Lena Corazon

Flights of Fancy

Month: May 2015

#ROW80: Momentum, At Last

Happy Sunday, friends! We’re on the verge of a new week (not quite sure how that happened), and I finally feel like I’ve gained the momentum I need to keep rolling with this dissertation. Huzzah!

3 Things I Loved This Week.

1. My family was in celebration mode this weekend, with a combo belated Mother’s Day & 23rd birthday celebration for my little sister. We all went out for afternoon tea at the glorious Rotunda restaurant at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco, and had an awesome time.

2. Even though I’m approaching 30, my inner-five year old still likes to come out and play. I still haven’t managed to get rid of my stuffed animal collection, and yesterday I added a new one to the mix. I initially picked it out as a birthday gift for my boyfriend’s niece, who celebrates her first birthday on May 22nd, but the minute I picked it up I knew I wasn’t going to be able to let it go. #trueconfessions

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3. My dissertation advisor agreed that I should walk in the June commencement ceremony, since I’ll be defending by the end of the summer. I haven’t wanted to make a huge deal about it–after all, I’m not technically *done*, so why bother? But my announcements came in the mail the other day and suddenly it all feels incredibly real. I’m gonna graduate, guys! And even if it *is* sorta symbolic, it’s symbolism that counts.

(Yup, that’s my not-so-secret birth name you see printed there!)

Progress.

I finished Chapter 4, “Origin Stories,” a few days later than I had initially intended. But! It is 36 pages long, and over 11,750 words, so WHOOOO.

At the moment, I’m about one week behind on my writing schedule. It’s not terrible, but cross your fingers I can finish drafting Chapter 5 by Wednesday, May 27th. 

This next chapter, “Transplantations,” explores the complex dynamics that Catholic sisters faced when they arrived in San Francisco during the 1850s. As I wrote in my not-so-official summary:

“Transplantations” is a chapter about a bunch of European nuns who sail to San Francisco in the 1850s, only to find a lot of crime, poverty, and pretty deplorable conditions. But because they were a bunch of badasses, they battled religious and ethnic bigots, built dozens of schools, established their own hospitals, and saved a lot of people from cholera.

I’m really excited to work with this chapter, partly because I get to dig into all that archival data I spent over a year collecting, and partly because I wrote about it in an article I published in the peer-reviewed scholarly journal, U.S. Catholic Historian. Given the audience, the article is pretty heavy on historical description, and less so on sociological analysis, but it will provide an excellent jumping-off point for rewriting. (Shameless self-promotion: if you’d like to read the article, here it is, published, once again, under my Very Official Academic Writing Name.)

-oOo-

And there you have it! I’m a little wiped out from burning the candle at both ends last week (up early each morning to write before work, then to bed super late so I could write after work).  Because I clearly write and think better when I’m rested, this week’s goal is to write till 10 pm, read something fun for 30 minutes or so (that way I hopefully don’t have a repeat of Wednesday’s stabby stabbyness), and then go to bed by 11 pm.

I’m a little behind on answering comments and blog hopping, but I am totally rooting for everyone! Don’t forget to wave a friendly hello to the rest of this week’s ROWers.

ROW80: This is the Chapter That’ll Never End

I tried, you guys. Seriously, I did.

I gave myself a hard deadline of Sunday to wrap up the dissertation chapter I’ve been poking at for the last four months. Then I extended the deadline to late Monday/early Tuesday. But now it’s Wednesday, and the chapter is like 11,000 words long (is that too long? short? I HAVE NO IDEA). and it STILL ISN’T FINISHED.

Like I mentioned earlier on Facebook, I’m feeling stabby and violent and would like to burn this chapter with fire… but California’s in the middle of a drought and something like 12 million trees have already died from lack of water. I don’t want to add to the problem.

So, basically, I hate deadlines right now, because they never seem to be quite realistic enough. And trying to write after a full day of working, or before a full day of working, or somewhere squashed in-between my halfassed attempts at exercising and a full day of working, is SO. DARN. HARD.

*Whew*

That is my tirade for the day. Probably the only positive thing to come out of this is the fact that I have succeeded at writing for at least 45 minutes for the last five days, and sometimes (most of the time) much longer than 45 minutes. So… Huzzah?

For fun, here’s the first two paragraphs of this chapter, which discusses the “origin stories” of the 5 religious orders I’m studying for my dissertation: the Sisters of Mercy, the Presentation Sisters, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, the Sisters of the Holy Family, and the Daughters of Charity. The decision to follow one’s spiritual calling to serve God by serving others placed the founders of all 5 communities in challenging, difficult, and sometimes dangerous positions, but few of them faced the same stakes that Mary Ward, founder of the Institute of Mary, did.

 In 1609, Mary Ward, a highly educated Catholic woman whose family fled England for the European continent, succeeded in establishing the first order of religious women rooted in the Rule of St. Ignatius, the foundation of the famed Jesuit order. Ward was “related by blood or marriage to most of the Catholic aristocracy of England” (Burke-Sullivan 2009:177), many of whom joined her congregation, the Institute of Mary. Together, the community adopted an active life similar to the Jesuits, one that eschewed cloister for an active life of ministry. Ward and her religious sisters worked in education and healthcare, and even disguised themselves as domestic servants in England “to draw back into faith many who had fallen away” (ibid.). But in 1630, Ward was imprisoned by the Church, her order officially suppressed. She “was charged with (but never granted a trial or hearing for) heresy, schism, and rebellion” (pg. 178). Her crime? Stepping outside the tightly prescribed boundaries that existed for women in the seventeenth century and creating a religious institute that went beyond the approved tradition of cloister.

Ward’s example serves as a reminder of the deeply precarious position that women occupied when they sought to transgress the narrow rules that governed women’s lives, both religious and lay. However, she also demonstrates the incredible feats that women could accomplish if they had the faith, resilience, and strength to persevere. Despite her imprisonment and ongoing persecution that she faced for the remainder of her life, she continued to work throughout Europe, founding schools in countries like the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, and Austria, traveling often on foot. When the persecution of Catholics in England ended, she returned, creating free schools for the poor, visiting the imprisoned, and working with the sick.

Mary Ward, and all of the other women in my study, are the ones who keep me going, even when I want to give up on this stupid dissertation. These women–ordinary individuals who managed to do extraordinary things–deserve to have their stories told.

And that’s my Wednesday! I’m going to be relaxing this evening with a cocktail for my weekly happy hour date night, and afterwards I’ll be back on the writing grind. Don’t forget to say hey to everyone else who’s checking in today.

ROW80: It’s Time to Get a PhD

Hey friends! It’s been ages since I’ve participated in a Round of Words in 80 Days, but here I am, in the final push to finish my dissertation and get a PhD, a massive goal that’s been almost 7 years in the making. I’m in major need of accountability, so here I am, ROWers, joining in for the remainder of Round 2.

I’m going to try and keep check-ins simple, so I am more likely to actually do them, so I figure I’ll share 3 things I loved from the week, and the progress I’m making towards my goals.

3 Things I Loved This Week.

1. This song is a little dated (which shows you all how often I pay attention to the radio these days), but my Hot Hula instructor used it for one of our routines, and I’m a little obsessed.

2. I saw THE BOOK OF MORMON a couple of weeks back, and holy heck, I haven’t laughed that hard in a really, really long time. The musical was co-written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (of South Park fame), and can be a little offensive during certain parts, although I thought the satire was really, really well done. The best part about the whole experience? Getting to take my cocktail into the theatre with these awesome reusable sippy cups!

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3. Now that I’m earning a paycheck that let’s me do a little more than just pay the bills, my boyfriend and I have been trying to do a handful of cool events that we’ve always wanted to attend. This past week, we went to the Conservatory of Flowers‘ Annual Gala, and wow! Talk about an awesome, super fun event, complete with open bar, gourmet food stations, and live music. The Conservatory of Flowers is extra-special for us, because we went there when we first started dating (it’s where he first held my hand!). So yay for being able to get dressed up and do something awesomely fun during the middle of the week!

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All dolled up, and feeling a little like Cinderella.

The Goal.

My goal is simple: I need to finish my dissertation, tentatively titled Sisterhood on the Frontier: Catholic Women Religious in San Francisco, 1850-1925 (yes, it is a sociological study of historical nuns!). To do that, my plan is to write 1 chapter every 2 weeks, through mid-July. Then I have maybe 1 month to revise and overhaul the entire thing, so I can defend and file with the Powers That Be by September 8th. I’m trying to write for at least 45 minutes, 5 days a week.

Progress So Far:

I’m just about finished with chapter 4 of 10, which will hopefully be wrapped up by Sunday night and sent off to my advisor, along with my end-of-year progress report (ugh). Once that’s done, I can embark on Chapter 5 (whoo!).

-oOo-

That’s about all from me! I’m looking forward to brunching with my boyfriend’s family to celebrate Mother’s Day, and then hanging out with my family Sunday evening. Don’t forget to swing by and wave a friendly (and encouraging!) hello to the other ROWers checking in this week.

 

Is There Life Beyond Grad School?

The answer to that question is, of course, yes. But as someone who’s spent the last eleven years of her life in non-compulsory higher education, I’m not exactly sure what that life is going to look like.

I’ve got a few ideas. Guilt-free Netflix binge sessions after work! Reading novels, writing novels, hanging out with friends, napping, shopping, singing, adventuring… ALL THE THINGS, only without the dread of a humongous dissertation hanging over my head.

But beyond the fun stuff, beyond the fact that my evenings and weekends will finally be my own, and that I’ll no longer have to do this crazy juggling act between a fairly intense 9-to-5 and an equally intense behemoth, is the very scary, very real thought of having to decide What To Do With My Life.

This used to be very simple. I made the decision to go to graduate school because I wanted to be a professor. I wanted to be like my favorite mentors in college, who were so fired up and passionate about their work that they gave me purpose. They taught me to think critically, and they gave me tools to make the world a better place.

And so I signed up for a PhD program, partly because of them and partly because I’ve fancied the sound of “Dr. Corazon” since I was about 10. And I’ve worked hard, and ticked most of the boxes off of my Academic Pre-Career to-do list: TAships, check. Yearly conference presentations, check. Academic article published, check. And even though I haven’t had the chance to teach as instructor-on-record yet, my advisors assure me that I would be a viable candidate for a tenure-track position on the strength of my research and teaching assistantships.

But.

I… don’t really know if that’s what I want to do anymore.

There’s so much bound up in that decision, of course. There’s the fact that the number of tenure-track positions are swiftly shrinking, with universities depending more and more on part-time adjunct labor–something I’m not willing to put up with. And then there’s the fact that teaching is intense, and depending on the courseload, leads to a lot of burnout, and work on the weekends, and on and on.

And, of course, there’s the fact that I’ve somehow fallen into grant-writing and resource development… and I kinda like it. The pay is decent, with a lot of room for growth, and it feels good to write things that are going to help people, proposals that will have an immediate impact and pay off in multiple ways.

On the flipside, academia–research in particular–is thrilling. And as much as I hate the process of writing this dissertation, I am so passionate about my topic. Historical studies of Catholic nuns in San Francisco might not seem super interesting to everyone, but I’m in love with it, and I feel like it’s, in many ways, really important, both in terms of illuminating forgotten history and in making connections with current events. There’s so much that I haven’t done with it, and so much that I want to do (my advisor is already listing potential journal articles and book proposals)… what I’ve done so far is just the tip of the iceberg.

Blah.

So I’m in the middle of a gray zone, like I took the wrong fork in the road but have been so busy staring at the map that I’m just now seeing this strange, new place, filled with flora and fauna that I never anticipated, pitfalls that I can’t predict, but a savage beauty that comes from being a place that is new and uncharted.

This level of possibility makes my palms sweaty with fear and excitement and anticipation of new adventures. Because it can lead to so many things. Take, for example, the chance to unify my fiction writing and professional worlds. Three years ago, I took a pseudonym, more than a little terrified at the thought of my creative hobbies being “discovered” by hiring committees and somehow branding me as unprofessional and unscholarly. Having this separate space has been a joy in so many ways, but there are days when I feel like I’ve muzzled myself, like dividing myself up has resulted in an inability to express all the things that I’m passionate about and love.

I don’t know where the next few years where lead. There are so many stories I want to share, so many darn things I want to accomplish, and my roadmap… well, it’s a little nonexistent at this point. But I have that stirring feeling that I’m poised to make all my dreams come true, if I can only let go of the fear, embrace the unknown, and accept uncertainty. Easier said than done for a plotting, planning, detail-oriented stickler for rules, but crazier things have happened, right?

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