Endings and beginnings

I have decided not to finish my dissertation. I enrolled in the doctoral program in sociocultural anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign immediately after college. I did all my coursework, taught undergraduates about kinship terminology and the postmodern moment, wrote my M.A. thesis, passed my preliminary exams, got a swanky grant, and spent a year in Oregon doing my doctoral fieldwork.

For many reasons, the writing of the dissertation didn’t work out for me. And so, with half of my chapters written, about a year ago I definitively called it quits and haven’t looked back since.

Well, I did have one backward glance over my shoulder: early last month, when I got together with some friends from grad school when they were in town for the 2009 American Anthropological Association meetings. I hadn’t seen most of them in the decade since I moved away from school. It was great to see them, and doing so brought back memories of how fun and exciting it was to live in an intellectually stimulating community (though I have to admit that I don’t miss reading Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak* and discussing structuralism). I miss the camaraderie, but I no longer feel that academia is my home.**

So now that I’ve completely divested myself of graduate student-ness, I need to plot a new course for myself. I have a long history in publishing (my in-house and freelance careers in editing were launched during my second year of grad school) but have not had much luck lately in finding work. (For example, the area where I live is rife with medical and pharmaceutical publishers, but I have no experience in those fields. The few jobs that come up are quickly nabbed by people who’ve been doing that sort of work for a very long time.) Publishing is no longer the place for me, and now I’m struggling to find a new answer to the question “What do I want to do when I grow up?”

I’m exploring a few ideas; maybe I’ll write about them here some time. I’ve never been interested in making New Year’s resolutions and don’t intend to start now. But my mind has already cast 2010 as The Year of Possibilities.***

This is it! Moving onward!

* The Wik entry on her points out “Spivak’s writing has been described by some as opaque.” That’s putting it politely.

** Especially when you consider that job prospects in my area of specialization are nonexistent. This is compounded by increasing academic nomadism and my unwillingness to relocate to any place to find a job.

*** I was going to call it The Year I Figure My Shit Out, but that lacks panache.

12 Responses to “Endings and beginnings”

  1. Bethon 02 Jan 2010 at 11:43 pm

    Enjoy your exploration!

  2. Frankon 03 Jan 2010 at 10:02 am

    Good luck!

  3. Imperatrixon 03 Jan 2010 at 10:42 am

    Sounds like a wonderful adventure!

  4. Chrison 03 Jan 2010 at 11:08 pm

    I have to confess that I was a lot happier when I bailed on my doctoral program. :) Good for you!

    Y’know… have you considered editing for an ebook publisher? I think some are a lot more flexible about location, in that you don’t have to actually be located where they’re located.

  5. Paulaon 04 Jan 2010 at 1:35 am

    Good luck-sounds like an adventure

  6. Marshaon 04 Jan 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Thanks, everyone!
    @Chris: I’ve done quite a bit of looking at e-publishing. The upshot is that the different opportunities I’ve examined/tried don’t pay shit, I’m afraid. Still looking for something that might work, though…

  7. JDon 05 Jan 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Goodforyou, Marsha! Similarly, I’m looking forward to 2010 being a year of Transformation (or Busting Out of the Coccoon). Here’s to moving on, moving forward, moving up!

  8. Shannahon 06 Jan 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Well, what d’ya know–we both have the same title for the New Year (the bottom one, not the top one). Sometimes letting go is the best thing, right? I’m proud for you!

    And though I only have indirect experience with Spivak and her influences on literary criticism, I, ahem, agree.

  9. One Tall Robon 07 Jan 2010 at 6:28 pm

    And, frankly, “The Year I Figure My Shit Out” sounds much more definitive or final than “The Year of Possibilities.” As your teacher, Mister Spock, is fond of saying, there are always possibilities.

  10. Marshaon 08 Jan 2010 at 10:43 am

    @Shannah: Have you experienced the (ahem) pleasures of Judith Butler’s prose yet?


    @Rob: I know I can always count on you to ratchet up the geek quotient of my blog. :)

  11. knittymamaon 11 Jan 2010 at 11:16 pm

    I’m calling mine the year of possibilities too….good thought!

  12. Katie Jon 13 Jan 2010 at 11:23 pm

    Ah the age old question. I understand.