This is a blog I mean to write early last week but, as with all plans around Christmas and New Year’s Day, it would have been best if I had made no plans at all. In kicking off 2015 I want to look back at 2014 which has been a mixed year of experiences for me. I will throw some thoughts onto my page here:
After a few years of not working in a library (and being a library researcher and educator instead) I now have a casual librarian position in a library far from home. The far from home is significant as I am reading on my commute which is blissful. But most importantly, I am reading more broadly. I had not realised the degree with which my reading narrows when I am a buyer of (romance) fiction. I have a limited book buying budget and I am averse to experimenting with my limited funds. I also stopped using my libraries regularly (shocking revelation!) through sheer laziness so being back in a public library has been wonderful. Every day I work I have to forcibly ignore hundreds of books that I want to take home and settle for one, maybe two, titles I would never buy. I am looking forward to serendipitous (nothing planned) reading this year. I am also of the belief that there is no such thing as serendipitous reading when you are purcahsing. Even when you have a larger budget than I do, I think that opportunity cost does not allow for satiating reading needs and allowing for reading risks like borrowing provides you.
The IASPR conference in Thessaloniki, Greece, marked my year’s midpoint and it was incredibly important for me. It helped guide a lot of my research reading in the second half of the year. It was also wonderful meeting so many people with whom I had only engaged with through social media or whose work I had read over the years. And I may have also had fangirl moments but I won’t name drop. I found that being in an environment where everyone takes romance scholarship seriously was a salve. For the most part, people I meet are interested and want to know about my research but this was the only time I have felt on the same page with all the people around me. I once had to present a paper to Science PhD students. (It was a numbers thing where they needed 12 research students per conference room and there was one student too many amongst the humanities group and one less in the hard sciences so I ended up taking one for Team Humanities). My paper came after a student curing cancer, a student saving the coral in the Great Barrier Reef and another student looking at the impacts of palm oil in South-East Asia. My presentation went well, they all asked incisive questions and one asked for a reading recommendation (a male student, at that!). But it took a lot of mental exercises to focus on my research being as important as theirs (really – can my research ever be as important as curing cancer? I don’t thinks so). IASPR was not really about finding my tribe as I feel equally at home with Information scholars but it served more as a validation that I may eventually have more than just my examiners read my final paper 😉
Arm and back pain continues to restrict my writing. This has been a constant struggle for me for several years. I get treated and then it all comes back at unexpected times. It has reached the point that I have curbed my online activities. I still engage in some twitter conversations but I can no longer physically spare my writing time being involved in huge debates and discussions like I used to do. I can no longer live tweet conferences and take part in epic online chats such as the South-Pacific book chat and ReadWatchPlay (and in the latter’s case be one of the facilitators). This does upset me. I particularly would have loved to live tweet IASPR but was not able to do so. I am currently in a pain episode having over 3 months of broken sleep making me edgy and a shouty mum. I am returning to physiotherapy this week. Meanwhile, I continue to experiment with Dragon Dictation though I cannot get the hang of it. It feels clunky and awkward and I spend just as much time editing and correcting mistakes in the text as I do writing and still end up with pain. Do any of you use voice-to-text software? If so, how does it work for you? I am open to suggestions.
Due to the pain (as well as some other more cerebral struggles) I am only blogging once or twice a month. This does not make me happy so my aim in 2015 is to up my blogging to at least a post a week, even if it is a short observation. I have signed up to SuperWendy’s reading challenge – my first challenge since my 2012 burnout and I am looking forward to a year of reading alongside so many romancelandia readers.
I also found that I had slowed down my fiction reading to barely a book a month. Some time in April I realised that my research output had also lessened. Fiction reading is a real driver for me in my professional (and scholarly) life. If I don’t write about and read fiction, I am not inspired. This makes it difficult to balance uni reading needs with my pleasure reading but I have reached a nice balance through commuting and nights being reserved purely for pleasure reading. I hope I manage to keep myself inspired but not drowning.
I really, reallly, realllllly like being in a comfort zone. I mean, REALLY like to not push myself to experience new, exciting things. I do not ride on rollercoasters, I dislike experimenting with food and I love my working ruts. My first step outside my comfort zone was returning to study – but in research mode rather than coursework. This was/is incredibly challenging and I love it. Over the years I have also taught at a college/technical institution level. I have always enjoyed teaching library technicians and felt comfortable with the level of work I was instructing. It was knowledge that was second nature to me. Then last year, I was asked to tutor/teach undergraduates at my university. This terrified me! I felt completely intimidated by the task at hand. I have been incredibly fortunate in having a subject co-ordinator who shares her knowledge with me and she was happy for me to shadow her classes. Though it took a while, I found that I love the uni teaching in information and media and it is even more enjoyable, and certainly much more creative and inspiring than teaching only in the library discipline. I ended up hitting the ground running and though it is still exciting and new, challenging and interesting, it is, I feel, much better fit for me. I find the uni students are only a couple of years older than my own sons and it is wonderful seeing them grapple with ideas and a learning style that is substantially different to their high school experiences.
My own undergraduate experience was difficult – not because of the course which I loved but because my dad had lung cancer in my last year of high school and was an invalid (his right lung was removed) throughout my university years. I was working 5 nights a week between 6 and 10 hours a night shovelling pizzas for 3 years and at one stage I took on a second job in a library (that was not a good idea) all while attending uni as a fulltime student. In retrospect, I was crazy. I have no idea how I sustained this life style. I was getting home at 1am and having to be on a train at 7:30am to get to uni at 9. I was that student that would flake out during morning classes. I made a concerted effort to only sign up to afternoon tutorials. Just as I struggled with an ill parent as an undergraduate, my life is retelling itself. My mum has been sick for quite a few years. Earlier this year she was rushed to hospital with a suspected heart attack. She had a heart pacemaker installed but she still struggles with other heart issues that the pacemaker cannot control. I have found that at 45, I am much more able to cope with parental ailments than at 18. Once again I find myself studying, working in 2 (albeit sessional) jobs, coming home to both my sons and their own personal needs as well as my own relationship with my husband. I am lucky to have my sisters with whom we share taking care of my mum. And even more so, I am incredibly fortunate to have my wonderful husband who is an equal partner in taking care of our sons and our home, as well as travelling back and forth to uni together every day (he is in admin at my uni).
What does 2015 have in store for me? I’m not sure. I will continue towards completing my PhD. I will (hopefully) continue to be asked to talk about reading and books on 702ABC. My monthly radio spots last year were another highlight. I had so much wonderful feedback from people that they enjoyed my perspective of reading – one of inclusiveness of all texts and valuing of genre reading alongside literary reading. I hope I get the chance to continue with this. I will continue to read for pleasure – particularly romance books. And I will continue to hang out with my sons. As they get older, I feel the urgency of enjoying them in our house. I have only a few years before they are out every day and experiencing life on their own terms. My friendships with others are important but I happily put them on hold to hang out with my boys. They are funny and interesting and I love having them around. Beyond this, I make no other plans. Life will bring its own plans.
I lie. I also plan on going for a lot more swims at my favourite beach ever – Fairlight. In my alternative universe, I live on its shore.