#11. When reflexivity always ends up in self-doubt.

*And BLINK*

So March, April and May went by, I’m not sure where they went, but, one thing is certain they went. 

Writing has been painfully slow.

Research has been painfully slow.

The housemates have been nightmarish.

The blogging stopped.

And the self-doubt has been ever-on the increase. 

Where is my project going?

Is it good enough?

Why do I find writing so difficult? 

Where am I going?

What am I doing with my life?

Why do I never ever have any money for nice things?

CRISIS! I’m a twenty-something *Still* spending every hour I have in the library or in my office hunched over a dusty library book, hoping to find something relevant to my project. After SIX years of studies, working every weekday and weekend. 

And then you get the latest flu virus going around campus, because the person sitting next to you in the library also hunched over the desk is sneezing violently into their dusty book, the chair and occasionally your face.

So you spend a week in bed. *And BLINK* You find yourself evaluating your entire life.  

 

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#10. Falling into the Abyss

You know when it has been raining heavily, when the ground is wet and you are in your car driving, driving in the mud?…Except, you’re not actually driving, the ground is mud. And what is happening is that the car is stuck in the mud and when you’re pushing the gas pedal, it is actually making you more stuck. So, you have two choices..

1. to continue pushing the gas,
2. to get out of the car and push it out of the mud
[or 3. to walk…no one wants that…]

And so…

Dear readers, please forgive my absence from blogging for these past few weeks….I have been stuck in the mud, the dense mud of my literature review. It is really hard to see the forest for the trees, when in the mud. I have much to read, to write, and the deadline is all too fast in its approach. So much mud, but rather than navigating my way-out of the mud, it is much better to stay in it and to convert it creatively into something more useful. Make it good.

Mudbricks in Palestine 2011

Mudbricks in Palestine 2011

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mudbricks_in_Palestine_2011.jpg 23/02/2013

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#9. The Art of Public Speaking

Maccari-Cicero

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Maccari-Cicero.jpg Wikipedia access date: 20/01/2013)

Tomorrow I will be giving a presentation to second year law students who are contemplating continuing on the path of further-education to postgraduate studies. I will be speaking about my experiences of studying a non-law subject (namely, philosophy) at a masters level. I have decided that I am not going to writing anything specific about what I am going to say. As although this would make life easier for me, it would be tediously dull for my audience. Instead, I am going to be adventurous and speak without written words. This may be very foolish. As I still have vivid flash-backs to the school play where the 10-year-old me (…okay 14-year-old me) was utterly frozen speechless on stage, turning a brighter shade of pink and for what seemed like the best part of an hour. Oh, and that this was in front of the entire school and their parentals!Since then I have given numerous presentations and last year I gave my first conference paper. I do still struggle with lots of fear. But public speaking is an art which requires a vast amount of practice and refinement. Fear and nerves prevent and hinder the ‘information transmission’. This much is rational and clear. So the only sound conclusion is that I must overcome the fear (..or stay fearful and hide-away from the world in a cupboard, or something similar.)

So, now that I am no longer fearful (kind of) I am deciding the content of what I will be saying tomorrow. Accordingly, below is my experiences of how I got to decide to become a PhD student (*rather my story, recollection and representation of the past).

HELPFUL TIPS FOR OTHERS CONSIDERING POSTGRADUATE STUDIES.

Have a clear goal in mind about what you want from your MA and the extra value it will provide for your future. As I was researching for my undergraduate dissertation I stumbled into Continental Philosophy. In addition to studying Jurisprudence as an undergraduate here, I also had the opportunity to study different aspects of philosophy such as Applied Ethics and the Philosophy of Law in Italy. I knew that I wanted to pursue my research further and that I wanted to understand better Continental Philosophy and the context in which these thinkers emerged. So I had a clear goal of what I wanted to achieve with my Master’s qualification and the value that it would bring to my PhD studies and my overall project. With this in mind I began researching universities which offered MA Philosophy courses with a particular emphasis on Continental Philosophy.

Money. Another important consideration , which you will also need to think about is money cost – I was self-funding my MA tuition fees (£4,950 for Home Students). So I was quite lucky that the University wasn’t too far away so that I could commute from home.

Be pro-active about your learning. When I was researching universities I had a look at the course information on the website at several universities and I called lots of them to find out a bit more information about the courses available and whether there was any knowledge assumed and whether they could suggest any books to read prior to the courses beginning. So I called the number on the website I of the University I chose for my MA and spoke to someone straight away in the philosophy department. I thought I was just through to admissions so I asked about courses available and I then started talking about my research interests…(long time…passed where I was talking)…. And towards the end of the conversation I realized I was talking to the Head of the School of Philosophy! I expected to be simply palmed off to someone in admissions, who doesn’t really want to know me, what I’m doing or why I’m interested in that particular course, but this appraoch was a breath of fresh air! In fact, I really enjoyed my MA and I took full advantage of the Philosophy Society every Friday and the Informal Philosophy Classes every other week, which were not compulsory at all, but were undertaken and taken by people who really enjoyed the subject.

…I hope that this may help someone.

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#8.YOGA

(Source: wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Om.svg 16/01/2013)

Today, I attended my first ever yoga class! That’s right, I made good on one of my New Year’s resolutions…well, sort of…in any case…it is a start! So, I thought I’d share with you some of my tips from my first day’s class.

#1. Take your time selecting your yoga mat. Do not under *any* circumstances pick up any old mat just because you are late finding the venue – I made this mistake and I spent the entire hour trying to ‘relax’ on a mat, which although was originally purple, it was now stained yellow and smelt distinctively cheesy feet and distilled sweat. And that this ‘relaxation’ generally was with my head-facing down and my nose touching the yoga mat (- the downward-facing dog position).

#2. Make sure you don’t put yourself right at the back of the class, because it’s your first day. If you do this, you will spend the whole class trying to look between the legs, feet and torsos of other humans whilst attempting to balance your body in impossibly difficult positions. You will fall embarrassingly, on many occasions.

#3. Do try it! Actually, I really enjoy it. I feel like I’ve stretched muscles I never knew I had. I began the class with my body in the standard ‘sitting-in-my-office-with-my-hands-glued-to-the-keyboard’ position, and after the class I felt a lot more de-stressed (not distressed..) and it helps with posture and balance. It is definitely a good midday lunch break from the office. And we all need a break sometime, to re-focus I hope….

…I will be bringing my own mat next week though.

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#7. Research headaches- When is enough?

The_Persistence_of_Memory

‘The Persistence of Memory’, Dali
(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Persistence_of_Memory.jpg Wikipedia 10/01/2013)

I’ve been thinking some more about researching and writing. I know that have already written about not writing. But I have a research headache now. Also, I work with view that awareness and identifying and ‘naming’ the problem is a good thing. It makes it less scary? And blogging about it, may help others?

Anyway, so here it is…

My previous post ‘on writing’ and the difficulty of the beginning of the process of writing, captured (perhaps) something of one side of the coin of the problem. The inter-related worry which keeps me awake, and is ‘headaching me’; is ‘knowing’- when is enough? Knowing when I have now enough research to start writing my literature review. The problem is that the field is *huge*, and ever expanding with the more I read.. There are no boundaries to the field. There are an infinite number of books, articles, studies, I haven’t read. The problem of beginning to write is thus also one of scope. Being realistic with what I can do and starting from where I am…

Remember this? I shall leave you with this quote, which just popped into my mind:
“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know.
We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld 2002

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/There_are_known_knowns Wikipedia 09/01/2013)

(N.B. I do not necessarily agree with the context in which this was originally said. Quoting: the manipulation of the words of others to suit one’s own purposes? You can quote me on that…)

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#6. Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 35, Simone de Beauvoir

Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 35, Simone de Beauvoir.

Today is Simone de Beauvoir’s birthday. To celebrate this, please find enclosed a link to an interview she gave published in the Paris Review.

On working:

“INTERVIEWER

People say that you have great self-discipline and that you never let a day go by without working. At what time do you start?

DE BEAUVOIR

I’m always in a hurry to get going, though in general I dislike starting the day. I first have tea and then, at about ten o’clock, I get under way and work until one. Then I see my friends and after that, at five o’clock, I go back to work and continue until nine. I have no difficulty in picking up the thread in the afternoon. When you leave, I’ll read the paper or perhaps go shopping. Most often it’s a pleasure to work.”

(http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/4444/the-art-of-fiction-no-35-simone-de-beauvoir#.UO2vWDD4HjI.wordpress Access date: 09/01/2013)

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#5. writing and the music of life

I’m at the beginning, just trying to start to write. For me beginning to write is a painful experience. It is like pedalling a bike up a steep hill with the wind against me. Each push of the pedal is forceful and each breath seems deliberate. Please do not misunderstand me, I love writing. But what I love about writing is not the beginning or even the end so much, but it is the bit in the middle, the ‘in-between’. Where there is a piercing clarity and connection to what you’re writing, being there. It seems like a contradiction, because writing is always belated. But there is a sense of being in the moment, of creating, when writing. In that moment of creativity, there is no place I would rather be. It is STARTING which is frustrating. And my frustration is based on ignorance – not hearing the music.

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