Goals not Resolutions: Plotting Out (and fretting about) The New Year

2013 is almost over, and while it was not a bad year, the promise of a ‘clean slate’ that the New Year brings is almost always welcome. Of course, it is not all roses and unicorns (or is that glitter and unicorns.. would glitter even be considered a good thing!?). January starts off with a bit of a mixed bag of emotions as my oldest daughter leaves for a year in Australia on Jan. 26th. While I am extremely excited for her, as a mom who is extremely good friends with her girls, it will be heart-wrenching to see her go. The house will be quiet with both girls gone (and no, we will not be getting a dog …). On that note, I admit I have never been as thankful for the advances in global communications technology as I am in this moment, knowing we can Skype and email each other while she is away.

With my maternal duties have all but been put on hold (besides my eternal love and support), it is the first time since I’ve entered academia (I went back to university in 2002, when my girls were 8 and 12) that I will not have to think about being home in time to make dinner, or to try to read and write around the schedules of my children. Just as well, since I have two co-authored book chapters due in March. It will be interesting to see if I can figure out how to actually wholly focus on my work. My colleagues have always laughed when I told them that I cannot work in silence.. it puts me to sleep! I went through all three degrees with the TV and/or radio (or video games) blaring in the background, and my work space was in the living room until midway through my PhD (figured if I had to “working” at least I was physical visible and available for them). During the last bit of my PhD, I worked through the night, freeing up more time in the day for family responsibilities. But from January 26 to December 6th, the only person I will have to worry about (in a manner of speaking) is myself – and if I am being nice, my partner come meal times. In February I get to plan my partner’s 40th birthday party. Never quite sure what to do for his birthday, but I think this milestone should be celebrated if only by (finally) getting him an HDTV to game on so he can stop squinting at the minuscule words on the old picture tube television I have in my office.

That brings me to the end of March. It is so strange (and extremely unsettling) to not have any clue what comes after March 31st (besides April 1st ….). As mentioned in my last post, there was comfort in knowing what year after year had in store for me while I was in school. There was comfort in knowing that January, May and September marked the start of a new semester. My funding was also relatively stable so I could plot out what conferences I could attend. These days, it’s all so up in the air that every time a call for papers comes out I get anxiety – wanting to submit, but not having any idea if I can actually attend. But there are a handful of conferences that I will definitely try to attend this year like the Canadian Game Studies Association annual conference “in St. Catharines, Ontario, on May 28 and 29, in conjunction with the Congress of the Humanities & Social Sciences”, DiGRA which will be held in Snowbird, Utah August 3-6th, and of course IR15 (AoIR’s annual conference) in Bangkok this October. Those three alone will probably bust my current annual salary but hey – at this stage of my career, networking is half the work! That being said, I also have a few pending job applications out for review – and that can mean anything can happen. I spread my applications far and wide, so who knows what continent I will be on come fall.

Of course, in terms of fitness goals for 2014, I still have my Spartan Race season pass that the company honored from last year (silly me under-trained last year and suffered a stupid season ending injury). The first race of the Spartan season (for me) is May 18th … not much time to get my act together and get back into *finishing* shape (I run these races for *fun* and personal challenge – I would be silly to say *compete* but I digress). It is hard because so many of my racing friends are signing up for all the races, Spartan, Mud Hero, Prison Break, and so many more – and I sit on the fence, being out of shape again, but mostly because I have no clue where I will be when the races roll around.

So that’s my year in a nutshell. More waiting, wondering and working towards finding stability again. But looking around me, I know that life is pretty good regardless. So while I rant and ramble on about not knowing what the future holds, I know there are worse things in life!

So – all that to say. My Goals for 2014:

  • not cry too much when my baby leaves for Australia
  • organize a 40th bday party for my partner (even though he’s not a big party guy)
  • write two kick-ass chapters with my co-authors
  • complete my Spartan trifecta come hell or high water and maybe get a Mud Hero and Prison Break race under my belt this year
  • keep applying for and hope to get an academic job in my field
  • attend at least 3 conferences



Post-PhD: The Liminal Academic

That liminal, ‘in-between’ stage can sometimes be a very fantastic place to be. I love taking the train when I travel because I’ve always loved that feeling of being in between where I left and where I was going. I loved that “liminal” feeling when I was a student. There was a freedom in that in-between stage of what/who I was before I went back to university, and becoming what I was working towards. Finishing the PhD was one of the most exhilarating and scary things I have ever done (short of raising two human beings!). After the defense, there was such a sense of accomplishment; of reaching the end of something big. But what that end really meant was the beginning of something new all over again.

For some, the transition between PhD and professional life is an smooth one. Perhaps they have a teaching position lined up or have successfully applied for a post-doc. But for others, that post-phd phase is a scary, bottomless vat of unknown. A full time job of sifting through grant and job applications, searching beyond ones area of expertise and desired geographical locations as well as contemplating employment opportunities outside of academia proper that are at least related to the focus of the last 10 years… Suddenly, liminality is no longer a space of freedom and unbridled opportunity. Added to trying to find one’s place in the academic world, the post-phd/pre-employment liminal period of academic life gets filled up with self-directed (and often unpaid) projects and events aimed at staying in-the game, maintaining connections with colleagues, keeping up that intellectual momentum until something comes through.

And I believe it will. During a recent lunch chat with my phd advisor, he reminded me that it is all about timing. Keep at it, and when the timing is right, someone, somewhere will be looking for exactly what I have to offer. But even though I believe that good things will happen, I am a bit more uncomfortable with liminality without a specific destination in sight.

A few Good Conferences …

Tis the season … for call for papers! If you are studying, researching or simply interested in Game Studies, check out the cfp for DiGRA 2014 Filling in the Blanks of Game Research to be held at the Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort in Snowbird, Utah, August 3-6, 2014 and the local Game History Annual Symposium: Cultural history of video games being held at the beautiful Grande Bibliotheque in downtown Montreal – both fantastic conferences in great locations.

Speaking of great locations, if you are interested in Internet Research, check out call for papers for the Association of Internet Researcher’s annual conference IR15: Boundaries and Intersections to be held in Bangkok in October 2013.