Archive for April, 2008

April 23, 2008

so what?

by la rebelde

It’s been a crazy week. Between meeting with committee profes in small-midwestern college-town, attending a conference in Chicago and catching up with amig@s, I’m mentally and physically exhausted. And I didn’t even present at the conference! It’s funny how all the thinking—especially when it’s tied to professionalization, academic schmoozing and, well, your future—can just wear a homegirl down.

REWIND…

A few weeks ago I turned in a chapter draft to my main profa. She read it right away and suggested that I revisit my prospectus and reorganize my entire dissertation. The draft, she said, was unorganized and…well…not a historical study. Okay, she didn’t use those exact terms, but that’s what she meant. And she’s right. After spending weeks and weeks on this draft, I needed to start over. The truth is, I had no idea how to start writing a dissertation chapter, so I just picked out some of the old stuff I found in los archivos and dove right in. I forgot to tell the story, which is unusual for me because I do nothing but tell stories.

I’d relied on the advice other folks gave me which suggested that I “begin with the documents” and just start writing. Turns out, that’s not very useful advice. At least not for a historian, I guess. I have never been one to outline, so “just start writing” to me meant literally to just start writing. After all, that’s what I did for my undergrad and master’s theses. But a dissertation is an entirely different project. So I rewrote the outline with more specific prose about what each chapter is going to do and what it would discuss.

FAST FORWARD…

So yesterday my other co-chair helped map out the how-to’s of writing a history dissertation based on questions and articulation of my “analytical payoff.” I was pumped to get started right away. Then today I met with my newest committee member—someone I’d never worked with before, never even really talked with, but who does work in one of my main subfields. So I had no idea what her mentorship style was like. She also focused on my “analytical payoff” except she phrased it as the “so what?” question—as in, what is the methodological contribution my work will make to the field(s)? Same question as co-chair profe, but I was suddenly overwhelmed. So much so that I flaked and went to the wrong Starbucks for my next profe meeting, missing him all together.

One day—excited to write. Next day—totally freaked out and missing meetings. It’s like I’m on an emotional roller coaster with this dissertation thing, operating sometimes in crisis mode and sometimes just chill. I need to be just chill—as in, working diligently but calmly. I used to be that mujer. I can bring her back. Now off for some sangria before my flight to LA tomorrow!

April 13, 2008

on making friends.

by la rebelde

A few weeks ago I was catching up with a close amiga who is also fairly new to her current city. We are both still in search of good friends our respective areas. I have a few in the LA area, but we don’t get to see each other as often as we should. And one (maybe two) is moving away soon, which makes me kind of sad. Amiga was saying that when she met certain friends, she knew immediately that they’d be “friends for life.” That’s only happened to me a couple of times. With others, it’s taken some time for us to become comfortable with each other. I suppose it’s that way with relationships of all sorts.
*
I arrived (fashionably) late to the party. It wasn’t the kind of party I’m used to. The birthday girl (BG) was in her third trimester, so things were pretty low-key. There was no alcohol, no dancing, but there were cupcakes, which I love!

I’ve only hung out with BG a couple times. She’s one of those LA acquaintances who I like, but haven’t gotten to know very well yet. And she and her husband were the only people I knew there. When I arrived, all dozen party-goers were sitting in a circle on the floor around the coffee table, where all the snacks were laid out. They seemed to know each other already and were in the midst of a vibrant conversation about random topics like pop music. I took a chair next to someone who sat alone on the side.

I’m not usually the super-shy type, but I have to admit, I felt awkward and out of place. Like it was not my crowd, not my niche. The feeling was reinforced when folks started trying to remember happy birthday songs in Spanish, which they’d learned in their intro Spanish classes—exactly the reason I hated Spanish class in school. They meant well, but it was a very, shall we say, multicultural moment. (I should add that there was only one other Latino person there besides me. Everyone else was white or Asian Am.)

After a good while, the hostess very generously tried to bring me into the conversation. She introduced everyone in the room—turns out a lot of them didn’t actually know each other like I thought. Most of them were straight couples—and they introduced themselves along with their couple-ness. “I go with so-and-so.” They laughed at themselves for making those comments—even compared themselves to Ken and Barbie. “Ken goes with Barbie.” Yea, I thought to myself, definitely not my crowd. But maybe they were just reflecting each other’s awkwardness. Quien sabe.

Things got better once we started decorating cupcakes and folks started to move around a lot. I had a couple of really great conversations. And I was reminded that friendships sometimes have to be made, that they’re not always instantaneous. I don’t know if I’ll become good friends with anyone I met there. But I hope to see BG again soon. And maybe a couple of the others too. (As long as there’s no Ken-and-Barbie talk…or Spanish class song-singing. I’m just saying.)

*I did not make or decorate this cupcake. It was bakery-bought by the hosts.

April 9, 2008

borders.

by la rebelde


So, it seems there’s a big controversy over this ad. U.S. “consumers” were threatening to boycott. And the Absolut company pulled it–and even apologized for it. (You can read more about it here, here and here and many other places.)

Has the U.S. apologized for conquest or the millions of other atrocities? I’m just saying. It amazes me how upset some folks get when they are implicated in the historical/present processes of colonization. This ad calls into question the validity of geopolitical borders and brings to the fore how drawing these borders (and maintaining them) is a violent act of state and local forces. I bet the boycotting folks haven’t given up on drinking tequila, let alone their chips and salsa.

I fucking love this ad! I want a poster of it for my…uh, office.
I know it totally upholds the colonial Mexican state too–but still.

*Image is from the AP page.

April 4, 2008

living life with passion.

by la rebelde


It’s rare for me to get much work done whenever I go home. There’s always so much family stuff going on, it’s hard to buckle down and focus. This time was different. I had two deadlines. So I dragged my computer and all my paperwork to the coffee shop, while my grandparents, Sobrino and Manito did other stuff.

There was a Costa Rican man about my father’s age who I saw at the coffee shop every time I went. The last day, he arrived later than I did and took the only available seat left—next to me. He asked if I was a student at UNM. I explained that I go to University in the Midwest and was in town visiting familia. He asked about my degree and what I study. And when I said I was working on a PhD, he went on about how important it is for young women of color to get an education, that knowledge is something that can never be taken away from you. It’s the sort of thing my dad used to say back in the day. And it was kind of refreshing to hear that from a stranger. Had I forgotten? Had I gotten so caught up in worrying about funding, finishing the next chapter, post-docs and the looming job market, that I forgot to enjoy the process of learning?

I have to admit, I am often weary about talking to men I don’t know. I’m conflicted about being friendly and polite, especially to elders, while being guarded in case they’ve got shady motives. He told me about his daughter who’s a college student now, and how he just finished med school after working in a different field for a really long time. Then he asked if I was married or had a boyfriend. “No,” I’d said. And then thought to myself that I’m tired of this question, tired of men who cut conversations short once they find out I’m working on a PhD, tired of being made to feel like I chose my education over having a family. My guard immediately went up again. It seemed like too personal a question from a stranger, but its one that the elders always ask.

Before I could say anything else besides “No,” he said, “Don’t worry about those idiots who can’t handle how smart you are. They’ll weed themselves out pretty quickly. When the guy who can handle it sees how passionate you are about your work, he will never let you go. So you must always remember to live your life with passion!” Wow. Did he read my mind? Sometimes strangers can be so surprising. I’m not sure how much I believe all that, but it would be nice if it were true.

That night at dinner the fortune in my cookie read, “Today is the day you let it go. Your chance will come.” I don’t usually believe fortune cookie fortunes, but maybe the universe is telling me that I should be more open to talking to strangers.

April 1, 2008

keeping up.

by la rebelde

I spent the weekend with my mama—a visit long overdue and much too short. We had a great time together.

I’ve been trying to be healthier these days. You know, lose about 10 pounds, exercise regularly, eat better…the usual. So, my mama, the dietitian/health-nut calculated things out and informed me that if I want to lose a pound a week over the next couple months, I can only eat between 1000-1200 calories a day because I’m so short and I’ve hit the big 3-0. I don’t think I generally eat badly, but 1200 calories?? That’s not very much! After she informed me of this bad news, she helped me choose my meals for the next day—1100 calories, including oatmeal, fruit, salad, crab cakes, bread, black bean soup and egg-less egg salad made from tofu. (btw-it only tasted okay because my mama made it and Chinese people know how to hook up the bean curd!) It wasn’t very much, but I guess I’ll get used to it over time.

She also bought me a gift—a workout video that came with two 2-pound weights to compliment my regular spinning classes. We tried it out together. And now, a full two days since I left, my legs are still sore. Hers aren’t. Dang, I just can’t keep up with her!