Getting Back to It: Thoughts on the Graduate Experience

I suppose this will function as a more conventional blog post.

The first two months of term have not been kind. The hopeful accomplishments I had anticipated achieving are drowned under an ocean of feeling my way into a new program, a new city, and a new life. The smell of the Humanities Building is unlike any I have ever encountered; comforting yet sterile – it’s a bit uncanny feeling. But I have grown to like it, and with a routine set in place I may confidently return to the kind of writing I so desire to engage with – for myself (and because of that a bit weird-feeling). I want to make that feeling a home.

While I don’t want to just use this space to chronicle my journey through graduate school, I think that this experience is one that I can parry with for critical gain. Above all, I want to make relevant my experience and research for anyone who comes across this meagre collection of posts I call a website. It will grow, and it will be glorious.

For now, I’d like to think about feeling weird. How can this, instead of hampering one’s confidence of expression, become a site of productivity? Weirdness is where one discovers the contours of the self, the edges which the unknown or unfamiliar interact with. Anything that demands a level of self-awareness where actions are perceived as actions of a self and not just of myself, even if they are the same in the end, can bring out this weird feeling. A level of distance arises in observation of one’s weirdness, as if you become your own Other in that instance. While this is nerve-wracking, self-reflexivity makes you aware of the limits of transmission, of how far you can get your voice to carry before stepping out of your comfort zone. I am making an attempt here to carry my voice beyond the comfortability of my usual expression.

For me, and I think for a lot of those in universities and colleges, a challenge arises when one comes to the point of determining “what am I saying here?” Often the desire to provide a grand argument, neatly encapsulated and packaged up is driven by the fear of lacking in knowledge. This becomes acute to the point of anxiety (for me at least) when preparing to speak in front of an audience – or more frequently this year, when participating in social gatherings where the prompt for showcasing one’s knowledge may come from anywhere. What we don’t realize is that it is along the way of working something out for ourselves that we often come to our most pertinent insights, and it is in following these self-referential threads that real knowledge is encountered. Quite simply: “how does this intersect with my own experience?” is the most useful question I ask myself nowadays when writing or reading. While I have a strong urge to provide a textual example to somehow back up what I want to say in this post, this is because my academic pedigree has taught me that anything worth saying is worth finding literary evidence for. I am decidedly not doing this here, and this is because what I need to say is coming from me.

This is not to mislead you, dear reader, into thinking that this blog will not contain a litany of textual references and arguments alike. But I don’t want to limit myself when it comes to self-expression, or self-reflexivity. I want to embrace weirdness when I’m an Other to my thoughts. I think a big part of making the kind of knowledge produced in the university accessible is allowing for the investment of the writing subject to shine through – in showing how something matters to me and how it may matter to you. A blog, to me, is the first step in persisting in this kind of thinking and maintaining my own investment in my work. In this way this post seems to serve as a reminder to myself more than as a call to others, but I urge anyone who wants to expand the limits of their own transmission to embrace the weird sensation of finding themselves in their material. Not unlike the smell of the Humanities Building, it’s a bit uncanny feeling. But I’ve grown to like it.