My lovely roommate, Michael, has posted previously about things he’s thankful for.  I’ve been having the kind of day where I wanted to do the same.  This will be an experiment in writing a brief blog post (something I’m not usually comfortable doing, but I have other things pressing for my attention).

Things I am thankful for:

  • my two sections of 202A, and subject matter that I am actually excited to talk about.  My students seem much more awake and alive this semester, a state of mind I attribute in part to my own level of excitement, and in part to the fact that the word “memo” hasn’t come up yet in class (and hopefully won’t, all semester long).  I won’t go so far as to say that my classes are thoroughly invested, yet, in the project of ethnography, but I think I have managed to convince them that there is something worthwhile here (or at least that I see something worthwhile in us talking about definitions of culture, and that maybe they will see that something themselves with a little work).
  • my wonderful colleagues.  My friend Rose gave me two different quotations that she had brought into her class at the beginning of last semester, both of which helped her to get her students to take ownership of the class and their projects.  The quotes are from self-help book called “A Thousand Names for Joy” and Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet.”  They’re a little odd, and counter-intuitive, but also very rich and useful, very generative of classroom conversation.  Rose and Diane have both been a huge help to me in figuring out where I stand with this class, and what pitfalls to look out for.
  • the gorgeous weather.  I like snow.  I always have.  I’ve never minded driving in it, and I rode my bike to campus through it both last night and this morning.  Sure, snow can be inconvenient, and no one likes to be cold, but snow is what makes cold worthwhile.  Snow gives the cold meaning.  If I get to look out at the world as it is transformed (in that powerfully cliched way that only snow can provide), I can think to myself “self, the new perspective you get on the world from seeing it covered up this way is worth having to wear a scarf and gloves.”  I can feel like an exchange has been made, and I have gotten something out of the deal, rather than just feeling bitter and resentful at the world for trying to suck the heat from the leaky bag of flesh I call my body (see?  without the beauty of snow, it’d be all “leaky bag of flesh” all the time, and then where would the poetry be?).
  • a feeling of belonging.  It’s too easy, when you are struggling with something like a dissertation (and especially if you are struggling as much as I have) to wonder if you really belong where you are, or if maybe someone made a horrible mistake letting you into the program in the first place.  From what I’ve heard from others (and read, not least in PhD Comics), feeling like a fraud is a common grad student experience.  I would have thought I’d be over it by now, though (I’ve been here long enough!).  Last semester, though, with the trials of teaching Business Writing and the painful lack of progress on my diss, had me feeling pretty disconnected from my own reasons for being a student, a scholar, and a teacher.  I think I’m getting that back this semester, and I’m pretty happy about it.

I’m also thankful for the various special people in my life who make me happy just by being there for me to talk to.  I won’t try to list you all, or embarrass you by naming you outright, but you should know that I’m feeling pretty sappy right now, and am including lots of you in this category, whether I talked with you for hours on the phone, or for a few minutes walking back to Burrowes after teaching, or anything in between.

Ok, that’s enough thanks to give for one day (so much for being brief… I tried).  Onward!