortable and still suitable, which will be challenging to find in a closet that screams “boho skate chick” since 2003), where to go after the conference, which markets to go to, which sights to see, how to find the hotel and how to afford eating in GB. Also, I’m used to travel light, but I never before traveled for work; so this will be a new sort of ‘travel light’ since I need to bring some basic work stuff with me. Guess who is already freaking out about what she actually has to pack (I’m one of those people who bring half of their bookshelves to presentations, just so “you see what I’m talking about”…), fearing she might forget THE most important paper just so she could ‘keep it light.’

And I still don’t have a new passport.

But did you know that with the last update there are now some new cats in Neko Atsume?

Giving a talk, losing a mind…

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A few weeks ago I sent a conference proposal to the organizers of an upcoming event; I finished it hastily, of course having waited until the last possible moment to get it out there, and wonderguy did his best revising it even though he does not work with the English language often. Since I just wanted to show my supervisor that I at least once sent out a proposal and never ever actually expected anything coming out of it, I was not only shocked, but also deeply disturbed that they indeed were “delighted” to ‘invite’ me to talk at their conference in London in May 2016.

I’ve never been to a conference, not actively, not as someone standing there, giving a talk, reading a paper, whatever. I always thought only professionals, established scholars with a certain name and tons of degrees and stuff like that are active participants at conferences; not someone like me, a provincial freestyle PhD-student, trying to untie the huge brain knot she has in her head regarding her work(s). I’m not a professional, I’m not even close to being one.

And even though there is still some time left (more than two months, to be a bit more precise), I’m already totally nervous and stressed out because I feel like I have to be prepared for every nasty and awful question possible (and there are tons of those), therefor I’ll have to re-read and re-research everything I ever got my hands on. This, of course, is just impossible, which means I can only hope that my blood pressure will lower some day before May and I will also rely on the fact that there won’t be enough time for the audience to ask all the nasty and awful questions possible because my talk will probably (hopefully!!!) only last at around 20 minutes, with 10 minutes or so for discussion, which is not enough time to kill me verbally. At least I hope so.

Also, I can’t actually afford attending the conference, because London is wonderful and expensive and so are the flights. Still, of course, I will go. I can do magic (I hope).

Not to forget this grown-up business, like finding a cheap flight and hotel to stay, and of course getting a new passport, since the Brits are getting ready to show the world their extraordinary uniqueness by leaving the EU (an idea I will no comment any further, out of respect for, uhm, people and stuff, and also because I love London and some other places too much to piss them off…) which means I should probably not rely on looking nice and friendly and very EU-ish, but rather get a new passport IN TIME; in short, adulting all over the place like a pro.

But still, there is always time to check Neko Atsume; never miss an opportunity to spend some time with virtual pets who pay for your efforts in fish.