“One thing I hate is people screaming at me. If you want me to do something, just talk to me.” – Mario Lemieux
It’s Time To Focus In On Where I Go From Here
It’s about the mid-way point of the semester, and boy, am I feeling it! Despite the doozy of a blog post from last week, I actually dropped the ball in just about every area of my life; I wasn’t eating or sleeping well, I wasn’t as kind as I possibly could have been to people, I wasn’t efficient enough with my work, and I had a few instances of academic turmoil that I’m still reeling from, but also recognize I cannot change. This isn’t normally how I handle things, and it’s hard to dissect there’s no threshold of responsibilities you need to reach to warrant feeling stressed and on some level, defeated. It’s hard to live up to the expectations you set for yourself, let alone those others have for you.
I did find some bright patches in all of this turmoil! This past week, I honored an age-old tradition my Dad and I have of playing the Tim McGraw song “My Next Thirty Years” on his birthday; the song is from an album that came out the year I was born, and it’s a whimsical number, especially to him considering his age. One of the nice things about your parents getting older is that they also start to get a little more sentimental, and hearing some of the stuff my Dad had to say about his life thus far definitely provided me with a sense of closure for some things, and a whole new list of questions for myself and my future, some of which are proving invaluable to this thesis development, and who I am as a person. Two of my friends also celebrated birthdays this week, and I saw the Devils yet again fall to the Capitals but triumph over Buffalo, who have surprisingly been off to a strong start this season, and then fall tonight to the Flames. And so, the world continues to turn.
But, as I was tasked at the end of thesis class last week to synthesize all my research and figure out what is the question I want to ask, I found that to be the most cumbersome task this thesis has asked of me thus far, and I’m not exaggerating when I say tears were shed over this specifically. I know why I’m interested in forensic linguistics. I know what gets under my skin about the field. I know who I’m researching and writing this thesis for. I know my initial line of inquiry was turned away for being more of a dissertation and less of a thesis, and that frustrated me to no end. (It also killed some of my confidence in myself.) Isn’t a dissertation like a longer version of a thesis, therefore validating my line of inquiry? (I’m not trying to degrade dissertations or pretend I know a ton about them, but this is what initially went through my mind.) And if I’m asking a dissertation-worthy question and keep hacking at it research-wise, doesn’t that mean I’m also on a trajectory to answer it, or at least explore it? Why can’t my thesis be a stepping stone on a larger path? What am I lacking? One thought ran circles through my mind; the TikTok audio that asks Am I…dumb?
I spent a lot of the past week getting screamed at and screaming at myself, both literally and metaphorically, and amazingly enough, it accomplished nothing! Seeing everyone else getting the ball rolling or keeping it going on their projects had me feeling even worse, and I nearly slipped into the worst cycle possible; learned helplessness brought on by social comparison. But, who am I if not the kid of the guy who did everything on his own schedule, whether it was two years or two decades later than the norm, and accomplished his goals when no one else believed because it was on his own terms? Re-assessing the situation, I found that I’m not in as bad shape as previously believed; I’ve already created a substantial annotated bibliography, I’ve basically drafted the bulk of my literature review, proved a profound understanding of my topic to myself and others, and a stable understanding of adjacent topics and fields of study.
I read, and read, and re-read, and annotated my little heart out, and I still feel like I have perspective but no clear answers, or so it seems. It’s complicated, and I hope I can give you a concise answer for what my question is, and what this thesis will be, or at least something that gets you thinking, but for now, I recommend buckling up and getting ready for yet another journey through the thesis progress!
I’ll Try to Think About the Last Time I Had A Good Time
Trying to figure out what I’m looking for with this thesis sure is reminiscent of being a kid and knowing that something major, in a negative way, is going on either at school or at home, and no one wants to clue you in because they think you can’t handle the news, and all the adults in your life look at you with pity. It makes “I’m Just a Kid” by Simple Plan the perfect accompanying soundtrack to this section. (Also, life is a nightmare at the moment.) As stated above, I spent the past week going through what I already have in terms of research and annotations, while adding in some fresh information and found myself once again being drawn to that dissertation question, even though I know it isn’t what I need. The outline I included in my last blog post was another good resource, but another intellectual cul-de-sac.
I can say in earnest that yes, it feels like my thesis project is haunting me; I connect everything I’m doing in other classes to my concept, and I can’t shake the feeling that it may just be the most important thing in my life for a while. It isn’t so much an all-or-nothing mentality that surrounds it for me as it is a time-is-of-the-essence sort of complex. I’ve thought about doing a creative piece and this looming presence the project has taken on is making me think it’s time for a mystery novella, but I know that isn’t what I really want, and I refuse to take an easy out. I analyzed everything this week from the gaze of a forensic linguist, ranging from how my classmates spoke in class to my own text messages and writing. I could create a satirical handbook regarding how to apply these methods to blend humor and practicality, but again, something is missing there. E-lit, which I love, is also out for the time being because as I realized when I was running and saw a teardrop of frustration go flying, it doesn’t matter what I pick as a medium if I don’t even have a question. Also, why am I pushing myself so hard to add a creative angle? There’s nothing embarrassing about admitting that yes, I love research, I understand the process and terminology, and both the design and actual experimentation and collections are some of my key strengths as a writer and academic. It’s instinctual. I can already thread together the bare bones of a mixed-methods qualitative case study and protocol analysis based look at the field of forensic linguistics from its genesis to now, but it’s all weaving together around the question I can’t have, of why it is that linguistic evidence is not held to the same pedigree as physical evidence unless it is for the purpose of establishing guilt, especially in situations where there are several intersectional factors in play as well. Time is the one thing I don’t have too much of, and yet it’s the one thing I need to rework my research design around a new question. If I go this route, it’s more of a reduce-reuse-recycle scenario than it is a landfill dumping.
Completing this thesis is more than a requirement or springboard into a career for me; I want this to be something meaningful beyond the people who see it in this program. I want it to be able to stand on its own, without me having to constantly explain and prop up what the premise and importance of it is. But with my confidence shot, I feel like a stickshift 1987 Chevy Chevette with a timing belt that’s slipping and a clutch that is stuck, just waiting to stall in the shoulder.
Going back to Wednesday night, my Dad made a comment off-hand about what it took to become the person I know him as today on the way home. One of the biggest things my Dad has always emphasized to me that I respect and appreciate is the sheer amount of mistakes he’s made throughout his life, and how some, but not all, have defined him. Of course, I won’t share any of those with you, because I know he won’t like that! But when I hit a low and massive wall like I did this past week, hearing him be vulnerable about what it felt like to be behind or inadequate in regards to something more profound than a thesis is what struck a chord with me. There’s something bizarrely comforting about knowing that no matter how old you get, you never figure it all out, and it’s that mysterious space where you live the best parts of your life. And it inspired me to realize something: It’s my project, just like it was his life! So here’s what I’m planning:
- I’m not going to conscientiously think about what I want my question to be at all for the bulk of this week.
- I’m not going to think about what approach and medium I want this project to take on for the bulk of this week.
- I’m not looking to get myself worked up again, and my gut tells me I’ll know soon enough, but right now just isn’t the time to know.
- I’m not going to add to or subtract anything from the research and annotations I have already compiled.
- I am going to continue revising the formatting of my annotated bibliography.
- I will work on the parts of my literature review that I can with everything I have already.
- Dr. Nelson was kind enough to lend me a few resources about how to tackle a lit. review, and seeing it framed as “academic storytelling” is making this a more palatable, and dare I say it, fun task to work through.
- I will work on the applicable parts of my early project proposal.
- I am going to find a better way to split my time to account for my student government responsibilities, the Rwandan genocide research paper, group presentation, and pop quizzes in Conflict Resolution, prep myself for the upcoming test, country report, position paper, and project in World Englishes, and round out my draft for the short position paper, conclude the work on my presentation and start working on what I know is going to be my final project for Lang. of Racial/Ethnic ID. (I can put the other assignments off for a bit.)
- I’m not writing all of this out to prove how busy I am, but by seeing everything I need to take care of mapped out in front of me, and knowing I’ve seen the connections forensic linguistics holds to it before, it’s another way to figure out the focal question for my thesis without being overly conscientious, and succeeding in other areas of my life at the same time. Yet another tandem, if you will!
- Health is going to be a priority, no matter what.
- Sleep is most definitely a target area.
Regaining my confidence won’t happen overnight, but I’m the only one who can make the attempt, and this seems like one way to get there.
Carve Your Name Into Those Shining Stars
I know I say it a lot, but I don’t think I can ever say thank you to my Dad enough. I literally owe my life and existence to the guy, and I know that the older I get, the more I want to be just like him but better. (I don’t see myself ever being a parent, but if that somehow happens, I’m going to try my best to be what he was to me!) The heading for this ending piece is not only what I hope to do with this project and my life in general, but it’s a lyric from “The Nights” by Avicii, a song I can never tire of. (Also, good on the Carolina Hurricanes for using it as a goal song!) I just plan to experience life for the next week, with no guilt over the unknown. And in regards to the quote above from one of the greatest to ever play the game, I’m sticking to that sentiment, and I’m not going to scream at myself to figure everything out on expert mode.
And just when it seems like all the pieces of a thesis and its author are about to break apart, they come together! (If you know what movie I love, live by, and reworked this line from, I like you! Have a cupcake!) See you next week!