Back at it.

We are two weeks into this new academic year, and let me tell you, it has been a little bit of a whirlwind.

Coming back after taking a semester off provided a lot of challenges. We discovered issues in my financial aid (being over-awarded a couple years ago in my post-bacc work and only now having that be brought up). Having a lot of input regarding my course schedule from my professors. Getting a new advisor, who happens to be our new department chair. And the simple fact that it has only been three — three — months since I had major surgery. (Hi. I’m kind of exhausted.)

Oh. And yeah. The big one: we changed my entire thesis focus on the second day of the semester.

My new advisor was concerned with my schedule, and a lot of professors had opinions on which courses I should be taking and what was deemed a good use of my time. I respect their opinions tremendously, but I was starting to get overwhelmed. It seemed like everyone wanted me to drop one of the classes I really wanted to take. At the time, this course had nothing to do with my thesis topic, so I can see exactly where they were coming from. But I was stubborn. A month or so earlier I was having to justify the importance of my internship, and here I was defending a methods course for pretty much the same reason: to prepare me for a job, not a PhD. So after talking with my advisor, she pointed out that it seems pretty obvious that museum and museum related things are my passion — so why was that not my thesis focus?

Our department had essentially got rid of our museum program, so I was always just told we don’t do museum studies here. And we still technically don’t. But I had to make a choice: food studies or museums. When I finally was honest with myself, the answer was easy. It was my love of museums that brought me to this field, and as fun as a PhD sounds, I was always looking at museum jobs first.

We’re still working on the specifics of my research focus, but it’s coming together. It’s been this huge relief. As my mentor puts it, I’ve got a new old thesis now.

It’s good to be back on campus, even despite any frustrations because honestly they’re small and inconsequential. I’m excited about getting started on my new thesis work. I’m loving my internship. It’s great being back with my professors, and my new advisor is just a good fit for me. The faculty, department staff, and even the campus administration have all just been so supportive and helpful in my return. I’m ready to get this done. I’m not going to let anyone or anything derail me from this.

Kind of crazy to believe that at this point next year I should have that fancy piece of paper in my hands and be headed towards a new career.


And then things came tumbling down

I remember the sense of pride that came with grad school. The warm and electrifying confidence that came when theories began to make sense, or two theories clicked with each other, or with a method. I remember that kind of selfish, and not so humble feeling of “oh man, I am smart” when you’re able to express and expound upon those connections and revelations. I remember the sense of camaraderie, trying to slug through dense texts — only later to have to attempt to suss out something that resembled a well thought out paper on said dense texts. Or at least, I think I remember those feelings…

For a little over a month now, everything’s been a little numb. I try not to feel much of anything any more. Maybe some boredom here and there. It’s a self-preservation thing. Often, I don’t even realize I’ve gone into this mode.

Though this part of it started mid-February, it seems the pieces really go back further.

If we look way back, maybe this all started with “the incident.” When I was harassed, followed, closed in my own office, and then followed more, all by one of my colleagues in the graduate program. We were only a couple weeks into our first semester. The whole thing triggered something deep in me, and it took months, with help of a therapist, friends, and a trusted mentor, before I felt safe on campus again. It was definitely a set back, but one I felt I overcame.

But really, I think this started a couple months after that. As much as this is a story about my mental health, it’s also a story about chronic illness. I don’t exactly remember when it happened, maybe November, but my endometriosis became bothersome. Bothersome… I missed classes. I missed work. But I guess it didn’t feel too out of the ordinary. This is just life with endometriosis.* However, my bothersome condition was not convenient for the job I was working at the library. In December, after missing more shifts, I lost my job. It sucked, but I thought maybe I should just focus on school and I’d figure the work thing out later. Maybe this summer when I would be out of money again. I finished the term, an outside of needing an extension on a couple papers for my bio anth course, things went really well. Hell, I gave an amazing presentation on agency theory and postmolds and felt on top of the world.

Yet, as the second term started, my health began to be bothersome again. Whenever I’m due for my next Depo shot, the medication I’m on to control my endometriosis symptoms, I generally feel like crap for the week before the new shot. However, this time it started a little earlier. And I ended up being out the entire week I was waiting for my next injection. When I tried to come back, nothing had improved. I finally made it on campus one Tuesday, but only for about an hour before I was sobbing in pain at my desk. I eventually gathered myself up enough to go tell my professors I wouldn’t be in class today. As I was crying in the office door way, one of my professors quickly stated that we should talk soon, and that I should really, really consider a medical withdrawal from the semester, as she didn’t believe I could pass this semester.

Here’s the thing with depression and pain: when you’re dealing with one, the other is significantly more bothersome. That word again. Bothersome. So as she’s explaining this to me, I panic and make myself freeze so I don’t have to process what she’s saying. As soon as I am out of sight of any other people, I lose it. I remember driving home from campus, more upset about the possibility of having to quit the semester than from the pain I was experiencing physically. My professor wanted me to take time to seriously think it over. When I got home, I talked to my dad and stepmom. I was too afraid to talk to my mom. I talked to a few of my gaming friends. If my professor had already decided that she didn’t think I could pass my classes at this point, how could I? Before the end of the day, I’d made an appointment with the appropriate office on campus to fill out the paperwork.

And that was it. Six weeks into the semester and it was all over. This same week, though, my stepmom’s father passed away. I also hit a pothole pretty damn hard, and was worried I messed up something on my axel or alignment. It was after my brother and I came home from the funeral we discovered something had broke in the power steering fluid line. If you’ve never driven a car without power steering, I highly do not recommend it. Not unless you have Hulk strength and no chronic pain.

So in the scope of a week, I lost my school and my car. All of this after loosing my job — just another job I couldn’t hold. And long before that, my self confidence and the physical desire to be in a relationship. All I could see before me was wreckage of my life, all caused by my body — all of it just out of my control.

When I finally talked to my mom a week later, I was sort of surprised how supportive she was. For a long time, I felt like she just didn’t understand this condition I was attempting to live with. For a long time, I’ve felt like such a failure. Since my initial hospitalization, I haven’t really held a job. I had one for a while, but I’m pretty sure the real reason I was let go was due to the fact that I didn’t want to switch to a cheaper insurance plan. In that job, I was let go a month after my surgery, for “budgetary” reasons. Through all this failure as an adult, I’ve continually heard my mom’s sighs, her constant worry about my lack in ability to care for myself financially. I didn’t want to tell her about yet another failure. However, not being in grad school is a big thing, and I knew she’d find out eventually. I mean, she lives 15-20 minutes away and just one simple “how was class” or “what did you do today” would reveal it all. But as we sat at the kitchen table, not really looking at each other, she was calm. As I made disparaging jokes about myself and how can’t do anything right, she just corrected me that this is all just something in my body that I have no control over. And that maybe now is the time to get it taken care of.

That’s sort of the plan now. To take care of everything. I’ve seen two specialists now. Well, had introductory meetings with them. Those doctors’ appointments where the only thing that really happens is you plan more doctor’s appointments. You spend more time waiting than you do with the doctor themselves. So I’m just in this weird in-between place. I have no school, no job, no car, and no definite plans for treatment yet.

Even after the health stuff gets taken care of — whatever that ends up meaning — I’m still not sure where I go from here. Withdrawing 6 weeks into the semester meant messing up my financial aid. I now owe a little over $1300 to pay back the loans from this semester. Unlike other school loans where you get 6 months after you finish to pay them back, this one is due immediately. Between my health and my car, I still can’t work. So, I’m not sure how any of that is going to resolve itself. I just know that if it doesn’t, I can’t register for Fall classes. So while I might finally get some relief regarding my health once we finalize some aggressive treatment plans, I may have just given up any ability to finish my Masters. All of this because I just didn’t have the energy to prove that professor wrong, that I could still bounce back this semester and pass.

There’s too much to feel, and quiet honestly, when I make myself look at it all, I just don’t know how to cope. So I let myself become numb. I know wherever I land, I’ll figure things out, but I just can’t let myself think of that yet. Can’t let myself acknowledge that any part of what I was working so hard towards might be over. The only thing I can cling to now, is that I finally have insurance and can finally see doctors. It’s one of the only good things I’ve got right now.

* And that’s a sort of thing on it’s own… lack of some pathology reports, and now I have one doctor saying I don’t officially have a diagnosis… It’s just another thing I don’t want to think about too much right now.


Ups and Downs and Small Endings: the conclusion of my first semester of grad school

I find it both hard to believe, and also extremely relieved, that this semester is over. During it, the semester felt like it dragged on for years. But now that it’s over it feels like it was nothing but a heartbeat. (I guess that’s life though.)

This semester was really rough — and I don’t just mean the challenges academically. The incident — the hostile work environment — it didn’t just go away because I got a no-contact order against that student. He was still in every class of mine. His presence, and the uncertainty of his emotional/mental stability changed my ability to perform in class like I would have like. That sense of safety and freedom was gone, and it never got completely rebuilt. Putting up with a classmate who didn’t feel the need to complete reading assignments, or come to class with the texts, or take any notes whatsoever, or even bring a pen when we all knew every single class there would be peer grading of our presentations, or keep track of simple reading orders, or presentation deadlines and thus doing them the night before… Someone who just didn’t care and actually stated flat-out that he’d just “fake it ’til you make it” through the whole semester?

My therapist pointed out that he’s very triggering for me. I found his (lack of) work ethic and attitude towards class, his desire just to mess with people for fun — it was all very offensive. Having all of that loom over ever single class meeting took its toll. I’m exhausted. However, despite all of that, I feel like I had a very successful first term of grad school. I knew it was going to be tough. I knew it would be a lot of work. But experiencing that first had was a lot different that just having a base realization of it.

One of the bigger challenges of this semester was that I wasn’t taking any classes in my concentration — cultural anthropology. This challenge was most present in my biological anthropology course. I think science is awesome and super fascinating, but I’ll be quick to admit it is not my strongest area of study. Coming to terms that I would not just easily grasp everything nor just get A’s all over the place was tough. I have high standards to my academics, and this class challenged my ability to maintain them. I still, as of writing, have two papers to finish for the course.

However, it wasn’t all a struggle. I absolutely loved my archaeology course. I was able to make connections between cultural theories and archaeological theory and method. I may not know what the different types of projectile points look like, or know much about chert, but I do — apparently — know about theory. It made that class so much fun. My professor thought so to, and actually sort of bragged about me to a few of our cultural professors (including my advisor). Top that off with my final presentation — explaining Bourdieu’s agency theory of practice and how to see it in the archaeological record (through the example of postmolds) — it rejuvenated me and my interest in anthropology. My professor actually told me it was one of the best presentations he’s had.

This semester also opened some doors for me. I have two feasible ideas for my thesis — one to complete in Chicago, and the other in India. Which, oh yeah, hi. As long as I can find the funding, I’ll be spending a month in India this summer for an ethnographic field school with my advisor. While $4k is a lot, it covers airfare, travel within India, housing, some of my food, and my tuition. It’s also less than half the cost of all the other programs of the same length through our university. I am beyond excited for this trip, and truly hope I can figure out the financial aspect.

Next semester should hopefully be more in my wheelhouse. I have my cultural theory course — which I know will be challenging, but I like these sorts of challenges. I am also taking a class with my advisor on witchcraft, magic, and ritual. And then I’m sitting in on a class with another professor who fondly calls it her Monster class. (Yeah, I can’t wait to tell my conservative family that I’m taking courses in witchcraft and monsters.) Hopefully by the end of the semester I’ll have my thesis proposal done, or at least a draft close enough to do. Largely because as of next fall, I’ll have most of my credit requirements complete for my degree. I’ll really only have my thesis left to complete.

This has probably been the most fun intellectual challenge I’ve put myself through. I am beyond glad that I chose this for myself.


Steps to self-care

If you’ve been following along, you’ll understand when I say the beginning of this semester has been a real struggle. This is definitely not how I imagined it: a hostile work environment, being sick so often, falling behind… It’s been rough. If I just sat back and continued on this way, well, my grad school career and job would be precariously challenged.

My first step to recovery: counseling. I started immediately after the incident. I was having panic attacks daily — couldn’t really get on campus without them. With help of a professor, I got set up at the counseling center on campus, and have been seeing a psychologist every other week. Through that, we’ve been able to help me get to a good place regarding the incident. However, since I get 12 (I think) free sessions, we’re going to make use of them. My counselor is noticing some recurring trend, ones she’s not even really having to pull out of me, and so we’re going to work on them. Issues of control, confidence, and acceptance. I know it’s going to be hard and uncomfortable to deal with, but it’s also something I need to work on.

I’m thinking about talking to her about maybe getting on a low-dose anti-anxiety medication. Nothing long term, just something to help out for now. My body is feeling more stress than my mind is recognizing. And while it’s important to deal with the underlying causes of the problem… right now this stress is just wrecking my health. So I wouldn’t mind something that can help maybe balance me out just to get myself back on my feet. We’ll see what she recommends.

The second big thing I’ve been doing is trying to get in with medical specialists. Hopefully soon I will have some super basic insurance (yay! finally for the first time in 3 years). Once that’s in place I can use my referrals for an endometriosis specialist and also a GI specialist. One of the fun things with the endo and the stress is that I think I’m developing IBS symptoms. So I’ve got to see someone in GI to make sure it’s not something else. Once I’m in with the doctors we can start working on plans. I’m really over dealing with endometriosis and so I’m looking into big steps.

Lastly, I’m taking me time. Or at least, I’m working on my schedule to just make sure I’m giving my body enough time to recuperate. I’ve been pushing so hard to try to keep up with everything. Essentially it’s just a cycle of stress and illness and my body is just worn out. Emotionally and mentally I’m exhausted, t0o. I’ve reached out to my boss, and stepped back from my 5-day, 20-hour schedule. Starting now I’m at 3 days a week, with only 12 hours. Sucks financially, but hopefully it’ll give me the rest I need. Eventually I’ll step it up to 15 hours. Looking at my schedule for next semester, 15 hours is about all I could get anyway.

It feels good to have a plan of action for all of this. I’m ready to get this off my plate and just focus on my academics. I’m part way there. Mostly I need to just not feel sick more days than not. Hopefully soon that’ll be my reality.


That time I started a Bullet Journal…

I have kept journals and diaries since I was in elementary school. I actually still have most of them, though, it is possible that maybe a couple of the super early ones have gone missing. (And I know a few definitely have pages ripped out or large sections blacked out with a thick sharpie.) The point is, I have been keeping a handwritten record of my life for a long time.

However, though I love doing it, I’ve never kept a consistent habit of it. A lot of that is because after a while, it feels like I just waste pages ranting about things that aren’t really worth the pages they fill up. I wanted my journals to have significance. Or at least be more than mundane rants and petty heartbreak. I also wanted them to be a showcase for my creativity. (I blame the 1000 Journal Project on this one.)

But nothing stuck. And back when I was blogging more regularly, I just dropped the habit. I mean, well, I didn’t drop it completely, I still kept a journal. But I found myself abandoning them before they were full. Wanting to start over with a fresh page.

So I finally broke down, and decided, yet again, to try something new: Bullet Journaling.

Now, I’m pretty sure most bullet journaling is more aligned with a planner than journaling itself. It’s about managing tasks and such. Most people have monthly, weekly, and daily spreads. And they very much look like planners with all the to-do lists and how you manage which items got done and which you need to migrate, etc. That aspect of bullet journaling never really appealed to me. Well, not in the sense that I wanted to create a new book for it. I have a beautiful agenda and I love it and will not stop using it to keep my life somewhat organized.

So how am I using my bullet journal then?

Bullet Journal - Adorkable - Monthly Spread

Well, it’s more of a hub for my goals, and a place to highlight memories. I don’t have weekly or daily spreads. And my monthly ones do not have a calendar on them — well, not in the traditional sense. I am doing some habit tracking. I saw other people sharing it and thought it looked neat. However, with a week of tracking, I remembered I hate tracking. But I had already committed a page to it for October. Who knows, maybe I’ll actually grow to like it? But yeah, one of the reasons why WW or MyFitnessPal never worked out for me in the long run is because I hate feeling like I have to record each and every detail of my life, rather than just live it. I’m not tracking too much, but still, we’ll see how it goes.

Bullet Journal - Adorkable - Habit Tracking

My other pages in my monthly spread are more for personal reflection. Highlighting the events that happened which are worth remembering, noting things to be thankful for, and making note of things I’ve learned.

Bullet Journal - Adorkable - Monthly spread: highlights, gratitude, and things I learned

I don’t see myself adding too much to my monthly spreads. While I love how some people have done their weekly spreads, it’s just not something I need. I’m also not really giving myself space here to write long entries like I have in my traditional journals. Again, a lot of this is because I feel like sometimes I just ramble too much in my writing.

However, I did decide to include some more long-range spreads just to take note of other things important in my life.

Bullet Journal - Adorkable - Goals and Bucket List

One thing you’ll notice in my pictures from my journal, a lot of the spreads are blank. That’s mostly because it’s all still very new. And because I’m indecisive. Do I have items on a bucket list? Yeah. I do. But I haven’t decided if I just want to list them as I think about them, or break them into topics (which means I may run out of room as new ideas pop up and I’ve already committed to a layout).

Bullet Journal - Adorkable - Books and Places

I saw some really neat books spreads — a lot of them illustrations of shelves and you write the names on the spines as you read them. Those were cool. But I also saw someone who included their goodreads goal and rating system. And so that’s what I went with. Sort of not liking the hearts, but they were easier to draw than stars… but I’ll likely switch. Or maybe tone down the red. I also sort of regret doing a full page to “Places I’ve been in 2016” as, well, I haven’t really been anywhere this year. But I’m sure I’ll figure out a way to use this page without making it feel depressing that I’ve essentially spent yet another year in this town without really any adventures.

Bullet Journal - Adorkable Me - Grad School Spread

My favorite spreads might be my grad school spreads. This is a huge part of my life — heck, it’s almost my whole life right now. So having this recorded and saved is important to me. I’m super proud of my academic work. Of course I’m going to share it. Hopefully I’ll have a “research I presented” and “papers I published” spreads later on!

Bullet Journal - Adorkable - Grad school spread: thesis and graduation

I’ll hopefully have this left page pretty well filled out by the end of this semester, and that’s really exciting. Just as exciting as it is that I could be graduating December 2017 — assuming I can get my thesis done and defended by then. But still, spring 2018 isn’t bad either.

I’m not sure what this journal will look like at the end. Or even if I’ll keep with it enough to fill all the pages. (Or at least as many pages as it takes to finish grad school.) But going to give it a try for now. I’m hoping between this and my counseling sessions, and a few other self-care things I’m doing, I can have a product that show just how much I’ve grown. Something that can remind me just how strong I am. And maybe just a neat piece amongst many others that I leave as my written legacy.


9 things I’ve learned about harassment

First, an update on me: The anxiety caused by this whole ordeal is still really strong. I still do not feel safe around this individual, and that has extended from the classroom to the department to the campus to the greater city area. Now, I am getting that part under control a bit. I am noticeably less nervous when I am out shopping now, and working on feeling safe on campus. I’m trying to get off my diet of airheads and gummies, but typically a meal and half is the max I can do on a good day. I’m still not sleeping the best, but I’ve been so exhausted from this that I do sleep hard. I just miss my old schedule of 10:30-5:30, rather than 12+ to 6:30 (aka my alarm — something I haven’t needed since, like, May).

I’ve met with the Title IX investigator, and am working with the coordinator and my professors on accommodations so I can stop missing classes. (For at least one of them, it means skyping in.) I’ve also requested a no-contact order, which the school is in the process of doing for me. But as I said previously, this is all still on-going so I’m not going to get into the details. However, that said, through all of this, I have indeed learned a good deal about harassment/hostile environments and dealing with it.

1. It is not your fault.
I did not initiate the conversation. I did not steer it towards that topic. I explicitly stated that I was not comfortable and was leaving the conversation. As much as I know it is not my fault, it’s really hard to let myself know and understand this. I’ve probably called myself much worse things than anyone else could. We live in a society that unfortunately blames the victim often. So while I hear the voices in my head tell me I’m a petty bitch for threatening this person’s academic career with this investigation, I just tell them to fuck themselves because no. I did not choose any of this. He chose his actions. And they were not called for and should not be tolerated.

2. Make your feelings explicit.
I’ve had to get to the root of what was it about this interaction that bothered me. Mostly because this helps me focus on something specific, which can be good for healing from the event. However…

3. You have the right not to share about this event.
I have a small grad cohort, the program itself is small. People talk. But I do not have to share any details with anyone I am not comfortable doing so. Granted, since I am pursuing an investigation, there are certain times when I just have to. Also, with this, while venting can be extremely cathartic and all… you kind of have to be careful with whom and where you do this.

4. Find your support team.
Mine has included friends, family (distantly, they do not know the details but are supportive regardless), faculty, university administration, and also a professional psychiatrist. All of them have different roles. I get comfort from the university administration just in knowing that they are looking into this, and the assurance that they take these reports seriously. Since this is an intradepartmental issue, the faculty sort of need to be unbiased, but I have found support in them as well. One in particular gave me a really great reassurance, which has become my “this is why I need to be strong” reminder. These can be the safe people you can vent to. I will also admit: having free counseling on campus is an amazing perk. I’m doing individual sessions now, and will likely start group ones in the spring.

5. There is no magical switch to make things better.
This is probably the most important one. You can’t just magically be better. Yes, I do indeed wear a mask a lot to hide my true emotions, but it’s not the same, and also not a longterm plan of survival. This is something your support team needs to understand as well. Though I love my friends, and I know they are well-meaning and want the best for me, one said “you need to come to class.” I know I need to, but I also need to not be in an environment where I feel absolutely unsafe. Hearing that sort of stuff just makes you feel like they don’t get it (which, on many levels they won’t and can’t). And you sort of have to speak up and say “I’m doing my best” or possibly “this isn’t supporting me in the way I need it.” → something I need to get better at saying.

6. It won’t feel fair.
I feel like I am being punished for someone else’s actions. I’m the one missing classes and work. I’m the one not sleeping right. I’m the one not really eating. This person is just going on like nothing happened. It’s not fair. This is why I’m working with the university. I’m getting accommodations, like skyping, for my classes. I’m going to counseling so I can develop methods to feel safe on campus even if I can’t feel safe in our department yet. I’m doing what I can to just feel like me again. (Which involves a lot of naps, comfort foods, and kitty cuddle time. And also maybe a new cardigan.)

7. You have options.
Yes, in the “real world” outside of campus, I will experience harassment again. But as my professor said, you have the option to just not deal with it, you can leave. I can’t just leave grad school. (Ok, I can, but again it’s not fair for me to give up my goals and academic gains just because of the actions of someone else.) In this case, I have a whole wealth of options through the university. So I’m pursuing them. As the same professor reminded me, I fought hard to get into grad school, and they voted me in. I am not just giving this up. I deserve to be here.

8. You have no obligations to anyone but yourself.
I’m a nice person. I tried to connect with this person, make them feel included in our cohort. I did not owe them anything. At most, to be professional, maybe polite — maybe. But that is it. And really, I don’t owe them to be professional, I owe myself. A lot of this feels antithetical to my Midwestern, Quaker upbringing… but sometimes you just have to take care of yourself first. And obviously, that’s not a right to go out of your way to be rude or mean to anyone. But I don’t have to smile, be overly nice, or be friends with anyone I do not choose or want to.

9. It will take time.
Just like there is no magic switch to flip… these things will take time. Either with your own healing or through the official processes of getting it reported, etc… And unfortunately, that is an aspect that sucks. Sometimes strength comes from seeking help, from doing the hard things. And I want to come out of this so much stronger than before.

Ok, so this is sort of #10, but: If you feel harassed, then you are. It’s a direct quote from my wise professor. Don’t let the process of this, your own doubts, or any words or actions from others make you feel crazy. Your emotions are real. They are valid. Do what you need to do to be whole again.

I have no idea what the university will rule. They did ask what I would want if I was totally in control of the situation — which, would be for that person to be removed from my classes. But I don’t know how likely that would be. I am not opposed to mediation, but only if this other person can understand their actions and why they were not ok in any way. I am not unreasonable for wanting either of those outcomes. At most, like my professor said, I do not deserve to let this take away my academic career and, most importantly, I should not let it.


Introducing: My Grad School Office

Grad School - getting my office keyOne of the things I was eagerly awaiting, in regards to grad school, was the ability to have my own office within the department. Ok, ok. So not my own private office — but one shared with other grad students. Basically, my own desk within a graduate student office.

We’ve got three grad student offices in our department. Two are down by the archaeology lab (and also the kitchen), and the other is on the opposite side of the floor. I was hoping for one of the ones by the lab, since I did my internships with them and may have other work with them in the future… And also because my closest friend in the program is a historical archaeologist… But I was placed with most of the other cultural students down on the far end of the floor. (To be fair, the ethnographic lab is on our side, but it has yet to be finished and is still otherwise unusable.)

With enrollment down a little, there’s only 11 of us — so the offices are split 4-4-3. We’ve got four in ours. It’s actually one of the larger offices, but based on how the desks are arranged it really doesn’t feel much bigger at all. But it’ll work. Only two of us, thus far, have claimed desks. One is a second year who claimed her desk from last year — the only person to return to this office for the second year. She got the only desk with drawers; the rest are computer tables. I, of course, went to claim my desk as fast as possible as soon as I could get my key… because that’s just who I am. While the desk itself is meh, I am very happy with my setup. Especially not having my back to the door (I spook easily).

grad school office

It still feels very bare-bones to me, but it very much is not compared to most people. And I’m still sort of grumbly about no drawers — mostly due to purse safety, but the office doors lock, at least. I’ll likely get another storage tub like my green one for foods and snacks. I also plan on getting a single-serve (cheap) coffee maker, since I’ll likely be the only decaf drinker on the floor. Still checking in on whether we can have a mini fridge (which would go on the extra desk, whichever one that is). Pretty sure they will veto a microwave. (Also: though I hate how much extra it cost, getting a power strip with USB ports was a good decision.)

Anyway, here are the close-ups:

grad school office

My Chicago art. Plus a wall calendar given to me as a belated birthday gift from one of my roommates.

grad school office

Mucca pictures. An old photo of my grandpa. And probably one of my favorite prints ever from one of my top number-something movies.

grad school office

Since I lack drawers, I opted for this cute bronze and clear file organizer. With cute file folders of course. Might end up getting hanging ones later, but hoping these will work for now. Also, yes, that is Hermione. And my pop-up holder is a polaroid style camera.

grad school office

These two shelves weren’t even up when I first got to the office. The other side has a full wall of them. Ours had three — one of which was holding the shelving boards someone had taken off. I had to scrounge for braces to hold them up, but I’m glad I added these. Perfect place for Archaeology Pony*, Viserion, and Chococat. Oh, and of course all my books. Which I may only have 3 for all my courses, and I haven’t even picked them up yet.

I’m beyond happy with how it’s turning out. I plan on spending many hours here, so it needs to be my little home away from home.

*Yes, I know that’s not the name of the pony. I just like calling her that instead.


That time I was a Public Archaeologist

I’ve mentioned it a handful of time, but now I’m ready to sit down and talk about it: my summer internship. It still makes me chuckle a little bit, being in my 30s and talking about these (unpaid) internships I’ve been doing. It’s all part of going back to school as an adult.

This was my second internship with our Applied Anthropology Labs. The first one was during the spring semester, and I was doing collections management. That’s where you, well, manage a group of artifacts. You clean them, you label them, you catalog them, you box them. Maybe it sounds boring, but it’s a very good way to get your foot in the door at various institutions. It was also a good stepping stone into my summer internship — public archaeology.

Public Archaeology is a subfield which is sort of exactly as it sounds: you’re making archaeology public. It’s more a focus on teaching and sharing than you actually doing the digging, etc. It’s part archaeology, part history, and part teaching. What made this a perfect match for my previous internship was that the site I’d be working at was where all the artifacts I’d been handling for the last 3 months had been found. So while I’d never actually been to the site previously, I did have a fair bit of information about it.

Prior to all of this, though, I knew nothing of this site. Which is sort of crazy given it’s historical significance. Fort Recovery wasn’t anything of a massive structure. In fact, it was more of a supply depot — and we don’t even know how long the fort was there, but definitely was gone after 25-30 years. It is the site of two major battles between the US army and the Native American Confederacy. In fact, it was both the greatest victory (St. Clair’s Defeat) and the greatest loss (Battle of Fort Recovery) for Native Americans. Without the Battle of Fort Recovery, and the subsequent Battle of Fallen Timbers, the Northwest Territory may not have happened. Also, St. Clair’s Defeat was a major embarrassment for the still very, very new US Army. This battle took place in 1791. In 1793 they built the fort, and in 1794 was the second battle. So, yeah. Significant.

All that’s there now is this sort of Mayberry town, the Village of Fort Recovery. …and a replica of the fort facade. It’s the third replica built near the battle site. It’s the front palisade wall with two full block houses.

Fort Recovery, replica

For my internship, I wasn’t just standing in front of the fort replica or in the museum talking to people. Though my first day there, my boss had me observe just one of her tours and then handed the entire prehistoric room of the museum to me to continue tours. This was all within the first 20 minutes of my first day. And, well, archaeology is not my strong suit — it’s not even my suit, I’m a cultural anthropologist. But I reached back to my ANTH 103 course (intro to archaeology) and did my best to explain prehistoric life and culture in regards to the artifacts that were on display. It actually went pretty well. And thankfully that was my only time giving museum tours. The rest of my internship pertained to the Field School that was taking place outside, just across the street from the replica.

Archaeological Field School is where you give students a chance to actually go out on a dig. They’re excavating. It’s a requirement for all archaeology students, especially if you want a job. So while my peers (including one of my roommates) were out there for 6 hours digging perfectly square one-meter holes (aka “units”), I was there explaining to the public what was going on. I was the liaison, or docent, between the public and the archaeology that’s happening in front of them. For a tiny, somewhat unknown town in rural Ohio, there were actually a lot of people. We had about 500 school children out on field trips, and then the town’s 225th celebration was during the last week, so we had a decent amount of foot traffic for that.

Fort Recovery, Archaeology

The first thing, and the biggest thing, is explaining what archaeology is. And also what it isn’t. They’re not really out there looking for human bones or fossils. While it’s ok to find those, there’s a lot of legal stuff when you find human remains (NAGPRA for one, which I won’t get into, but feel free to google or ask me later). Archaeologists are looking for artifacts and features. Features are the little known, but highly sought part of an archaeologist’s job. It’s essentially disturbances in the soil that show human activity. So a fire pit would be one, or, what they were looking for, post holes. They’re hard to really notice with an untrained eye. Which makes it sound all puffed up and smug. But no, seriously, noticing the differences in soil color and texture is a skill. (My friends, thankfully, sketched out the differences in their unit below.)

Fort Recovery, Archaeology - what is a feature

The goal of this year’s field school (our third in Fort Recovery, but second on this parcel of land), was to learn more about the exact location of the fort itself. Five years ago, they found what they believed was a 17-foot trench where the palisade wall was. So going off that information and ground penetrating radar, they gridded off the parcel and started working. Based off the understandings of their findings thus far, they think they know which way the fort was oriented. They maybe found one of the block houses. Mostly the found the foundation of the house that was built on the site in the 1830s, after the fort was gone. (How or why it was gone/destroyed is still unknown.)

Fort Recovery, Archaeologist

My internship was actually pretty short. Only 10 days on site — ok, 9 really because of them there was a terrible rain storm in the morning so we left basically after just getting there. But it was still 100 hours of work. I lead tours. I helped people (mostly kids) screen buckets of dirt looking for artifacts — which kids are so meticulous, they are perfect for the job; one girl on the second day I was there found a pig’s tooth. I explained a lot. I made posters for a research exhibit. I explained the posters. But mostly: I had so much fun. I absolutely loved all of it. Even the panicked terror of not knowing what exactly I was supposed to be saying. It made me realize, that if I had a choice, I want to be out in the public working, sharing, and teaching.


The tumultuous journey that has been my grad school application

As most of you know by now, I’m applying to grad school. I’ll admit, I was a little lax with this process this semester, partially due to the fact that I am taking a couple graduate courses this semester. So it’s sometimes hard for me to remember that I’m not actually, officially, a grad student yet.

I started this application process back in November. Mostly because I needed to get the basic application to the graduate school in before I could enroll in those graduate courses. All I really had to do next was the departmental application and the GRE — and since they had rolling admission, it was no problem, right?

hermione_headshake

Well, apparently the department had been working on revamping their admissions policies. Sometime between when I first applied in November and when I finally got around to working on things here in April, they added a deadline. April 1. And it had already passed.

Now, when I found this out, the director of graduate admissions in our department offered an extension to me — April 18th, about 10 days from when I found out about said deadline. I would have to get my CV, Statement of Purpose, letters of recommendation, and GRE all in by the 18th. Cue freakout.

Ok. So looking at all those things: my CV was done, my statement just needed one last round of editing, I hadn’t officially asked my recommenders, and OMG in no way was I any way prepared for the GRE. Also, the only day they were offering it on campus was the day I needed to help my mom. My only option was going out of town, which was still questionable. Also, yeah. 8+ years since I’ve studied maths. At this point I was pretty much ready to give up, because I really didn’t see how I was going to get this application done, and I’d have to wait until Fall 2017 to enroll.

Hermione-cry

Just as I was settling into this idea of having to delay my dream by at least a year… I got an email from the admissions director stating that the faculty voted on it, and would allow me to have an additional extension on the GRE as long as I still got in all of my other application materials by the 18th. But rather than even considering taking the GRE with just a few days to prep for it, I have until May to complete it. Which means I can start studying now and then hardcore focus on it once finals are over. (Because, HI, we still have 2 weeks of classes left as of now.) So I did the completely unprofessional thing, and asked my professors and intern supervisor if they would write letters for me with less than 1 week to turn them in.

And as of yesterday, I had in every. single. part. of my requirements for the departmental application. (Though, when I turned them in, two of my professors still hadn’t turned in their letters, but they still have time.)

Hermione-clapping

However. The whole drama stuff isn’t done yet.

First off, my GPA from my first degree was not great. You need a 2.75, and I had a 2.55. There were a lot of reasons why my GPA is not what it really should have been: I chose social stuff (including a bad relationship) over studying, there were health issues (including my when my endo symptoms started to foreshadow future pain), and also the death of my stepmom to a year long battle to cancer. I am a very different student now than I was in my early 20s. Frankly, my institutional GPA here at BSU reflects that (3.5 — which includes a 2.0 from a bio class I took 12 years ago). Also, I’m in the national honors society for my field (Lambda Alpha).

However, because I am not completing the post-bacc degree — largely because there are a lot of gen ed requirements that didn’t transfer from my first degree that I don’t want to waste my time on (Gym again? no thank you. Also, practically none of my English or writing courses transferred, despite that those areas were 2/3rds of my undergrad major) — but because I am not finishing this degree, none of the GPA I’ve earned in the last year and half count towards my admissions. I’m pretty frustrated about that because it seems to me, if your GPA is low, a lot of universities tell you to take some undergrad courses to make sure you can handle it or that this department is a good fit, etc. Apparently that doesn’t apply here.

Also frustrating, apparently the GPA decision was just up to one person. I found this in the email trail regarding my application from the graduate school (not my department): “I will let you decide this.  I updated her pending GPA from BSU and now overall it is a 2.782.  It is up to you if you want to clear her.” So had they decided to use my current GPA (3.5) and add it to my bachelor’s GPA (2.55), I would have a 2.782 — clearly meeting the 2.75 requirements. However, they will only consider these last 4 semesters “after hours” and so I’m back to the 2.55. Like, this was all up to ONE person to clear me. And they chose not to. “As it stands right now, you would be denied but would be eligible for probation.”

Hermione_OMGseriously

So I’ve turned in the petition for probationary admissions and am waiting to hear back from my department on all of this. Basically we have to create a 9-hour plan and those are the only classes I can take in the Fall, and if I pass those with a 3.0 and also earn a “satisfactory” GRE score (according to my department), then I can be fully admitted (once the department writes the graduate school and explains that they want me in). Now, after I finish this semester, I’ll have 6 graduate credits complete. So I thought maybe if I took another course in the summer that might work for me 9-hour plan… but nope. Same person was all just like “nope, those are undergraduate hours.” (Not verbatim this time, but essentially what they said. And I’m just like, but these are transferring over to my degree, and I just.. UGH.)

The faculty in my department are going to meet yet again to discuss this. I would love for this probationary stuff to just disappear. I mean, if I have to do it this way, then so be it. But it’s just been hurdle after hurdle, it feels. Some of my own making, but these ones are a bit out of my control. If my department didn’t accept probationary admittance, then I would just be stuck. I’d either have to finish this post-bacc degree or just give up. I know finishing the degree really doesn’t seem like that big of a thing, but it’s added semesters, a lot of petitioning to get transfer credits to actually count, and added costs. It’s just kind of frustrating because it feels like the department really wants me in this program, I really want to be in this program… it’s just the graduate school I have to convince.

Hermione_stutter

Lastly… Ok. So, even though I have all of May to finish my GRE…. um, did you know the GRE costs $205? I did not. Like, I was thinking it was $50. No clue where I got that number because it’s no where close to that. I don’t have $200 to spend on the GRE right now. I’ve been racking my brain this past week on how I can get that money… Not sure if my mom can loan it to me since she’s got a lot of medical stuff going on, there’s some big changes in my dad’s life that I don’t know if I can even ask him… I thought maybe I could sell some artwork, but I question my skill and its ability to bring in what I need. I thought about doing a fundraising cooking/gaming live stream, and ask for donations through my twitch channel‘s donation feature. But again, I don’t know. Some of you may remember that I crowdsourced my tuition for the portfolio school back in 2011. My dad shamed me when I did that. And I’ve had a hard time asking people other than my mom for help financially since then. It’s like I’d rather pay fines for being late or hold off on getting things like groceries than get help.

So while I am super, SUPER excited about things looking like I’ll start my Master’s in the fall… there’s just those last hurdles to get through. It just all feels so precarious because just one of those things, not being able to afford the GRE or issues with the graduate school, could take all of this away from me.

hermione-peek

I’m so close guys. Like, this could actually all be happening. I feel like everything has really led me here. I just haven’t felt that pure joy in so long that I feel in studying anthropology. This is my place, guys. I want this so bad.

Fingers crossed I update you with good news in the following months.


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

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.