Today’s guest post comes from Pamela Ingleton, a PhD candidate at McMaster University. You can read her blog or follow her on Twitter (@PamelaIngleton). I admire the way she links the more personal side of her life with her studies in this post. It’s useful to bring these connections more out into the open, I think.
Prefatory Note: I swear this isn’t a note of apology to my supervisory committee, though it might read like one…
It’s been one helluva year. I feel as if, over the past twelve months, I’ve reached my highest high and lowest low, with a whole lot of everything in between. A year ago I was dragging my exhausted self through the final pages of my comprehensive examinations, completely worn out from an overbooked conferencing schedule and a bout of depression that made getting out of bed an accomplishment worth celebrating. Somehow, on the heels of this, I wrote, submitted, defended and passed my comps, and just in time—as the final answers rolled off my tongue in the defense room, my already hoarse voice slipped away, and I entered the next marked period of my 2011, to be comprised of four months/rounds of an uber-cold/flu (otherwise known as, “you’ve put your body and mind through the wringer, and now you’re going to pay for it”).
But if the first half of 2011 was a bit of a stinker, well, the latter half was akin to that montage you inevitably get forty-five minutes into a romantic comedy. Having never really dated anyone before (oh the ease with which I type this now, compared to the fear and shame with which I lived it before), I somehow stumbled my way into a surprisingly terrific, now serious and long-term relationship, and my first. Where sadness, depression, illness and general malaise kept me (partly) from my work in the winter/spring, tummy butterflies, elation, walks in the park and general upliftedness were keeping me (partly) from it now, especially since the person-in-question was in all likelihood to be moving away at any moment. (He’s still here.)
I’m not entirely sure these are things I should be sharing with you. As a humanities scholar (or, you know, a thinking/feeling person), I want to believe I can honestly express my feelings and recount past events without suffering the repercussions of such revelations later. I don’t want to be someone reluctant to discuss mental health, when occurrences such as the one I have described briefly above are all too common. So here I am, giving it the old college try.
What I want to say is, my work suffered at the expense of my life this year, and looking back (with my annual committee meeting around the corner), I’m…not a tad bit sorry for it. Now to be fair, it’s not as if I accomplished nothing since last April; post-comps I busied myself with a bibliography course, a long proposal, several CFPs, a handful of publications and two RAs (hello, thesis committee!). But there was work that got put off, and I have decided to own that putting-off in a way I never have before.
I felt every second of this past year, sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. But I wouldn’t give up a second of it, not for a completed chapter, or a whole thesis, for that matter. Life happened for awhile; if that makes me a “bad academic,” well, I suppose there are worse things one could be.