This Ain’t A Rodeo

Content Warning for Sensitive Topics Discussed Later in the Blog Below. Please proceed with caution. 

Life really is only ten percent of what happens to you, and the other ninety percent is how you choose to react to it. Right now, setting up a schedule to accommodate all my responsibilities and other activities has me feeling more than slightly overwhelmed. Eighteen-hour days are just going to have to be the new normal! There’s also this drop-off in terms of personal growth that I saw within myself, where all the acceptance and appreciation for who I am was about to just vanish after a few scenarios where it was made painfully apparent that I’m just conceptually weird if that makes sense. Thankfully, I’ve got great tracks like “Cowboy in LA” by LANY to remind me that there’s nothing wrong with doing things at your own pace in your own way, fitting in isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and it helped to recalibrate my mindset. So, yeah, I’m still working on it, but I’m going to flip from tired, to wired, inspired, and most of all, enjoying what I do rather than being passive and a guy going through it.

So, moving into actual thesis things, I know that I already declared my idea in my previous blog: An interactive, pick-your-own-path/RPG-style interactive electronic lit piece that uses discourse theory to shed a light on conversations around care and equity, and how there are shifts and subtle, personal variations for a number of intersectional factors would encapsulate a lot of my research interests and personal values. I know that sentence is a lot to take in, but basically, I get to fold in theory, gaming pedagogy, and linguistics with a creative component. Like Hannah Montana, I’ll have the best of both worlds! But, this blog post is also meant to explicate some of the other ideas I explored before deciding this one is the one, so I’ll walk you through a few of the other ideas that I considered, full rationales and all, and maybe, just maybe, might get folded into or overtake this one! 

However, some of the content I am about to discuss here is of a sensitive, and to some, upsetting or triggering nature, so please proceed with caution, especially when reading about the second and third ideas. 

Idea #1: A Personal Interest and Possible Career Path

It’s no secret that there are three sports teams I cherish; the New Jersey Devils, the Metropolitan Riveters, and the New York Mets, and I thought that there were several different ways these organizations could play a role in my thesis. One possibility was to have my thesis be a living website where I post articles covering the outcomes of each team’s games, player stats, analytics, etc., and also create a guide to understand section, to help grow the games and bring more fans in! And of course, toss a podcast element in.

The other idea I had would be trickier, but it would be a dream realized to be able to interview the players, figures, reporters, and everyone else who brings these events to life! (If you ever stumble across this, I love you, R. Renee Hess!) I also thought about putting a possible theoretical framework around the over-reaching effect sports teams, specific players, and fanship can have on individuals, and for that, I probably would have explored phenomenology. I also thought about maybe mirroring the work of those I admire, such as the Black Girl Hockey Club, and looking into issues of equity and diversity in sports, because there is still a long way to go in that area.

I can confess that I am securely attached to the Mets because they’ve always been the underdog team, the gritty hard workers, and their slogan “Ya Gotta Believe” are words to live by. Just like how there are times in the program where I feel like social comparison makes me look inexperienced or less than my peers, I remember the generation of Miracle Mets from 1986; the guys who drafted low, who were traded and laughed out of their old clubs, the ones who nobody thought were going anywhere fast. I remember Mike Piazza’s feel-good home run after 9/11. I remember being that wide-eyed sixteen-year-old, mesmerized by seeing my team in the finals, and crying with them when the outcome wasn’t what I hoped for. 

I refuse to give up on the New Jersey Devils no matter what because, again, I grew up watching guys who innovated and changed the game, like Scott Stevens with his smooth skating, Scott Neidermayer who defied all the doubts people had about him being a defenseman at his size and age, and of course, by getting to see Martin Brodeur become the GOAT. I remember screaming when the call of “HENRIQUE! IT’S OVER!” confirmed we were going to the Stanley Cup Finals, and twelve-year-old me felt starstruck. In a broader sense, hockey has definitely helped me when I’ve had those moments of I don’t belong here in this program, because I remember that Patrick Roy, another notable goalie, wasn’t drafted until the third round. Chris Chelios was number forty in the draft. Both are Hall of Famers now. Heck, Ron Hainsey took over a decade to make the playoffs. So, if it isn’t happening now, it’ll happen soon.

The Riveters not only showed me that gender isn’t a barrier to pursuing your dreams and greatness, but that there are shades of humanity in the players and everyone behind them that are just like mine. Seeing Madison and Anya Packer speak candidly on their experiences as pro-athletes and members of the LGBTQ+ community and consistently push for inclusivity and equity is amazing, and seeing Saroya Tinker and R. Renee Hesse campaign and make it clear that diversity is a cornerstone and not a performative activity parallel to that is what keeps me engaged and hopeful. They have all also proven that you can be a professional and still have a personality and show kindness and genuine excitement and be just as successful. 

I know those paragraphs might be overkill or childish, and the ideas presented might not be thesis material, but looking at life like that is part of what makes me who I am. So, I guess either beat writer or sportswriter could come out of this.

Idea #2: An Autoethnographic Piece

So, this is where that content warning comes in really handy. It’s no secret to anyone who has met me that I’m pretty close to my family, but what people don’t realize is that being close with your family comes with a lot of benefits, but also a lot of pressure, some internal and some external. For context: my parents, my Dad who I’m closer to, in particular, is only getting older every year. And it is so hard to see it unfolding before your eyes. Every year, the alarm gets set for a little later, and the snooze button gets a little more use. There’s less jumping up and saying “Let’s go” when it’s time to do something, and more “Maybe another day.” The same stairs you would race them on suddenly become the steepest mountain and now they need the railing. There’s a new wrinkle near the eyes or on the forehead, and little more hair seems to disappear. And then there are the hushed conversations that aren’t meant for your ears that you overhear, about health, about worries, and everything in between. And through all of this, you feel yourself becoming splintered. There are just some things in life you have to face, prepared or not, and the fact that even the most loved and loving people being temporary is one of those things. 

On one hand, I’m 22 and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what life can be. I want to take my time growing up and going through things; I want to go out with friends, experience hockey and baseball games and concerts, find my career path, and take my time with the more personal stuff, like finding someone (if they exist). On the other hand, I’m terrified that if I don’t play life on expert mode and get to things as fast as I can, he might not be around to see it. I know it’s a fact of life that everyone has to die eventually, and George Harrison crooning, “All things must pass, pass away” helps me to deal with that. So, I thought that maybe my death anxiety could be resolved, or at least explored constructively through a thesis project. 

One way I thought about putting this idea into action was to frame it as a journal of sorts, where I could chronicle specific special moments and try to forecast all of the good stuff that is yet to come in a creative manner, full of emotion and with added resources, like the music I remember playing at the time, pictures, etc. (I’m also thinking it would be a good gift in this format!) Admittedly, this is a lot more vulnerable than I normally would want something I write for other’s viewing to be, but I’m all about trying new things and expanding my horizons. If anyone remembers from a year ago, I would probably do this in a manner similar to Queer Skins, and even fictionalize it.

There is, of course, the creative and fiction writing route I could take with this, where I envision a collection of short stories, each detailing a developmental stage in the parent and child’s life, running parallel to one another might be intriguing. For instance, the first chapter could be the parent’s first memory, and the next be the kid’s. Or, I could have one set of events, and have the chapters alternate viewpoints. Decisions, decisions…

No matter what though, if I choose this idea or any variation of it, I would definitely want to fold in plenty of the theories and facts from the course Human Development Across the Lifespan, which just lends itself to this concept.  

Idea #3: A Darker Creative Piece

OK, the trigger warning applied to idea two, and it most definitely applies here. I have no idea why, but as far back as my memory stretches I have always had reoccurring nightmares, and those have been far more memorable than any nice dreams I may have had. Like many others, I also struggle with certain dimensions of my emotional and mental health, and I’m comfortable with sharing that mood, socialization, and intrusive and racing thoughts have been the big dimensions. Oftentimes, there is an overlap between the two. And I know that a lot of people say, “But you always seem so, you know!” The truth is, yes, I am genuinely thriving most of the time thanks to preventative measures and other tools that help like counseling and journaling and having a strong support system. But, sometimes it takes that one comment or looks, sometimes not even directed at me, and I feel a lot of my progress slipping away. And then when night falls, I either can’t sleep, or my nightmares decide to pay me a visit. Neither option are great, but the latter is definitely worse; it often leads to sleep paralysis, waking up screaming, and a lot of trouble functioning the following morning. 

I know that I’m not alone in either half of this two-fold issue, so I thought tackling this from a creative angle might bring a new dimension of understanding or open-ended closure in a way. And what I mean by this is, I know that my issues are not going to vanish overnight just because I wrote about them; if that were the case, my journaling would have taken care of all these years ago. So, one way this could go would be to just focus on my nightmares and bring them to life in an anthology of short stories. (There’s definitely enough material.) Of course, I’ll have to negotiate authenticity and what is digestible, but I trust myself to navigate that task. I’d also look for peer-reviewed sources that might offer deeper insight into what might be the culprit behind these recurring, unpleasant dreams. And with all the free, open-source tech tools at my disposal, I could definitely put together a corresponding audiobook.

In terms of the latter, I could go the autoethnographic route, or at the very least, take some of those thoughts and feelings and craft a story around them. I know there’s a plethora of feel-good stories about the weird kid who goes on to grow into who they are, or at the very least, comes to terms with who they are and stops caring about what others think, but I’m more inclined to approach the darker side of things. It’s easy to talk about mental health in the sense of self-care, but oftentimes, there is little to no discussion of mental illness and the more debilitating aspects of it outside of a research or clinical orientation. When you live with intrusive and racing thoughts, or feel like someone else is in the driver’s seat of your mind and body and there are moments where everything can be sensory overload and get under your skin, it can be more complicated trying to get people to understand it’s more than just “an overreaction” or “nerves” or “an excuse”. Maybe a creative piece, perhaps presented in poetry form can rectify that? Otherwise, I would also love to take this idea down the research route, and using

(Also, please don’t read this and get overly worried or concerned, or think anything different about me! I genuinely am in a very good place, and if I do go down this road, I know I can handle it. What I go through and went through has shaped me, yes, but I can assure you that I am just as capable of making it through this class, working a job, or doing literally anything else you can think of.) I know everything you just read between idea number two and this was pretty heavy, so please take a break if you need to, and maybe put on “The Warrior” by Patty Smyth while you finish out this post.

Idea #4: A Research-Based Approach

My fourth idea for a thesis project was to take my work from Dr. Nelson’s class on the idea of algorithmic bias and linguistic profiling and bias of individuals and how it plays a role in the web search engines execute results for individuals differently and examine this phenomenon through a mixture of protocol analysis and discourse theory. It’s admittedly a lot drier, and I’m not feeling overly attached to it, or feel that it needs to be explicated further.

Idea #5: Another Similar Research Idea, but Not Congruent 

Basically, taking the same concept of algorithmic bias and linguistic bias and profiling of individuals that results in varied and biased web searches, but as they pertain to the specific topic of mental health. 

Idea #6: Another Fun Little Thing

If you’ve read this far down into the post, thank you! I promise this is the last idea I’ll share. (At least in this post!) I don’t know if this is the right class for it, but I really love the idea of forensic linguistics and examining the intent and transmission of language in a retrospective manner. In the judicial system, this practice usually applies to analyzing things like threats, ransom notes, etc., but I want to really look at the interpersonal and digital side of things. After all, there’s already so much writing on and feelings about whether tone and intent can be pinpointed and truly identified in intrapersonal communication, let alone in print, so why not offer digital correspondence the same scrutiny? I’d love to design an interactive e-lit piece where the user has to act as a “forensic linguist” or “language pathologist” or “linguistic detective” and piece together clues from different characters in the form of things like emails, DMs, and assorted journal notes to figure out what has happened. And on the side, little tidbits about linguistic forensics and the various techniques and applications can pop up. Once again, theory, gaming pedagogy, and creativity can be compounded together. 

I revealed a lot more than I normally would here, and while I’m extremely terrified of what outward, radiating effect, or far-off in the future effect this blog post could have on how I’m perceived, my chances of getting a job, or other things, I know that there are uncomfortable conversations and topics being brought up that need to be addressed, and I won’t apologize for that. I can’t control how folks will perceive this any more than I can control the weather. I know that for right now, I’m really considering one of my more creative ideas, like the one I originally proposed about a dialogue-driven RPG or having the mystery-driven forensic linguistics game, but I guess we shall see! My final thought after writing all of this and leaving it out on the field is that I should probably add another page to my website for all my planning, resources, paper components, etc. I mainly used this blog post as a rough idea dump-and-change.

I leave you with “Keep Pushin’” by REO Speedwagon, and I’ll see ya on the other side!

Writer’s Block

I can’t believe that I am at the finish line. This degree has been ten years in the making, and yes, there have been many twists and turns, roadblocks and detours. But I’m so close and just need some more clarity, organization, and inspiration to get me through this enormous, final hurdle. 

Over the summer, I thought long and hard about my thesis, and it gave me a great deal of anxiety. I just couldn’t narrow down my ideas into something cohesive. I had started research on the role of grandparents in Chinese immigrant families in Dr. Nelson’s class, but throughout the semester I wasn’t entirely comfortable with this topic, and I knew all along that my research question was flawed. I actually wanted to focus on some aspect of memoir, but just couldn’t figure out the research question and didn’t think it was scholarly enough to base my thesis on. 

But now, with the creative freedom Dr Zamora is allowing us, I think I can combine the two. 

I enrolled in this master’s program because I saw memoir as an elective and fortunately it was offered when I needed it. It may not be in the curriculum again for quite some time. It was so interesting, and I learned so much. For years, I had been dabbling in writing memoir essays, but didn’t really know anything about the mechanics behind it. All I wanted to do was get my stories on paper before I forgot them all, but after taking the class, I realized there were so many elements necessary in making it interesting to others. I have heavily edited some of my old stories and will need to write some new ones.

So, for now, I think my thesis project will be twofold. 

Part 1 – an exploration into memoir writing, focusing on the following:

  • Why do people write memoir? What is the psychology behind it?
  • What makes a memoir compelling?
  • The different types of memoirs
  • Mechanics behind memoir writing

 I would like to document what I learned about the process in order to help others get their stories out. This part is mostly research, but I would also like to call attention to some passages from my favorite memoirs and why they resonate with me.

Part 2-

First idea:

With all this newfound knowledge about memoir, it’s only fitting that I should write my own. No more dabbling. This is the real deal. My stories will be a culmination of everything I learned about the genre, with the central theme of being raised by a Chinese immigrant grandfather. 

Second idea:

Over the summer, I read Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” and loved it. I’m not a fan of science fiction, so I was never drawn to any of Bradbury’s books, but I found this copy for $2  and I really liked the cover (yes, I often judge a book by it’s cover, and I’m not ashamed to admit it). It’s a semi-autobiographical story of a memorable summer from Bradbury’s childhood. It made me think of my own childhood and the people and events that made it so special. I’m big on nostalgia and slice of life stories, so I thought maybe I could write about different family members and how they influenced and shaped my life. If I do this, then I will be writing about other family members as well, not just my grandfather.

At this point, I don’t know how to bring this all together. I would like to write an anthology of short memoirs, but I don’t know what the theme will be or how to go about the research for these ideas. Also, I don’t think I can write enough stories, quality ones anyway, by next May. Can a thesis be a work in progress? Do I actually have to write the entire collection to fulfill my thesis? How will I come up with all these stories? I’ve never been able to write on demand. Sometimes it takes months for me to develop a story, even a very short one.

I need help!