In this three-part series of posts, I shared my experiences studying for candidacy exams. There was a point where I seriously thought this was never going to happen, stuck in a timeless space where goals and deadlines had no meaning. It was that last month where I started to feel grounded, like a survivalist mode kicking in, ready to focus. All of the doubts about not passing reached a peak the week before, until it was over. And then…I passed! I learned so much in that last month, spilling over into the weeks leading up to writing this post. This is Part 3 of 3.
In my last post, I talked about studying for exams and what it’s like to study medical humanities. As much as I enjoy reading the books on my list, it’s really easy to feel disconnected from the text when you are not suffering from the illness or trauma the author is writing about. The more books I read, the more I thought about the narrative I wish to share. The only problem was that, according to me, I didn’t have a medical narrative to share. Then I remembered that I actually did, but it didn’t hit me because, well…I really don’t like talking about it. After reading so many of these books, I wanted to try. And “try”, not as a scholar of medical humanities, versed in the theoretical applications and a specific vocabulary from my studies, but just as a guy sharing his story. This is Part 2 of 3.
(to read Part 1, click here)
This is going to sound really dumb, but I promise it’s true…
I just finished my third year of my doctoral program at Ohio State. There’s so much to write about, like teaching online during a whole year of quarantining, studying for candidacy exams, and moving into the phase of dissertation writing and the academic job market search. I’ve also been meaning to write about my academic focus on my blog for a long time now. Medical Humanities is a really interesting study, but I’ve always felt like I can’t just “write” about it, as if I’m describing what I had for lunch. I want people to feel what it’s like to study this field. For that, I’ve decided to write about my experience with all of this in a three-part series of blog posts. I hope this series gives my readers a sense of how my program is going, and I’m happy to chat about it if you have any questions. This is Part 1 of 3
After finishing coursework last year, I moved into the candidacy exam phase of my program. I complied a list of over 150 books that reflect my major and minor fields. (Major: Medical Humanities; Minor: Post-1945 American Literature, with an emphasis on graphic narratives) This sounds treacherous to some, but for me, this was one part of my program I was really looking forward to. Ever since I became a full-time student (by “full-time student”, I don’t mean starting my program at OSU; I mean back to when I decided to quit my job to pursue a career in writing, and taking Intro to Literature classes at my community college), I’ve always felt like I was years behind my colleagues when it came to being familiar with the literary canon. It feels like not that long ago, I didn’t know who William Faulkner was, or even what the word “canon” meant. Every summer, I would spend hours on hours at libraries or parks, sitting at a bench, reading the classics and other books that I felt I should be familiar with. I actually really enjoyed it! It felt like I was enriching my knowledge, climbing to the top of the shoulders of giants I’m supposed to be standing on. Now, I get to gain the specialization I’ve always wanted through doing just that. I am now posed to apply my strengths while in my program.
Just finished my first class of the Spring semester. There were some Zoom mishaps, which ate up a bunch of time, but we all got to know each other, and we talked about the class and our course theme “Empathy as a Vehicle for Critical Reading”. I’ve had a lot of First Days as a teacher, stretching back to CSUN and GCC, so today’s class wasn’t too significant, until I realized something…
Today is exactly the halfway mark of my program. It’s mind blowing, feeling like the time between the start of my program now feels both tiny and gigantic. It’s awful that in the middle of this, a pandemic is ravaging through the country, and I don’t wish to minimize its impact. I wish for little more than just being on campus, in the classroom with my students, then moving to The Thompson to continue working, then meeting up with friends for Happy Hour after, but we’re all indoors, doing our part to stop further spread.
All I can say at this point is that, for what it’s worth, I’ve really enjoyed the last two and a half years being here, meeting awesome people and continuing my research on cutting edge theory and pedagogy, and I look forward to making the most of the remainder of my time.
To the next Two and a Half Years- Cheers!
Years ago, when I was working on my undergrad degree, I learned about Drinksgiving. I worked at a local bar on the weekends, a place made up of mostly locals and regulars. I’ve been to plenty of bars, but working at one, and being an aspiring writer, you observe things really quickly and very astutely. Every Wednesday shift before Thanksgiving, I noticed two distinct clienteles that would show up: large groups of friends, made up of thirty-somethings from out of town seeing each other again, and the regulars, staying extra long and being a little more jovial than usual. I didn’t get it at first- why are they here? I’d rather be at home with family or a gathering at someone’s home than this place. But the more I watched, the more I noticed how they were together. They didn’t just like hanging out here; it’s like they were observing something. They stayed really long, drank way too much, yet no one ever got belligerent, and some even brought food from home for their friends, and for us working that night. (they also tip really well, so I’m not complaining) It took a couple of years to realize that this “a thing”: getting together with friends, celebrating with those we care about, becoming a kind of buffer for the next day. It made a lot of sense after working a couple of these shifts, then even more sense when it was my turn to come back home this time of year. The holidays, for some, can be difficult, dealing with unpleasant family history, hoping everything goes well, which in turn becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for disaster, while unpacking how the year has gone, including the highs and lows. Drinksgiving is a kind of time and space where you don’t the need to perform a kind of happiness, where you can share something free of judgement, where you could be around people you want to be around with instead of those you feel obligated to. I think we could all use a Drinksgiving night. I think after this year, we are all searching for that space.
The first half of the semester has now come to a close, and I reached some important milestones, but working through a pandemic, relegated to working from home (something I’m not a fan of yet accept it necessity), it’s hard to tell if the semester is really over, or if the last nine months was a big blob of time. My days consisted of waking up in the morning and getting dressed, only to show up to a class made up of black squares with names of students I rarely saw face to face. I’m currently in the “reading for candidacy exams” stage of my academic program. A year ago, (and I know I’m gonna get slack for this) I would have been really excited to spend hours in the library, reading books from a list I curated. I envisioned myself surrounded by pillars of books, devouring them, one after another like a hungry wolf. I love reading, and I love my studies, so to spend hours solely reading works well for me. Instead, I’m confined to my apartment, where I’ve always struggled to get any work done. I’m not a homebody. I am much more comfortable studying at a library, calling it day after, and walking home, leaving my work behind me. I can’t do that here. I wake up, and I see my work station, about three feet away. It’s not a pleasant feeling. It’s hard, and as versatile as my work experience is, I feel like I’m never going to get used to it. Some days after working in front of my computer for several hours, I feel like I need to wash the blue light off of my face, or find some errand to run just to get away from my desk. On top of all of this, I really missed seeing my friends, colleagues, and mentors, some I haven’t seen in months, and a few quitting their program. I try to find some highlight of the semester to focus on when I blog, but this one has been extra challenging. That’s where Drinksgiving kicks in.
Due to spikes of COVID-19 infections in both Ohio and California, I stayed at my place instead of going back home and seeing family. It’s a bit difficult knowing that I have to wait another God-knows-how-many more months not being back home, having to hear about my friend’s and family’s life events through a medium like social media. Asking people to get together is borderline-problematic, as we’re all trying to social distance. As Thanksgiving came closer, I remembered about Drinksgiving, and it was a perfect compromise. I set up multiple Zoom meetings with friends and family, seeing and catching up with them, sharing stories and really dumb jokes, all while drinking profusely. (that was mainly me, but that’s beside the point) My favorite part was keeping up with friends while trying to figure out time zones. (I stayed up until three in the morning once!) Sure, we would all love to see each other instead of using video conferencing, but like navigating a pandemic, we are making the most with what we have. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything remarkable to say about this semester, or sage advice that is a product of working through what was probably the most difficult semester of my program. But it’s okay, because like the spirit of Drinksgiving, the point isn’t to wallow about the coming day, but to be around those you’ve waited months to see, in an effort to give yourself emotional space before the coming day. The semester came to an end, and I got to see friends and family. I have little to complain about.
Today, the first day of the new year, I’m doing the thing I’ve been working towards for years: writing what I want to write. I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow (I heard it’s going to snow again), but I think it’s going to be a good day. Below is a slideshow of screenshots during my Drinksgiving gatherings. We all laughed, shared, reflected, grieved, rambled, and drank. Also, some of there were taken after the semester was over and during the holiday season. (one was taken on my birthday- Happy Birthday to me!!!) Pandemic or not, I’m glad we found some time to stay festive, and to celebrate a holiday that is now very close to my heart, Drinksgiving.
Happy Holidays to all who read this, and even those who don’t. I hope 2021 brings you nothing but happiness, joy, love, and a renewed perspective for things to come 🙂
It’s a cold morning, with the sun hidden behind clouds, the way I prefer it. I can feel the tiniest droplets on my face as I walk down Olentangy trail. There’s a tin taste in the air, the scent of thousands of different species of greenery, and the only sounds are from the river about four yards on my left. The force going to the ball of my feet is not taxing, yet has launched a lifetime of motion to where I am now. After a certain distance, roughly a quarter mile, my thoughts begin to disentangle, and the world grows simultaneously acute and quiet. I feel like walking is no longer an active motion, but one part of many that serves to propel motion forward. The road connects me to my past, all things present, and the multitudes of possibilities. This is where thinking happens.
Last year, I jogged along the Olagntangy trail during Autumn Break. I was in my first year at OSU, still learning what my program was going to shape into. This year, I’m doing the same, having a better sense of where I’m at and why I’m here. The demands of my program are getting heavier, with more pressure, and some days, it can be crushing. I’m taking this slice of time to get my footing back, at a place where the only sounds around me are the rustle of leaves and the occasional bird call.
I’m hoping to keep this tradition alive, as it slowly becomes the antidote to feeling consumed- a healthy routine, practicing self-care, and surrounding myself with people I enjoy spending time with, making sure I make time for them. I’m going to continue because I have a passion for this. All I have to do now is jog back, and keep that passion going.
It’s Saturday, noon in October, with a slight breeze in the air. Hope you find your own Olentangy Trail.
It’s morning, mirrors fogged up, as I stand in front of my bathroom counter, shaving, with small traces of spice in the air. It’s my second year at Ohio State University, and today is the first day I teach Freshman Composition, a class I’ve taught dozens of times, only with different course objectives, and in a different state. I’m moving my face around to get a good shave, while muttering the things I wish to tell my students. I go back and forth about the information I wish to share with them. Do I talk about my background? That I’m a grad student? Maybe I need an opening joke to put the class at ease? I’m on the edge of a doubt spiral, until my cat jumps on the counter, giving me a look of affection. I pat him on the head, then, in Piece Brosnan’s voice, he says, “You’re going to be fine”. Then it hits me- I don’t have a cat. I look to him, then spot a red lever mounted on my bathroom wall that I’ve only noticed until this moment. It says “PULL” in large red letters. I pull the le-
7:08- I’m awake, exactly seven minutes before my alarm goes off. Do I try to salvage these seven minutes, and try to get a bit more sleep, or get an early jump on my day? Hmm….umm……Oh, I have to shave! I jump out of bed, and start getting ready.
I’ve officially been in Columbus for 365 days. In that time, I moved, helped my friends move, jogged along the Olagntangy River, presented at a conference, donated blood, slipped on black ice, pulled a few all nighters, made friends with a cat, my research pivoted, had several existential crises, joined some circles of friends, with a touch of heartbreak, attended four live concerts, my weight fluctuated like crazy, found a couple of spots that reminded me of home, made a few trips back home, read at least forty books, found out I have 20/15 eyesight, celebrated Thanksgiving with people I’m not related to, and once, I was so broke, I ate nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a week.
These are not things that happen to you on an AirBnb trip- I have roots here now. I always thought of myself as a transient spirit, in a constant search to expand my intellectual horizons, but I’m at a point where slowing down is in my best interest. I’m no longer doing a million things at once, but trying to do one thing really well. Today, I’m doing the thing I set out to do here- doing work, good work, work I care about.
Currently having breakfast at a small spot, walking distance from my new place. The food is really good. They also have an awesome Sangria, but I’ll save that for another time- I have work to do.
(to read What Seeking Infinite Jest Means Part I, click here)
A young man walks out of the Thompson Library at OSU, with a smile on his face, borderline smug, after completing his first year of his PhD program. He’s texting his friends and making plans for the break with an air of confidence that is only granted to those who have marked off accomplishments years in the making. The world is at his fingertips, walking as if he has been granted access to a kind of knowledge reserved only for the most privileged. Perched from a rooftop about a hundred yards away, invisible to everyone else, I can see this young man and his gait. I watch from the shadows, silently observing, attempting to predict his next step. I look at his jovial walk, with something between envy and resentment, and let out a whisper: “What’s going to happen to you?”