All posts tagged: PhD reflections

Ease in the Difficulty: Finding Opportunity in Autumn’s Transition

Photo by Bruno Ramos Lara on Unsplash It finally feels like autumn in Pennsylvania. The wind is caressing the edges of our home, making the warmth inside seem like a cozy little pod in which to hunker down. Our flannels and chunky socks are out, the coffee pot is warm, and our noses are filled with spicy scents of our last meal. The fall is coming to me with messages of rest. For some reason, the weeks leading out of summer were hectic, strained, and defined by busyness – all of which I will readily give up. In order to combat the anxious spirits, I made a decision to wake up each morning at 5:45 A.M. (!!!) and settle deeply into a morning yoga and meditation practice. When this thought first flashed through my brain, I will admit that I (internally) shouted to my inner voice, “Are you kidding me? This will never work! I am not disciplined enough.” To my surprise, after a few weeks, I find myself eager to take the time to …

ASEH 2015: A Grad Student Walks into a Room…

In the following days after the ASEH I began to think more broadly about the experience in Washington D.C. with the environmental historians. Somehow, I need a way to debrief myself from the event and file the most important information in my memory within close reach. It might sound like hyperbole, but the weekend was a kind of renewal for me as a scholar – a scholar who is in the “mid life crisis” portion of her doctorate: finishing coursework, preparing for the comprehensive exam, and on the cusp of the dissertation. After eight years of college, my brain is fried and there are moments where I feel emotionally and mentally dry. How can I begin the dissertation process if I feel like this? Well, the ASEH was the answer and I will tell you why. My venerable advisor constantly points over his shoulder and tells me “the conversation is out there.” And proceeds to elaborate on the frustration of the graduate school myth of settlement. We are not in grad school to find our …

Transcendentalism Today; or, Music as Cultural Thread

Each generation believes their ideas to be creative, inventive and the finest the world has seen. While the great art of history is venerated, musicians are inducted into halls of fame, and scientists are esteemed for their work – aside from the typical grievances against “strange” things – the newest generation imagines their view of the world to be the most complete. Similarly, if historians of culture make connections to earlier eras, often it is with the understanding that the current method is the preferred method; it is the most perfected method (possibly, the most politically correct method, too). Granted, big issues such as American slavery, pre-feminist/über-patriarchal society, homophobic, and pre-regulation factory eras always are foul and certain philosophies rooted in these ideas should not be revived. Yet, when considering more subtle undercurrents of American thought, should we continue upholding that eras/periods/phases are really finished? On to the new thing! We “debunked” the old way and are moving on to what is correct. Are we disconnected completely from, say, nineteenth century thought? Independent from nostalgia, …

The Climb

As I write the inaugural post for The Americanist Diversion, I am watching Stage 15 of the Tour de France; specifically, the climb up Mont Ventoux. I am required to multitask in July since a yearly ritual of mine is to watch the race in its entirety, and sadly, no other responsibilities subside. (This is a light season. Things get crazy when the FIFA World Cup or Olympics are in full stride.) As I watch the agony of the cyclists, I cannot help but consider the connection to the metaphorical climb that I will begin in a few weeks: the pursuit of a Ph.D. I am sure some aspect of the physical climb up Mont Ventoux has all sorts of relevant allegorical language for the academic quest of a graduate student. I promise to avoid the too-easy “Little Engine That Could” references in order to explain the slight anxiety I feel toward the coming months. I will veer dangerously close, though. Did Chris Froome nervously await Le Tour, only to blow us away by the …