eurydicebound: (bleed words)
I've been meaning to post on this for a while now. Now, as I'm going to be starting my PhD... well, it seems a good time to do it before I move forward.

I was really clueless about my Masters program -- what I was doing, what I wanted to do... I feel like I sort of blundered my way through it. I was frankly absurdly lucky to get into CWRU in the first place. It shouldn't have been possible. I didn't get into it thinking about what I'd do if I didn't want to get a doctorate, or what my actual odds of finding work were... I just sort of went into it with a sort of blind faith that I'd get where I wanted to be, without really thinking about what would go into getting that degree. Some of that is inevitable, I suppose -- every commitment is made without being able to see really what one is getting into. Some of it was due to the sheer range of changes I've undergone in the past two years. Changing city, changing school, changing relationship status, changing family arrangement -- the words look simple on the page, but they are anything but. The repercussions of them continue still.

The past two years have pushed me far beyond what I thought I could do, and pointed out to me certain areas in which I have definite deficiencies. Time management is not in my skillset -- I've developed some tools to deal with it, but in part all this has done is point out the edges of my blind spots more distinctly, not made me any less blind in dealing with them. My executive functions are weak, and I'm having to put work into making them better. Whether or not it's paying off I can't really say, but I think there's some improvement in asking for help and devising strategies, if nothing else. Knowing where I'll likely fall down in handling something somewhat reduces the odds of it happening with any real severity at least.

The downside of all of it is that I've become more and more aware of my own Aspie symptoms. I would like to get it diagnosed, but my insurance (while covering the diagnosis) will not then cover any treatments that might apply to the condition. Since headaches and some stomach issues and other things are often comorbid with/arguably a symptom of the condition... well, I can't take the risk that I couldn't get treatment for them. Maybe in a couple of years I can get a diagnosis. It would make a difference in the latitude I'm allowed for my blind spots in my work place -- one of these days I'll likely move forward with it, but not now.

Things my MA has taught me:
I'm at my best when I'm at bold. Subtle arguments and actions almost never serve my purpose as well as clear statements, even though they can seem more comfortable to me at the time.
I can't be all things to all people.
I'm at my worse when I'm not interested in my subject.
I'm good at helping people communicate, and better yet, I enjoy it.
I have the skill to be a good professor.
My department is small and limited in a number of ways, but there is some very good stuff here and I'm pleased with it.
I would like to eventually teach at a university that has a graduate program in English. I don't need it to be a big university, though, at least not necessarily.
I am willing to make trade-offs in the prior realization in order to make my life work for myself and those I love. I am jealous of some of the things I hear about other programs, because I know I could do those things... but I wouldn't actually want to give up what I have for that.
I'm not an Americanist.
I have problems viewing an MA in English as anything but a stepping stone to a doctorate.
I'm kind of a generalist at heart, and it's making finding specialties hard. I sort of knew this, but it's really very true. I want to teach all the things.

When I look at CWRU in particular... well, primarily it's a sciences school. When you're in the English department at a sciences school... well, that kind of says it all. The department is good, don't get me wrong. But it doesn't have a great deal of depth in most areas, and the function of the department is not cutting edge theory and research. The function of the department is perhaps muddled even unto itself, trying to carry forward a liberal arts tradition in a school that is divided on the concept on the best of days. And yet... for all that a more cohesive department and approach might make things more successful for the department overall, being able to ask those questions and struggle with their application has made me a far more thoughtful teacher, I think. The space fostered by disagreement has given the department's students room to grow -- or at least it did for me. I don't disagree with anyone's decision to go elsewhere at the end of a couple years here, but I've really valued the chance to not have a teaching philosophy shoved down my throat and develop my own ideas.

I dunno. These two years have flown by. I've sort of come to the conclusion that the purpose of an MA (at least in my department) is to give you both a rough generalist overview of English studies AND to sort of hit the highlights of an academic career in the discipline (and the training for the beginnings). I think the latter was more successful than the former for me. I feel like they rely on the requirements to cover a broad spectrum of literature, but the requirements are neither specific nor especially deep. Granted, it's a two-year program, so I'm not sure what else could be done insofar as that goes. Not to mention that part of the function of an MA is to help people moving on to a doctorate continue to narrow their field of focus, not expand it. The one point where this falls down is the MA exam, I think, which goes back to a broad grounding in the field when the two years leading up to it are only half-devoted to that topic. I think it was much more successful in teaching research, in prepping for serious academic writing, and in teaching pedagogy and giving teaching experience. Where I think it falls down somewhat is in its attempts to teach about academia as a career, which isn't a stated goal but I think ends up being part of the experience. Treating it directly might be more helpful, but it's hard to say. Certainly, I feel that I accomplished those goals as a result of my MA studies.

I'm rambling.

Overall, I'm really glad I did my MA where I did and on what I did. For all it may lack certain perks of larger, more prestigious programs, it also allows a nuts-and-bolts intimacy with the process and the career that I think gets passed by in those same programs. I know what I want to do and the kind of place I want to do it in, and while I may still be pinning down the details... well, being able to know this much about what a PhD requires and what a career as a prof is like before beginning my PhD is about as much as one could possibly hope for. It certainly beats committing to this path and then figuring out you hate it -- something I'm grateful to CWRU for having shown me.


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March 2013

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