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When I'm not here, you may find me wandering the pages below. (If I'm a regular visitor to your site and I've left your link off or mislinked to you, please let me know! And likewise, if you've blogrolled me, please check that my link is updated: thisroamanticlife.blogspot.com. The extra (a) makes all the difference!)

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For posts sorted by date or label, see the links below.

For posts on frequently referenced topics, click the buttons to the right.

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Body: in sickness and in health

I won't lie; this body and I have had our issues with each other for many years. Body image -- sure. Physical and mental overextension -- comes with being a Type A kind of girl. I still struggle with these things, so they show up from time to time in my writing.

More recently, illness, pure but not simple, has added itself to the mix in a multi-system sort of way. And the challenges in figuring out exactly what's gone wrong are many. As problems have revealed themselves in the last few years, beginning with reactive hypoglycemia in late 2008, I've documented them here, partly to gain a little clarity on managing complex conditions but mostly to give voice to vulnerabilities I feel but don't normally share with anyone face to face. Better out than in, they say, right? (Oh yes, humor is one way I deal.)

The links below cover the different angles I've examined (and from which I've been examined) within that experience.

Travel: neither here nor there

When the person you're married to lives two time zones away, you log a fair number of frequent flier miles. And if you blog about commuter relationships, you log quite a few posts en route too.

Since we're no longer in separate places, I blog less often from airports. But we do travel -- together now! -- which is much more fun to write about. So in addition to thoughts on our years of commuting, the links below cover the places we've been as a pair and, in some cases, the adventures that have happened on the way.

Writing: the long and short of it

Why do I do it? Good question. Maybe it's not so much that I like to write but that I have to write, even when the words refuse to stick to the page. Believe me, I've tried doing other things like majoring in biochemistry (freshman fall, many semesters ago). Within a year, I'd switched to English with a concentration in creative writing and wasn't looking back.

After graduating, I taught English for a few years and then worked as an editor, which I still do freelance. In 2007, I applied and got into an MFA program at a place I like to call Little U. on the Prairie. I finished my degree in 2011 and have been balancing tutoring and writing on my own ever since.

The following links cover the writing I've done about writing: process, content, obstacles, you name it. It's not always pretty. But some part of me loves it, even when it's hard. And this is the result.

Heart: family and friends

I'd have a hard time explaining who I am without being able to talk about the family I grew up in as well as the people I've met beyond its bounds. But even with such context, it's not easy! In the simplest terms, I'm a first-generation Asian-American who has spent most of this life caught between cultures. That, of course, doesn't even begin to describe what I mean to, but there's my first stab at the heart of it all.

That's what this group of posts is reserved for -- heart. The essential parts of my life whose influences I carry with me, for better or worse. The links below cover what I've written as I've learned how these forces work within me, for me, against me, in spite of me. They anchor me even as they change me, and they keep life interesting.

Recommended reading

What do I do when there's too much on my mind and my words won't stick to the page? I escape into someone else's thoughts. Below is a collection of books and articles that have been sources of information, inspiration, and occasional insight for my own work.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Decisions, decisions

I got an e-mail a week or two ago from someone I'm mentoring -- she's considering various graduate programs in a number of related fields (education, literature, social science, or something interdisciplinary, as she puts it), and she wanted to know if she should (a) "apply to places that loosely make sense" for her particular interests because she's "sure about wanting to go into academia/teaching at the collegiate level" or (b) "put off applying to places until [she's] found the 'perfect' program to apply to ..."

Hmmm. I don't think either of those scenarios is the better option. The idea of applying to something that "loosely makes sense" raises a big red flag for me -- when I was shopping around for graduate schools, I saw an enormous range of programs within my field alone, and I know that some would not have suited me at all because of my particular interests and the interests of the faculty I wanted to work with. The other option of waiting to find the "perfect" program sounds all right -- but I have a distinct feeling that my mentee hasn't determined what she wants out of a graduate program. Until she sits down and really figures out what she's going after in terms of the whole experience and outcome, I'm thinking she won't be able to assess whether a program is the "perfect" fit for her (or if such a thing exists for her).

I've also talked to way too many disillusioned graduate students who are working on a second graduate degree because the first program they entered didn't end up letting them do what they had hoped or believed it would, even after much investigation -- only now, they've discovered that the next program is no better for other reasons. Clearly, what may look "perfect" may turn out to have substantial flaws. But I guess that information really can't help my mentee with her decision beyond serving as a precaution when she's doing her preliminary shopping.

My mentee also asked me, "What's the academic world really like? Do you feel super-competitive in your field ... ?" I think I smiled a little ruefully when I got to these questions. To be "competitive," I'm going to need more than an MFA (I was told this in no uncertain terms by the first-year advisor of my program within the first month of my arrival). It's funny to look back at how I was feeling over the summer about that situation. I think finding a home in teaching has made a huge difference -- I know now that working with students is in itself exciting for me. Will it be community colleges for me, then? Quite possibly, if they'll take me. We'll just have to see what's out there when I finish here and hope that the economy decides to play nicely. If there isn't anything viable, well, D and I will figure out our options then, but I think we've earned the right to say we'll wait it out in the same city.

(I say this with conviction now, but believe me, underneath it there's still fear that we'll be forced to return to some form of commuting again. Gaaah. For some really excellent thoughts on that aspect of career development, check out the conversation in the comments over at Medieval Woman's place in response to this post.)

Somehow, I don't think these were the answers my mentee was looking for.

Okay, let's end this on a lighter note -- so around the same time that my mentee e-mailed me, I found this little quiz online. It tells you where you fall on the "male-female brain continuum" based on your ability to perform certain mental tasks, and I'm amused to report that my gray matter is apparently quite masculine:


Does this mean that I make good decisions? No clue. But at least I know this quiz thinks they're ballsy ones ...

4 comments:

French Fancy said...

That quiz was fascinating. I already knew I had no spatial awareness but now I've had it confirmed by the BBC.

Asfor the right courses for students to take, I suppose they are thinking about the end product and either the research they will be able to go into or the career they want to make or themselves. It's so hard when you are young to know what to do for the best. They are lucky to have a mentor such as you

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Awww. Thanks, FF. I like mentoring partially because I didn't really have a mentor myself when I was figuring some of this stuff out. I'd like to think I'm keeping someone else from feeling the total uncertainty I did in the face of big life choices (even if it only reduces the uncertainty a little bit).

Good Enough Woman said...

CT, seems like some of your mentor/mentee questions are similar to the ones raised elsewhere that I also addressed a bit on my own blog. BTW, thanks for stopping by my blog! I've been coming by your place now, too, and I look forward to reading through the archives. Cheers!

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Welcome, Good Enough Woman! Thanks for stopping by too :). Great stuff over at your place -- looking forward to keeping up with you there.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Decisions, decisions

I got an e-mail a week or two ago from someone I'm mentoring -- she's considering various graduate programs in a number of related fields (education, literature, social science, or something interdisciplinary, as she puts it), and she wanted to know if she should (a) "apply to places that loosely make sense" for her particular interests because she's "sure about wanting to go into academia/teaching at the collegiate level" or (b) "put off applying to places until [she's] found the 'perfect' program to apply to ..."

Hmmm. I don't think either of those scenarios is the better option. The idea of applying to something that "loosely makes sense" raises a big red flag for me -- when I was shopping around for graduate schools, I saw an enormous range of programs within my field alone, and I know that some would not have suited me at all because of my particular interests and the interests of the faculty I wanted to work with. The other option of waiting to find the "perfect" program sounds all right -- but I have a distinct feeling that my mentee hasn't determined what she wants out of a graduate program. Until she sits down and really figures out what she's going after in terms of the whole experience and outcome, I'm thinking she won't be able to assess whether a program is the "perfect" fit for her (or if such a thing exists for her).

I've also talked to way too many disillusioned graduate students who are working on a second graduate degree because the first program they entered didn't end up letting them do what they had hoped or believed it would, even after much investigation -- only now, they've discovered that the next program is no better for other reasons. Clearly, what may look "perfect" may turn out to have substantial flaws. But I guess that information really can't help my mentee with her decision beyond serving as a precaution when she's doing her preliminary shopping.

My mentee also asked me, "What's the academic world really like? Do you feel super-competitive in your field ... ?" I think I smiled a little ruefully when I got to these questions. To be "competitive," I'm going to need more than an MFA (I was told this in no uncertain terms by the first-year advisor of my program within the first month of my arrival). It's funny to look back at how I was feeling over the summer about that situation. I think finding a home in teaching has made a huge difference -- I know now that working with students is in itself exciting for me. Will it be community colleges for me, then? Quite possibly, if they'll take me. We'll just have to see what's out there when I finish here and hope that the economy decides to play nicely. If there isn't anything viable, well, D and I will figure out our options then, but I think we've earned the right to say we'll wait it out in the same city.

(I say this with conviction now, but believe me, underneath it there's still fear that we'll be forced to return to some form of commuting again. Gaaah. For some really excellent thoughts on that aspect of career development, check out the conversation in the comments over at Medieval Woman's place in response to this post.)

Somehow, I don't think these were the answers my mentee was looking for.

Okay, let's end this on a lighter note -- so around the same time that my mentee e-mailed me, I found this little quiz online. It tells you where you fall on the "male-female brain continuum" based on your ability to perform certain mental tasks, and I'm amused to report that my gray matter is apparently quite masculine:


Does this mean that I make good decisions? No clue. But at least I know this quiz thinks they're ballsy ones ...

4 comments:

French Fancy said...

That quiz was fascinating. I already knew I had no spatial awareness but now I've had it confirmed by the BBC.

Asfor the right courses for students to take, I suppose they are thinking about the end product and either the research they will be able to go into or the career they want to make or themselves. It's so hard when you are young to know what to do for the best. They are lucky to have a mentor such as you

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Awww. Thanks, FF. I like mentoring partially because I didn't really have a mentor myself when I was figuring some of this stuff out. I'd like to think I'm keeping someone else from feeling the total uncertainty I did in the face of big life choices (even if it only reduces the uncertainty a little bit).

Good Enough Woman said...

CT, seems like some of your mentor/mentee questions are similar to the ones raised elsewhere that I also addressed a bit on my own blog. BTW, thanks for stopping by my blog! I've been coming by your place now, too, and I look forward to reading through the archives. Cheers!

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Welcome, Good Enough Woman! Thanks for stopping by too :). Great stuff over at your place -- looking forward to keeping up with you there.