So, I had this great idea . . .

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Another semester has been survived . . . barely. It seems that with each subsequent semester  more personal wounds get reopened and more triggers pulled. That’s what I get for studying the humanities, I guess.

Workload-wise this last semester was challenging because I had another round of the Humanities Seminar. Each week we had to read books by authors such as Plato, Shakespeare, Wolff, DuBois, Emerson, Thoreau, etc. Procrastination was not an option with that class. You had to read a book each and every week and be prepared for discussion, as well as some written work that was also due. Loved the material. Hated the pace. My other class was my science requirement – Environmental Science. The lectures were really interesting, but the lab was poorly organized. It was taught by two different professors who apparently had very different standards when it came to grading.  A paper graded by the old fellow would maybe get a C+, while a paper with the exact same effort graded by the younger woman would yield me an A.  The class was made up of a lot of middle-aged white ladies who take their grades VERY seriously. So, naturally there was a revolt. Deans were called. Complaints filed. And ultimately, grading responsibilities were taken away from the old fellow. Don’t fuck with middle-aged white ladies.  We will cut you . . .well, probably not, but we will file a complaint and make a few phone calls.

The most taxing of my courses was the little 1 unit P/NP class called the Senior Project Workshop. Every senior has to do a Senior Project.   You can either do a 30-page research paper, or a creative project with an 8-page research component. I am, of course, opting for the latter. The point of the workshop is to help hone your topic, find an advisor, and get a good start on your research.

I came into the semester really excited about my project. You see, I had this great idea: I would do my research on trauma and memory and then as the creative bit I was going to revisit the event that was the beginning of the end of my academic career in my 20s.  There was something poetic about coming full circle and transforming that trauma from being destructive and painful to something  triumphant and  healing. It was going to be fucking awesome.

The idea was to revisit this event by interviewing the witnesses and those close to me at that time. I wanted to film the interviews. I thought their expressions as they revisited that time would tell more of the story than their actual words. Two filmmaker friends of mine agreed to help me.  Friends as well as my academic and spiritual advisors were cheering me on. It was bold. It was brave. And, of course, it was doomed to failure.

The problem with a project such as this is that is dependent on other people willing to play along.  Over the years I’ve done lots of processing of this event, and I was ready to look at it with a new lens.  I wasn’t prepared for the resistance I encountered from the other witnesses: one refused to speak to me at all, two initially were willing, but blew off our appointments to talk; one, I sadly discovered, killed himself; and my brother said that he “has chosen to forget everything about our shared past together.”

Ouch.

For the workshop, our final deliverable was supposed to be an introduction to our project, complete with thesis statement. I wrote, instead, a eulogy for not only my project, but for any hope of me having anything substantial to say ever. It was pretty bleak.

My advisors offered me suggestions for salvaging my idea. They tried to prop up my spirits. I felt completely depleted, bereft of hope or inspiration. As you can imagine, this made the holidays super fun.

As of this writing, I still don’t know what the hell I’m going to do. However, having had a little bit of rest and solitude, I feel slight sparks of inspiration returning. There may even be something in the failure of this project that may become a project. There have been learnings, but they really have nothing to do with the original trauma I wanted to explore.

School starts again in about three weeks. I’m hoping that those little embers of inspiration don’t burn out, but rather become some wonderful creative fire so that by the time the semester starts I’ll once again be brimming with enthusiasm.

Wish me luck. I’ll need it.

7 responses »

    • Why yes, perhaps I have heard that somewhere. ;) However, I’m not so sure my advisor is as keen on the idea. My very recent email to her where I mentioned the possibility of a project about a failed project elicited a terse response: “we need to talk”. She is either going to break up with me, or she’s concerned about my lack of direction. Can an advisor actually fire a student?

  1. I think the subject of trauma and memory is good. Perhaps you should start with your brother’s statement that he “chooses to forget”. To what extent is this possible? Can we choose to forget traumatic experiences? I would venture that “choosing to forget” does not aid the healing of the trauma. I might compare the Spanish ‘pact of forgetting’ from 1975 onwards to avoid dealing with the aftermath of Francoism and the civil war ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pact_of_forgetting ) with the Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa. Best of luck with it anyway.

  2. I have not been to your blog in ages. Something made me look tonight and I’m so glad I did. How truly interesting about people’s reluctance. It makes me wonder how I would have responded. I can’t imagine why I wouldn’t have participated (other than HATE HATE HATING to be on camera or recorded in any way), but I have also not had their experience. i hope you do end up doing something with it and that your advisor doesn’t break up. If she does, there’s more than one advisor in the sea! I like Matthew’s idea too. Good luck and keep us posted!

    • Silly girl, just subscribe to the blog so you get the posts via email. Trust me, at my current rate of output, I won’t be flooding your inbox. :)

      After my first refusal, this from the person that I thought would be the easiest to convince, I changed direction re: filming it. Since I have some background in radio production, I thought maybe of doing it as an audio piece. As it turned out through, the medium had nothing to do with their refusals. At least I don’t think so. No one really gave me a good reason.

      After meeting with my advisor yesterday, I am moving forward with a project about a project that never took flight. The research component piece will be something about in the religious studies range – perhaps suffering as a path of awakening, or the broken heart as the opening to the divine.

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