Letting go of larger aspirations

I've realized, as I write the grant proposals, re-hashing what I'm going to do, and as I start the outlining of the thesis itself, that I need to let go of the sense that I am having an impact on the world. A friend whom I haven't seen in a while told me about her research project. And while I found her work interesting and unusual, I wasn't sure...why it matters. I know there have been moments when I've realized that dissertations are about rites of passage, proof of diligence and dedication. But somehow, I get stuck in my work when I ask the question -- "who cares?" The fact that my dissertation topic has some applied, real-world relevance has been a source of pride. I think it has also been a form of arrogance, assuming that my work was more "real" than some of my peers' work. I simply need to prove that it matters to me, and that I've satisfied that criterion with rigorous research.

The problem with that, however, is that it makes it much harder to complete. If I know why it matters to me, why should I care what others think? I'm not sure if this is a defeatist attitude, a lazy attitude, or (again) an arrogant attitude. I need someone to tell me why I should bother.


I just can't stand it anymore

I have never catalogued how many versions of writing I have produced on my research topic. You would think that after writing grants and exams and half-assed papers on the subject, that I would have a clear and coherent way to convey my ideas. No. No, I continue to write in belabored circles. I know that there is a way into this that I can't quite find, yet. But time is pressing on me to figure that the fuck out. Seriously, I've been writing something about this at some point or another for almost 3 years. THREE YEARS.

I'm trying to pull together a grant that I sort of forgot was due on Monday. It's only for $3000, and yet, I need a) prestige and b) whatever dribs and drabs I can find. Especially since it's one of two grants for which I'm eligible. It's producing huge amounts of anxiety. I'm staying in on a Friday with the grand assumption that I will accomplish this statement of project in a coherent manner. I'm just not adept at sustained writing. I find it miserable and unpleasant. I was telling someone the other night that I prefer lectures -- I like the rough draft and no edits. I prefer the kamikaze approach to intellectual development. Throw oneself out of the plane and figure out if there's a parachute. Hence further evidence that I ought to be a pundit. I could do the on-the-spot talking points so damn well. Measured, diligent academic endeavors make me so unhappy. Besides, we live in a time of sound-bites. Why should I be methodical?



I have created a plausible outline for the monstrosity. Obviously, it's a first stab at the thing. But I'm sort of excited that I am exploring shapes of the future. After meeting with 5 professors a couple of weeks ago, I'm finally finding time to sit down to think about what they said. 5 different ideas, 5 different approaches to the behemoth, 5 different attitudes about the whole process. I can't say that any of them were particularly revelatory. It seems the hard part is really up to me (which is not what I wanted to hear). The problem is that when it comes to the methodicalness, I'm damn lazy. I like the abstractions, but I have to confront that as an anthropologist, I'm expected to create a thingy that is grounded in people. I have been struggling with this problem a lot. I think my interpretations are very empirically-based, but I find the individuals' interpretations of the phenomenon a little boring. It just seems that what people (mis)understand only points to my main argument again and again. And as I've been trying to acknowledge lately is that the stuff I'm passionate about is not necessarily the concrete stuff I've been studying.

Circularity and circularness. And I get so distracted so easily. I currently have 2 other projects (both of which I feel ambivalent about my involvement, and yet which require me to complete them in some way or another), 2 grant proposals, and then all the personal projects that have nothing to do with academia, filthy lucre, or fantasies of renown. I really yearn for the mundane lately. Things that don't seem weighty. Or at least sort of weighty, yet not persuading me fully of their weightyness.