I must apologize for my long delay in writing this next segment to the blog. I have gone through many an inner battle with academia over the summer and into the fall, and even though my questioning would have been well placed in this blog, alas, I wanted to achieve answers. And then I also procrastinated, one of the great lessons all academics quickly learn if they are destined for success or failure, whichever. As a result I have written this entry out in my head many times, but haven’t actually posted. So now I have much to relate.
First of all, I was awarded both the SSHRC and the FQRSC grants for a PhD in history for this year, but… I am still at Concordia pursuing my master’s. For those of you in the know, what this means is that I have refused my SSHRC. It always seems like a draconian statement, but I had several reasons for doing so. For one, I was quite stressed. I worried about the level of stress I was under (and which I saw in all those around me in academia). Or more to the point, I worried about the academic lifestyle which worked for me, which was to prioritize academia over everything in my life. For me, working seriously at my studies meant that I didn’t have time to do a lot of things. Granted this is mainly because I have challenges when it comes to time management, but it is also somewhat related to academics. The work schedule just isn’t as definable as many other projects, and it is all in one’s head. I found I was constantly setting aside huge swathes (is that a word?) of time in order to study, which often I wouldn’t do (thus the procrastination part). And I was (and still am) always worried intermittently about my paper. So academia led me to this cliff where all my time was set aside for studying, or worrying about my studies.
Now maybe that’s not so bad, if academia is a huge passion. Which I do like academia, or I like thinking and reading and (sometimes) writing. But I got to that edge of the cliff with some time to breathe in between the end of my courses and the beginning of my original research paper, and I asked myself “why am I in this line of work?” I mean, I wanted to know if it was for passion or for a job, because if it is for a job, there are lots of jobs I could have and still have time to read and think and (sometimes) write. Now I know that one’s occupation affects one’s reality, so that chances are I won’t read and think and (sometimes) write quite as intensely when I am out of school, but anyway, i asked the question and the answer was resoundingly – I am in it for the money, for the stability, for the job. Now snickering aside from all the PhD history and other humanities students who are indebted and unemployed, it struck me as not the best idea to enter a PhD to land a job even if I get one. I mean, then it really is all work, right?
So all of these things considered, I decided, after several agonizing months of trying to find some middle ground, to punt the scholarship and take my time to finish my MA and see where things go from there. I now have a part-time job at a pharmacy, another as a very underpaid TA, and I feel ready to really tackle my MA. I am enjoying the research much more now that I settled the whole PhD question and am now looking forward to finishing and starting new endeavours.
I have many ideas of things I want to take on. I want to be creative. I feel I have learned so much about the world since taking on this MA it is really mind-blowing. I strongly do advise for people who have their BA to do their MA, if they have an academic bent and live some place where MAs are still affordable and usually funded, like in Canada.
One thing I would like to continue is this blog, which is named after academia, but is really about me. My idea is to loosen my criteria a little. Just in the sense that I find by focusing it too much I make it hard for me to pursue my unfocusedness. I’m really a general person. But academia has been the defining aspect of my life regardless, so I feel it can still relate. But whatever, if it doesn’t, I don’t want to have to make any excuses or fit into any boxes. So I am giving myself free reign.
For my MA, I am studying urban renewal protests. The plan is to focus on Montreal, although I have been reading a lot about Jane Jacobs in NYC and Toronto at present. I haven’t really gotten into the Montreal context too deeply quite yet. The book I am reading right now I absolutely love (because it is exactly what I want to know about all compiled in one book). It is Christopher Klemek’s The Transatlantic Collapse of Urban Renewal: Postwar Urbanism from New York to Berlin. I really love this stuff when I sit down or lie down and read it. There are just now a whole lot of studies coming out that are really dissecting the 60s and 70s responses to urban renewal, so it is cool how academics find the same problems in succession. Hopefully I can continue to ply away at my books long enough to hatch a good essay before too long.
All right, best wishes, and thanks for your patience. I am very slow at getting things done sometimes, so I’ll just have to trust that nobody’s been holding their breath for this!