For those of you that know me, you are aware that I speak about martial arts probably more often then I speak about doing a PhD. I discovered martial arts during my masters at UBC when I took Karate at the GSS. When I moved back to Calgary, I thought it would be fun to take Kung Fu. At the time I did not realize it would become a life passion.
There is just something so graceful and lyrical about it all. I watched my senior classmates move in Wushu and I just went, “wow!” For someone, who walked into walls for most of her life (yes, I walked into walls prior to starting martial arts) it was just neat to watch people move so easily and gracefully across the room. I just love how it all flows. It is like this impossible dance to me. This dance does not allow me to do anything but focus on the movements. I have joked to my friends that Wushu saved me; uncoordinated Melanie can walk without walking into walls. I will never be a pro but I just love how free it all feels when I am doing it.
I recently started doing Chen style Tai Chi. People have this misconception that Tai Chi is slow and for old people (ha, I had that impression too before). However, I have learned that it takes extreme focus and control to do it right; I get such a workout from it. It works every single muscle in your body if you do it correctly. I come out of every single class stronger. Martial arts has kept me sane during this PhD. It has helped me to take that mental break that I normally do not get.
Part of what I have learned as a PhD student is that you are constantly juggling a bunch of hats (balls whatever you want to call it) as an academic. It sounds like there isn’t much difference between that and my time in the school board except I can say it has been more insane. I have been writing like a maniac all evening between checking my email periodically (and answering those that fly into my inbox so I don’t forgot) and mentally preparing to teach tomorrow AM. That isn’t including the work I had done earlier in the day (prepare for a workshop and plan for teaching). What drives me nuts is that I will shortly have to turn off the computer and end my very productive evening of writing to sleep (or else my students will see a very CRANKY PhD student tomorrow AM). My question for experienced academics is how do you do it? For the emerging (if you can even call it that) academic such as myself, who has not even finished her PhD yet, this is insanity. There is always this guilt when I turn on the TV to quote “have some down time” quote but really I am still working on my marking while I watch TV. We haven’t even added abstract and publication deadlines into the mix today (ha!). It is a very interesting puzzle for me that I need to really contemplate…this idea of how can one person do it all?
Back when I was in high school, I spent hours offline and online writing. In the digital environment, I wrote for an online fan magazine for Savage Garden fans and much of my spare time was devoted to crafting articles for my newsletter column. In the non-digital environment I was writing for my high school newspaper or writing in my notebook. All of these writing experiences were empowering.
As I entered into adulthood, I began to blog. When I blog, I often write and decide not to post what I have written for a number of reasons. Perhaps it is because what I am thinking and reflecting on has become too personal. Or maybe it’s just because I am not ready to share my “half baked” ideas with the world. However, what I have learned during this PhD process is that words are a powerful tool to express what is on your mind. I also find that writing is a very personal experience especially as I move forward in this PhD process.
So why am I reflecting on writing today? Long story short, I am experiencing some writer’s block lately and to be honest I think it is a case of the “procrastination blues.” What usually takes me about 5 hours to produce has taken me about 2 weeks. I spend hours moving paragraphs around and rewording things to make it more (or maybe it is less) coherent. I am more excited about checking social media then doing my writing. I am pretty sure everyone goes through these stages in their PhD journey. However, the question for me is how do I move out of this “hole?”
A friend of mine has been encouraging me to use an app called “Toggl” (https://www.toggl.com/). It is a digital timer. My goal starting today is to get about 5 hours of writing done daily. I have to start the timer when I am working but stop it when I take breaks. You get a running total of how many hours you work for the entire day if you use it continuously. I used this during my comps process when I wasn’t able to focus. It really worked, at least for me and then I stopped using it. However, I am going back on the “Toggl” train. Hopefully this is will get me out of my “writer’s block” aka “procrastination blues.”
It is gloomy day when I wake up. However I can see the sun trying to peek out across the way when I look out the window.
Seabus ride. Uneventful ride but my iPod makes it pretty exciting. Today the tunes are a combination of Top 40 (Problem-Arianna Grande) and dance numbers (Pitball, Usher, etc.).
Stopped at Starbucks prior to the Seabus ride. My “Truth North” coffee with milk and sugar is just what I need.
Walking to the Digital Literacy Centre. Is it blue sky?! Yeah!!!
Yes, a SMART board, I am excited to get my hands on it.
A break before the afternoon session (reading assessment workshop). I just love spring in Vancouver.
Dinner out with a friend. There was this lovely elderly Chinese couple beside us. They were so excited about the food and life. It was great to be reminded that the little things in life bring happiness. 🙂
Waiting for that light to change. It took forever.
Sunset in Vancouver as I walk home from dinner. What a great view!
Yes, back at my computer again. No rest for the weary. I wonder how many more hours I will get tonight! 😉
I started my day off relatively quiet. It was pouring out, the usual Vancouver special.
Checked my email (answered a few of them from my students) and then surfed over to Twitter. A healthy dose of social media always helps me get ready to work.
Made myself a cup of coffee. I am beginning to realize that coffee is “life’s blood.” Can’t live without it!
I start planning my week of teaching. I just love keynote lately. The colours are awesome! How am I am going to engage my students this week?
Getting my shoes on so I can enjoy lunch (?) or Brunch (?) with a friend.
Back to the “grind!” My lovely mess of my books on the floor.
Oh wait there is more!
This past week has marked the beginning of my career as a PhD student. Although quite tame at present, it’s amazing how that will change with the coming week.
As I embark on this journey, I question my decisions and have constant thoughts of doubt. However, I know that this decision was not made lightly; it consisted of several years of planning and contemplating the possibilities. It started with a seed that was planted by God during my last graduate experience.
I am curious about what the next chapter in my life holds and how I will be impacted by it.
As I read with the morning sun beaming into my home, I try to picture the future. What will it look like? Will it be like what I had expected? Or does God have something completely different planned?
Only time will tell.