Hello readers, I’m back.
I broke the cardinal rule of blogging and just… stopped. Mea culpa. It has been quite a year. Mostly in really good ways. Also in some terrible ones. Let me briefly explain.
I’ve just been looking back at some of the things I said in my post ‘2016: The Year of Balance’ (https://medievalbex.com/2015/12/31/2016-the-year-of-balance/) and wonder why I didn’t make that post compulsive daily reading for myself. There were some real pearls of wisdom in that post (even if I do say so myself).
Why don’t we listen to our own advice?
2016/17 was most certainly NOT the year of balance I had decided it would be. In fact, if anything, it was busier and more hectic than the preceding year. (I think I’ve now realised that I don’t know any other way to be, and that academia facilitates and fuels this particular personality trait, but that is pondering perhaps to be saved for another post.)
In the 2016/17 academic year I ended up with three concurrent academic jobs, plus my PhD still to finish. Yup. I was the Research Associate at UCL on The Academic Book of the Future project, and a Seminar Tutor teaching American study-abroad students at ASE Bath. The Department of English at the University of Bristol also very kindly made me a Teaching Fellow. And I was of course also a PhD student in my final writing-up year. This was all amazing, but oh-my-gods, it was also stressful.
However, I did take my own advice in some ways. I made more time for smelling the roses, and for doing important, relaxing things. Like binge-watching all the available seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix (because if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love someone else? Can I get an ‘amen’ up in here?). And going on a two-week beach holiday where I did NO work. This was important progress compared to the previous year. The blog also had to give, alas.
The bad news is that I had to do a lot of serious adulting – particularly over the past few months. Not just in the good ways that buying and owning a house entails (this is a privilege, and a GOOD problem to have, and I am totally aware of this), but also in the awful dealing-with-the-death-of-a-parent way. In April, the same week that I submitted my thesis (it is FINALLY done and there will be a separate post about this), my dad died. We had a very complicated and difficult relationship. I was his next of kin, so I had to do lots of grown-up things that no one ever tells you how to do, and sort things out after his death. It all got further complicated by a whole host of factors that I won’t go into here, but suffice it to say the past few months have been a sad, angry, messy, traumatic, exhausting time, and the submission of my PhD was not the joyous occasion that I had always hoped and thought it would be.
But I feel now like I’m coming out of a tunnel, and I’m starting to feel the sunshine and wind on my face again. And I want to do things for ME again. Not for my PhD. Not for my dead father. Not for my students. I think that anyone else who has submitted a PhD will understand this feeling of slowly uncurling and coming back to life, like a plant in the spring. As part of this drive I am rejoining the online communities that have been so supportive, including those around this blog and my Twitter feed. Many of you have come up to me at conferences and other events (and even on trains!) to introduce yourselves because you know me through these channels, and I can’t tell you how wonderful that is. (Please do say hello if you ever see me!) We’re all going through this thing called life, so let’s do it together, in friendship and solidarity.
I’ve learned so many lessons over the past year, and I’m going to spend some time in separate posts thinking about them and sharing them with you. But first I wanted to check in and explain my absence, and to let you know: I’m back. And I’ve got a lot to say.
I’ve really appreciated you all being on this journey with me. Stick around for the next chapter – it could all get pretty exciting…!*
* It will probably be more of me talking more about books, academia, and being an Early Career Researcher, but that stuff is exciting, right?