Dissertation progress (and general life update): Week of July 6th

So…. it’s been a while.

I kind of anticipated that I would eventually stop writing regularly, which is part of why I didn’t tell anyone this blog existed when I first started it – I wanted to see how long I could write without the external pressure of someone else noticing. But I thought that the stop would come because I ran out of things to say, or my inconsistent personality streak would have taken over. Ironically, I was ramping up to professionalize my writing a lot more when I took this unplanned hiatus. I was getting advice from freelance writers I know about how to pitch stories, and actively seeking out publication opportunities. But circumstances changed. When the pandemic hit, journalism as an industry became less interested in anything not about the disease. Ok, I was going to write some stuff about pandemics and COVID-19 anyway. And then George Floyd was murdered, and suddenly, rightfully, the most immediate concern had to be the treatment of Black people in this country. It’s not that I had nothing to say about that, but that 1) I was having trouble collecting my thoughts and finding something of value to add and 2) as someone who is not Black and does not study the experiences of Black people, I felt my voice should not be elevated in this particular conversation (especially given point 1). In the midst of this period of uncertainty, I threw myself into my favorite procraftinating activity, sewing. I’m planning to write a bit about the things I made, a lot of which have a historical aspect to them. But I haven’t been able to get to that yet, because of what else has been going on in my life.


I began the pandemic in the very fortunate position of having live-in childcare, by way of an au pair. I have a lot of mixed feelings about the au pair program. It’s ripe for abuse, since au pairs must be under the age of 26 and foreign nationals, meaning they are young and have no support network in the country. Au pair agencies also charge a massive finder’s fee that is typically about half of what the au pair is required to be paid over the course of a year – even with that, hosting an au pair is often cheaper than full-time daycare or a nanny. But, in a perfect situation, the au pair program really is a form of cultural exchange. Our au pair relationship was stellar, and our au pair became my good friend and a loving older sister to my kids. She had the option to go home as soon as the pandemic began, but she opted to stay with us because she wasn’t ready to leave yet. When she did finally go home, it was with very mixed emotions.

With our au pair gone, there are few childcare options available anymore. Recent changes in immigration rules have temporarily prevented new au pairs from coming into the country, and the pandemic had already slowed the matching process to the point that we didn’t have someone lined up even though we knew six months ago that our au pair was leaving. Daycare is technically an option, but the cost and the health concerns are making it difficult to even consider seriously. So, at the moment, I am taking care of my kids full time. I’m finding strategies to make this more manageable for me, but it still severely limits the amount of work I’m able to do. And we’ll see what ends up happening if/when I start teaching (virtually).

Job applications

To my great surprise, I was notified a few weeks ago of two jobs I can apply for that would start right after I graduate. Although I have no illusions about how hard it is to get either of these jobs, the fact that they exist is miraculous and I needed to jump on the opportunity. I’d done some job application prep in the past few years, including putting together a teaching statement, and I have a general sense of how to apply, given that I’ve applied for funding quite a bit in the last few years. But academic job applications are their own beast with their own highly specific expectations. And there were several pieces of writing that I needed to start entirely from scratch, including multiple syllabi and cover letters. I went through a bit of a rollercoaster of emotion after my first week of preparing these applications, since I arbitrarily decided that I would only have a week to work on them on the assumption that I wouldn’t have time after our au pair left. And then I checked reality and realized that I could relax a bit and take more time. The applications are now mostly done and in pretty good shape.

Chapter drafts

Where is my dissertation in all of this? A few weeks ago I sent off drafts of chapters 3 and 4 to my committee. I was planning on leaving them at that for a while, and then I realized I would need to polish a chapter as a writing sample for the applications. But I forgot which chapter I was planning to use, so I ended up working on both chapters 2 and 3. This was a good bit of grunt work, since I have a habit of leaving myself notes that say things like “cite this” and “ew”, so polishing for me mostly means inserting citations and fixing words or phrases that I hate but needed to leave in as placeholders. I’m leaving chapter 4 on the back burner a bit longer, since the content of that chapter has recently received a lot of rejection. It was accepted with revisions to a journal, and then after a contentious conversation with the editor I chose to pull it from that journal. I submitted it to another, and it was fully (though very thoughtfully) rejected there. I did get some good and useful feedback from those rejections, but I’m still feeling a bit too raw to deal with that chapter. Instead, I’m ramping myself up to push through chapter 5 to get it to the point of a full draft. There’s not a ton I have left to do there, mostly the kind of grunt work I’ve already described, and a bit of smoothing out transitions. Exactly the kind of work I hate.

What’s next?

Look out for a post/ instagram photos of my adventures in vintage pattern sewing.