28 August 2012

Four years ago

We packed up and said goodbye to Japan. Two of them didn't even exist:

24 August 2012

Getting older, binning what we don't need

These are random thoughts: unrelated ones.

Today, I was cleaning out my file cabinet. What had I saved over the years? Notes, lots of notes about things I thought were important for my research 4 years ago. I had so many notes, articles I had printed out. Conference programmes. A never ending pile of paper. I binned it all: just like that. No going back and forth about it. Bin, bin, bin. And now I have an empty filing cabinet.

My thesis briefly hit 100,000 words today and I immediately deleted one of my appendix tables that I don't think I really needed, bringing me back to 97,500 words. There are enough things that the thesis is missing at this point that I can't afford to waste that space. 

There are little things I'm proud of in the thesis. My use of the en-dash between numbers, rather than a simple dash. 

I also have these contrasting overwhelming feelings of 'Oh my god, I actually did it' and 'I have no idea what I'm talking about'. Perhaps this is how it's supposed to feel at the end. I am also going back and forth between feeling like it's finished and feeling like I have months and months to go. I did, however, run into my supervisor and a person she's working with on her project, and in talking about me, she said, 'Stephen is nearly finished.' I'd never heard her say that. It was shocking. Really? I wanted to say. I'm almost done? 

Mia is walking now—how bizarre is that. Two years ago Yoko and I talked about having her for the first time. Two years. 'How time can move both fast and slow amazes me.'

23 August 2012

Beginning to say goodbye

My corner desk at the OU is just about the safest place I have in the world, but now it's time to start saying goodbye. Today is 23 August. I got comments on my literature review from my supervisor, the last uncharted territory in the thesis. I had been working on it, but my supervision team hadn't seen most of it or any of it put together. The comments came back positive though: large parts are reading well. Today, I send the second draft of the discussion chapter and then, in the afternoon, begin working on the comments on the literature review which I started yesterday. I will get those done by the end of the day, I hope. Or close to being done. That leaves tomorrow until a week from next Monday (3 September) to clean up the whole of the thesis and make sure there are no glaring omissions before I send it in to my supervisors. 

And then? Well, 4 September I will not come into work, most likely. I will need to wait until the comments come back from my supervisors (due 17 September). When I get those comments, I will work on them for about ten days and then, if everything is okay, submit on 28 September. At this point, submission before the end of my funding looks more likely than it has all summer. 

But all I will have between sending the draft to my supervisors and their comments is an article I owe to an online magazine. Both Naomi and Mei will start school during that time, so I will be able to be completely engaged in that. I can finally get my bike fixed. Hopefully I'll have at least one job interview. I can go to Starbucks with Yoko in the morning. 

I am also applying for jobs and it could all happen very quickly, particularly if I start work anywhere but the UK (seeing as I won't have to wait the 4–14 weeks for the UKBA to approve my application). In a couple of weeks, everything will likely change, sometime between now and December. 

All that to say, my time at my corner desk is limited. Very limited. So I have begun the inevitable, opening the drawers and going through the things I have: what to bin, what to save. Starting to take down photos and postcards from my wall. Bin articles I thought I needed. Bin old drafts of chapters (god, how did I think this was anything worth reading?). Bin or take home all the implements of my dieting from the last two years. Not weighing my food any more is a success, evidence of something I learned. I don't have to follow my food intake meticulously on Calorie Count: I know how much I've eaten and how many kilocalories are in whatever I just ate.

Ending this period in my life the way that it appears to be ending has been good. I am feeling less like I have failed and more like I may have, in a limited way, said something new with my research. My family is stronger than when we started, something that was certainly not a given. I still don't have a job, but that will come in time. I'm feeling healthy, less obsessive. 

There's still a long way to go, but the end is in sight. I can see the end now.

21 August 2012

A resurgance

I've written at least for two days in a row. And for the same reason: I am avoiding my work.

I've learned, however, how important avoiding your work is in your PhD because while you are avoiding your work, you think. You think hard and you think long. You think about this and you think about that. And when you come back (and you need to come back) you have something to say.

I'm working on the ten most important paragraphs of my thesis. They are in the conclusion where I say, 'This, in six paragraphs, is what happened, and this, in four paragraphs, is why it matters.' These paragraphs need to have all the dross boiled out. They need to have all intricacy of the analysis concisely and precisely stated in active sentences that start with 'Categorisation was...' rather than 'The findings suggest that'.

I finished seven weeks of counselling yesterday. I haven't said much about it here, just comments here and there that you may or may not have noticed. It was good: it was very good, actually. I recommend it for anyone who sees themselves becoming someone that they don't want to be.

Anyway, Resurgam: I will rise again.

20 August 2012

Stalled when you can't stall

The sky is a fish, my three year-old daughter says, looking up. Autumn clouds, my wife says.

My daughter is understanding and talking about clouds in comparison to fish, I think: how could this be evidence of a cognitive mapping?

This is what happens when you get a PhD in metaphor studies. You ruin the world for yourself.
It's Monday morning, again, and I have sent my supervisors a draft of my literature review. 18,000+ words of the thesis, so a biggish part of it. I have 'finished' it, to my liking at least, and then done a once over on the methods which was probably under 10,000 words, but is now close to 13,000 because I added in what was Chapter 5 (Description of Data) to now be a part of Chapter 4. That gets me up to the 16–110 pages of 317 in good shape (for me, again, not for my supervisors). I also spent some time cleaning up my references and adapting APA to meet the needs of my citations, which you can do at the OU. You can actually use any citation system you want (make up your own!) provided it is consistent and it allows the examiners easy access to the materials. That was pages 285–306. 307–317 is Appendices and also in good shape. So now, I have to work on my abstract (first set of notes back from supervisor) and then work on Chapter 9, my conclusion, to send to them by midday Thursday. The abstract and the conclusion, although very short (well, the conclusion is still like 6,000 words, abstract is 300) need to be pure gold. The purest gold.

Still, I send something to my supervisors and I've learned, after almost four years of doing this, that what I think is good enough is not good enough and will need to be retooled. At this point, however, we're running out of time. The viva panel is set. Next comes the viva date (mid/late November). Once that's set then I have a hard deadline for submitting the thesis (six weeks prior to the viva). Now, I'm shooting for 28 September, but depending on the date of the viva, I could get another two weeks if I want them. I don't though. I want to submit within my funding period. Call it a personal goal.

This is boring shop-talk, but what is consuming my life now with stress. I was doing good dealing with the stress until this morning when I just ate and ate and ate. I finally got on my bike and left, but it was not good. I get so, so hungry when I'm stressed.

We did, as a family, have a good time this weekend and I managed to avoid, like the plague, my own aggression and anger. The counsellor I've been seeing said to me about three weeks ago, 'Aggression is pretty useless emotion, don't you think?' I agreed. I mean, not historically and not all the time. But around the house? Definitely. With your wife and kids? Definitely. So we went to the pool, had pizza on Saturday, went for a long walk yesterday, and then talked to my family last night. You can manage your aggression, I've found. When it wells up, you dismantle it instead of encouraging it. Everyone's happier, and you have control of yourself.


Our house is also falling apart. Doorbell broken, hob mostly not working, lawn mower broken. We are limping to the finish line.

And now, I need, need, need to get some sort of employment. Doing anything. Anywhere.

Sheeps, goats, and wolves. Which one are you?

19 August 2012


I'm sorry I've been so quiet. The PhD is really, truly coming to an end: I am working around the clock to get things together. My viva panel is set and they are working out the viva date. I am reading through what I have given the last four years of my life over to and thinking that I might have said something coherent, however small and insignificant it ends up being.

Moreover, I've felt an overwhelming sense of peace as this ends: that in less than two months I will not be opening this document every day and I will have said what I will say for my PhD. The peace is spilling over into the rest of my life, in wanting to linger in the park with my children and a relative slowness of anger. A kind of secular conversion, almost--giving up and giving in to the world that I has been created around me. A kind of preconscious faith in whatever is.

The last two lines of my Bakhtin poem are:
I love you.
Stay with me.