The Honeymoon’s Over: Halfway Through the First Semester

My desk.
My desk and assistants.

That’s right, y’all. My initial period of excitement has turned into a familiar form of exhausted resignation. Now I remember why I was so burnt out after my MA!

I’ve gone through a typical graduate school adjustment arc in the past six weeks: hope, excitement, and elation gave way first to stagnation, procrastination, and paralysis, and then to a short-lived denial phase in which I was forced to ask myself, why am I doing this again? I even had a chronic eye twitch for two weeks. But all is well! Thanks to my supportive partner, thousands of ounces of strong coffee, and the gratitude I still feel at being given this opportunity at all, I have come out the other side feeling organized and motivated.

Several tools and tricks have helped me along the way:

  • Printing out most of my course readings in hard copy (so I can give my eyes a break from all the screen time, while also highlighting and taking notes, both of which help my comprehension and memory);
  • Being even more neurotic than usual about keeping my Google and wall calendars up-to-date;
  • Getting enough sleep (okay, at least five nights out of seven);
  • Using Todoist to log specific tasks and goals to keep me on track;
  • Taking some time off regularly (for me this is takes the form of joining the Sabbath Manifesto, which I do from about 6:00pm on Friday nights until midday Saturday);
  • Tackling the tougher projects first;
  • Learning to say no; this is a biggie, and something I still struggle with, but I found out very quickly that it was physically impossible for me to do every optional reading, attend every fascinating panel or archive tour, go to every social gathering, or volunteer for every amazing project. Determining my medium- and long-term goals and strategically saying yes only to those things that both help me in achieving those goals and allow me to avoid total physical and mental burnout has been a necessity.

I’ve got some amazing projects in the works right now, including a writing a paper on archiving graffiti* (with a metadata focus); digitizing cassette tapes for the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary; writing another paper (with a partner) on JSTOR, Aaron Swartz, and the democratization of academic research; interviewing Alex Hartov and Lewis Glinert at Dartmouth for a case study I’m writing on the Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive (stay tuned—this one’s going to become a blog post!); and continuing to assist patrons with a wide variety of absolutely fascinating research queries at the Harry Ransom Center.  And it’s almost time to register for spring classes!

October is a beautiful month—my favorite. It’s finally cooled off here in Austin. I hope you can join me in taking some time to enjoy the cooler air and gorgeous Sunday mornings. I like to sit on the porch and relax with a cup of coffee while there’s still a slight chill in the air, and before the streets are abuzz. If you’re still looking for a favorite coffee spot, I can help you out with that.


*See my graffiti blog here.  It needs updating; this is one of those things that has been neglected due to my crazy schedule, but I have thousands of photographs of street art, mostly around central Austin—and some from as far afield as Edinburgh!  More will be added soon.  This project also has a Facebook page, where I post links to my photos, as well as interesting, graffiti-related articles.


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