On containing those ALL THE THINGS feelings. (or: my field of study is too damn interesting)

24 February 2016

I’m not one of those find-a-word-of-inspiration types of person. It’s not part of my new year stuff. However, I do have to say that this semester one central theme has been bashing me over the head repeatedly: focus.

I love my department, and I love my field. There are just so many fascinating things within anthropology — new and old. It’s like being in a nerdy theory candy shop and getting free reign. Everything seems fascinating to me. I just want to learn everything. Like, for real, I want to learn it all.

Hyperbole & Half Meme: Research All The Things

I mean, I have no interest in going into biological anthropology, yet I had so much fun researching cranio-facial adaptations of early hominins. Like, so much fun. I would actually enjoy furthering that research and going deeper into it. But that’s not my thesis area. I’m currently working on a research proposal (it’s in the “get formal permission” phase*), and of course I started out with the whole ALL THE THINGS mentality… so much so that the first response from one of the institution’s director was like: FOCUS PLEASE. (Ok, he was totally way more professional, but that was the gist of his intention.) And so I met with my advisor and he was all like: FOCUS PLEASE. (Pretty much like that because that’s who he is.) He’s all “pick one” and I’m just “can I do two?” Which we finally settle on.

Pretty much every day, I learn something that excites me (though, not as much kind of now that we’re sort of talking about statistics). It’s like each class, each case study, each potential research project, they’re all fighting for my attention. And somehow, in the next year or less I have to weed through them all and not get distracted.

UP movie: Dug distracted by squirrel

Just trying to narrow things down to get to a workable thesis? That’s been tricky too. I know my overall area of interest is how we present and teach cultures in meaningful and engaging ways. My ideal setting is within museums. But well, that’s all big and rather abstract. So in looking at that area of interest, I’m curious about how we take material culture (artifacts) and the ethnographic research from field studies, etc, and interpret and present these things. Still sort of a big thing. Zooming in a bit on the material culture side, though… I’ve recently become interested in the commodification of cultural artifacts, especially in regards to cultural tourism. That? That right there — that’s what we call focus. That’s what I’ve been needing and searching for and attempting to become better at. And it’s taken months and months of talking this out. Often out loud. And often with my advisor (or anyone who will listen) over and over again. (So grateful for his patience with me.)

And honestly, when I look at the bigger picture: all the other events in my life have really been building up to this. All the smaller (and sometime big) events that have shaped my interests, all the life experience and knowledge gained… but frankly, that’s how life works, right?

So hopefully I can finally become better focused, and maybe also better at focusing. (Something I think my mom has wished since I was a small child — overactive imagination and big curiosity, it’s a recipe for others thinking you’re indecisive when really you’re just overly excited about everything all at once.)

*Of course, I might not get formal permission to do my research at this institution, so I’ve got to come up with a back up plan as well.

  • I’m so glad you’re loving your anthro work. And focusing is so crazy hard, especially when you’re working with something with SO MANY interesting aspects, but I’m glad you’re finding some areas you want to focus on!

  • Kay

    I’m so glad someone else has the DO ALL THE THINGS problem when it comes to areas they are interested in! (There’s a reason I decided to try out having Focus as my word of the year!) Your field sounds fascinating, and I’m glad you’re finding some focus within it on a subject you’re passionate it about! That’s great!

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