Saturday, April 25, 2015

I'm going to Iceland!!!

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My fieldwork travel grant was approved this week and the money should be in my account early next week (of course there would have to be a public holiday on Monday), and then I'll buy my tickets!

I'M GOING TO ICELAND!!!

I haven't been there for thirty years and to say my Icelandic is rusty would be a massive understatement, so now I'm desperately trying to 'get back into it', because, quite frankly, I would be horribly disappointed in myself if I went over there and spoke English the whole time.

I have to talk to Centrelink. This Federal Government has decided that disability pensioners and students cannot leave Australia for longer than 4 weeks in any 12 month period or they will lose their payments. I guess the theory is that if we government payment types can afford to travel overseas, we shouldn't need money from the Government.

The thing is, I can't afford to travel overseas, the University is paying for me to go, because this fieldwork is essential research for completing my thesis and graduating. Having the four week restriction (keeping in mind I spent 5 days in Wellington in November at a conference, which is also all about my degree), is going to reduce the amount of time I have to do research, and with my vision impairment, everything takes longer. The degree is all about improving my chances of becoming gainfully employed, which would reduce my support from the Government, but hey, let's just slap an arbitrary travel restriction on people with a disability or who are studying.

I worry about how this will impact my future employment. In a world which is becoming ever more global, international travel for work is becoming more and more common. You may be thinking that if I'm on a pension and get work, I'll no longer be on the pension anyway. Well, you see the blind pension is not means tested because our adaptive technologies are so expensive, so it continues even once we are employed to ensure we can continue to purchase adaptive technologies (a braille digital diary costs $5000, for example).

How am I going to work in a field which requires international travel if the Government restricts the amount of time I can travel in a 12 month period?

Frustrating. However...

I'M GOING TO ICELAND!!!

I'll do it on a shoestring, but I'm still enormously excited!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Audacious Aud and some of my other awesome ancestors...

I've had a big week in my PhD this week. I spent nine hours at uni on Tuesday catching up on work I had not managed to do last week or over the weekend. I'm learning a LOT about historiography, which is something I could not have predicted. Specifically, I'm having to come to grips with Icelandic historiography, which turns out to be quite divergent - now why is that not surprising?

I remember learning history through the family sagas at school, but I couldn't tell you much about what I learned - my Icelandic was very basic and while I got by well enough, I guess the particulars of any one story did not stick with me.

Yesterday, I was researching an ancestor of mine - Aud the Deep-Minded. In the book of Icelanders, online, it is possible to trace an Icelander's family lineage back over a 1000 years and so I can see how I was related to this historical figure through my mother...


This list goes down to my maternal grandmother, so beneath her is my mother, and then me.

Aud was all sorts of amazing. She was living in the Orkney´s after she and her family fled Norway after losing  battle against King Harald Fairhair. When her husband died, she married her daughters off to Scottish kings and noblemen, then captained a ship and sailed to Iceland where she claimed land as matriarch of her family. She´s credited with bringing Christianity to Iceland, as well as bending the gender roles, and setting the tone for matriarchy in Iceland. So, it is kind of awesome to know I´m her descendant!

Another descendant I found out about today was the very first settler in Iceland Ingólfur Arnarson.


I´m a 30th generation descendant of him through my maternal grandfather.

But, let´s not stop there... Prose Edda, heard of the Prose Edda? Well the author, Snorri Sturluson is also an ascestor, going back 23 generations.

Okay, so I have a confession. My eldest´s son´s name is Erik and we´ve always told everyone he is named after my ancestor Erik the Red... Strictly speaking, we're *only* related through marriage. Erik's the Red's wife's grandfather's wife is my direction ancestor through my maternal grandmother...


But he totally counts, anyway. Besides, When Erik the Red was exiled for killing someone, it was Aud who gave him land in Greenland for his family to stay on.

Finding out all this stuff is a fun side-effect of doing this thesis!

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Rethinking my life...

I had a dream.

I wanted to be a doctor. Not a doctor of medicine, a doctor of philosophy. I wanted to teach people about writing. I was going to do this PhD and teach people about the flash fiction and all it can offer us as creative, reflective, constructionists of our reality.

I'm not sure about that dream anymore.

I'm not sure I will ever work, let alone as a lecturer or a tutor.

Some probably think I'm giving up too easily, but the fact is, I have been fighting to be able to work all my adult life and it has pretty much led to nothing. Sure, I can work for free, in a voluntary capacity, and that is worthwhile, I admire people who are happy to work as volunteers, they are truly self-less.

But I wanted to work and earn a wage. To see my work compensated with a dollar value. I don't think that will ever happen for me.

I was feeling depressed about it, but I think I'm coming out of that.

I want to get my philtrum pierced. Everyone hates the idea. Even the people who say they don't hate the idea, hate the idea. I don't care. I see my friend Julia facing death square in the face. There is a certainty about her death that most of us don't have, it's incredibly sobering. She has posted about how this knowledge has spurred her on living the life she always wanted. This has affected me deeply.

A family friend died on Sunday, he was 75 and had been living with cancer for six years. Seventy-five is a good age, and he was ready to go, so his death was not a shock. The knowledge of his own mortality softened him a lot in the last few years, according to his family. He started to enjoy his life more, and let go of the rigidity which had built a wall between him and other people.

So, I was told today, in all kindness mind you, that getting a piercing in my face would be the death knell of my academic career. This may well be true, the academy is a rigid, conservative place, even within the creative fields. I thought about it for a while and came to this conclusion. I can forget about getting my philtrum pierced and hope that somehow this will open doors for me into academia and into paid work, even though not having piercings in the past has not seen welcome mats fluttering to my feet...

Or, I can live my life, do the work I love doing, continue to live the life I have been living to this point anyway - no paid work, studying, raising kids, etc. and accept that the odds are well and truly stacked against me anyway, and if people like my work enough, they will not be so shallow as to overlook me because I have a tiny stud in my philtrum.

Also, maybe I just don't want to be an academic after all.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

April weight update...

Going to keep this short and sweet (but obviously low sugar)...

In March the Grumpy Old Man shed another 3.4kg, and I shed 4.3kg, so 7.7kg ntween us in total in April. This brings our grand total to 14.5kg for him and 13.5kg for me, which is 28kg between us since the beginning of the year. Got to be happy with that!

Basically, we've lost the equivalent of Bryn in weight!

April will be interesting. This coming weekend is Easter, and next week is Dave's birthday. We decided at the beginning of the year that we'd allow ourselves treats for those two occasions (not before and not after)!

I guess the 1st of May will show us how that went.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Breaking through...

Today is a day for breaking through.

I had a weightless goal for the end of February, but didn't make that goal at the time. Almost three weeks into March I finally crossed the threshold I've been working towards crossing since the beginning of the year. It felt great, I have to say! It was a long time coming and I was frustrated at several points of the journey, but I kept going, determined to get there, and finally I did! I still have a ways to go for my ultimate goal but to have crossed this threshold is very affirming and inspires me to keep going!

I have also started writing Chapter One of my thesis (again, since my previous chapter one which became a paper which is now published here, is now the introduction to my thesis). I was feeling very daunted by the new direction of my thesis, the words didn't feel like they were mine - as I wrote in my last blog post -, but I kept reading and researching and it is all starting to come together now. I have to have the first thousand words written by next Wednesday, and that seems quite doable now.

So, some of the turmoil I was feeling over the past couple of weeks has subsided and I've come out the other side feeling more positive.

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It's hard work, life, don't you think?

Oh, another breakthrough! The Grumpy Old Man and I had a meeting with Lukas' music teacher on Wednesday, and it was a very positive meeting. Nothing like the meetings we had with his teachers last year. He is working with a different band in music this year and the other kids in his band are all in year 9,10, and 11 equivalent (Lukas is year 8 equivalent), and they have all also had a lot more instrument and music experience than him, and so they're all pretty motivated. Lukas, for his part, has risen to the challenge of keeping up and showing a lot of progression both in his skill level and his attitude and maturity in class. His teacher was basically very impressed with him. This is a big breakthrough for Lukas as, over the past couple of years of school, he seems to have been skating a bit.

So, a more positive blog post this time, thank goodness!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

If I wasn't so stubborn, I'd give up.

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I'm feeling really fed up with my life at the moment.

I feel that my thesis is not my own. I know a thesis is really always a compromise because a candidate rarely has a 'vision' which is actionable. We're apprentices under the guidance of those who have gone before us and who are, hopefully, helping us avoid the worst pitfalls of ignorance. That said, I feel like the words describing my thesis at this point are not my words. They don't come from my mouth or my cognition and are foreign to me. They aren't the wrong words because when I hear them come out of my supervisors mouths, they make complete sense in a much more concise way than my own clumsy words ever would. but I don't own those words yet.

I had a meeting with my associate supervisor yesterday, which was great! She is lovely and in a lot of ways I think we think along similar lines. On reflection, though, I can see we took this next chapter of my thesis in a different direction than my principal supervisor might have - we opted for a less theory heavy approach, and an approach - which I feel correctly - emphasises the post modern thinking of my hypothesis. I know my principal is leaning toward a more structuralist approach.

I still feel stupid.

Everyone keeps saying doing research is hard, but seriously, I didn't think my self-esteem would take such a bashing.

I'm those guys from Wayne's World throwing myself around lamenting, 'I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy.'

I'm also really despairing that there will never be a job for me.

All this work and to what end if there is no work.

I had a lovely get together with friends this weekend and at one point, I realised I was the only woman in the room who didn't have a job. Will I always be 'that person'?

This year the Grumpy Old Man and I will have been together for 18 years. Eighteen years ago, I thought I'd have so much more security than I have, now. I thought I'd have a career, and my own house. I have neither.

So I just want to give it all up. What am I struggling for? What is the point of all of this struggle. Some letters behind my name, what for? It won't get me a job. Why not spend my days doing crafts and social networking?

The thing is, ever since I was a little girl, I've always been stubborn. Stubbornness might be my key personality trait. I like to follow through on something I start. I take it very personally if I have to give up something I set my sights on.

I just hope my stubbornness doesn't end up being my undoing.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Only a student...

Office politics shit me!

I know I'm not alone in this sentiment, but honestly, I find it difficult to comprehend the temperament of people who participate in office politics.

Yesterday, I had an interaction in my office which was both hurtful and revealing.

I made a call in relation to completing some forms for a fieldwork application. I knew the person I was talking to intimately, so I concede that part of our conversation was regarding her health and the health of her partner. Nevertheless, the purpose and majority of our conversation was about this meeting. I am well within my rights to make this call in the office.

At one point in my conversation, I heard someone behind me say in a loud voice, 'Excuse me, could you speak a bit slower?' I turned to see who it was, because the question was quite loud, the person was looking at me, but I couldn't understand the request, why should I talk slower? It dawned on me, that what the woman probably meant was for me to speak more quietly. I will admit I was speaking above a whisper because the person I was speaking to sometimes finds it difficult to hear what I'm saying.

I lowered my voice to be on the safe side, and then I caught snippets of a conversation between the woman who had made the request and another person in the office. It went along the lines of this...

...she shouldn't be making personal calls...
*something in an undertone*
...she's only a student...

They then laughed, and one left the office, then came back, then more laughter, then they both left the office.

During this, I continued my conversation with my back to them. I was cast back to high school and that place where mean girls would talk about me just within earshot because they didn't have the integrity to tell me up front what they thought of me.

So, now I know my presence in the office is neither understood - why should a lowly student be set up in a sessional office? - nor appreciated.

Now, I'm absolutely willing to concede I needed to speak more quietly, and in future I will do that.

However, the person who accused me of making an inappropriate personal call spent all of last week calling real estate agents to enquire whether the places they had advertised included a separate study. She did so loudly and frequently, and I said nothing, I simply put my ear plugs in as I always do and got on with my work.

The other one has had student conferences in the room, and done Skype meetings in the room - I specifically do my Skype meetings at home so as not to bother anyone.

So, the double standard grates on me, but more to the point the sense of superiority and the consequent sense of entitlement to a double standard shits me even more.

But even more so, the naïveté!

Yes, I am 'only a student', so in the hierarchy of academics, these casual employees at the university are above me, in that they are sessional tutors. However, academics is a strange beast, unpredictable and fickle. These women have no idea who I know, what connections I have. They cannot project what position of seniority I may have over them in the next couple of years. To be so blatantly rude, so dismissive of my status is a very dangerous hand to play in the current climate.

Besides which, teachers should not, ever, have an attitude of 'only a student' towards the people without whom they would not have employment. Students make or break universities. Students vote with their feet. If you treat students with contempt, they will take their attendance and money elsewhere. Surely, they can see that?

But mostly, why be mean?

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Why don't people understand that being mean always, always reveals more about the person being mean than the person they are being mean to. To be mean is to undermine yourself.

Why would you do that to yourself?



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