Twitter, Grad School, and Teaching Thoughts

I’ll keep this bare and stripped down since I need to get back to my transcription work. There is only one class in Oral History at my university (afaik.) I want more of it. There is not enough time to teach enough about this distinct, nuanced field. My teacher does his solid best, and he and the class are impressive beyond words. Doing this (transcription work), though, is another thing entirely. I am in love with the practical aspects of history and I soak it up like fresh-baked baklava and honey.

Being active on Twitter this past week, my mind feels like it’s riding a great wave. There are so many organizations and other things for digital humanities and history in general that I had no idea about. My undergrad ended nearly four years ago, and there was a lull of creativity during the interim due to other jobs and unemployment doldrums. You never see what is out there until you have a medium showing it to you, albeit indirectly.

I think that I am an idiot for having resisted Twitter for so long, but stubbornness needs changing through education. Wow, WHAT an education! I am not sure that I am learning so much due to opportunity, due to lack of opportunity and thus trying to absorb at almost alarming speed, or what. I haven’t felt this happy about life since I interned in New York five years back. Although other people who I worked with were avid social media early adopters, I did not see much use to Twitter until now. I was even annoyed by the Twitter ads all over the place. Resisting new media does not help. Being a part of it and leading the discussions, or at least listening does. I have relatives that are not part of any social media whatsoever. It’s ironic due to their jobs. But the privacy that my family ensconced in me as a child is dead. I understand social protocols, and there are many levels to my privacy settings. However, anyone who thinks that all of their information is private does not realize what is out there. You either control your own media, or someone else may do it for you. In another case of family, one adopted one form of media and not another. My sister and I split our media streams down between the two mega-providers of T and FB.

Due to a recent class in Museum Mgmt, I finally listened to the presenter (who obviously knew her stuff) and her mentioning that she got her earliest news that way… My currency on news media stopped when I went to college. Between lack of time for television and otherwise filtered reporting in the great and open spaces west, I was news starved for some time. I knew that things were happening, most of which I could ignore. It’s as if my brain went into isolation mode for about eight years to a decade, but specifically since ’05. Due to various family needs at the time and my reactions to them, it probably did.

It feels like I am back on the planet again. I don’t know that many people who talk about news that much. Most of the time I normally assume now that everyone knows what’s going on, and frequently knows it better than I do. That is usually the case. I’ve been out of the loop for a few years. Feeling like an antiquated zombie is not in my best interests.

Due to the immediacy of knowledge, it becomes instantly passe. Thus, people do not talk about it unless it is chatting online/news feeds. This limited face-to-face interaction was unheard of…even a decade ago. It is such a strange phenom for a culture that says that it wants social connection. More like generations of watchers. We can see things and we can make snide remarks or not comment at all if we do not want more interaction with the topic, but what about building something better versus cutting down and slashing and burning something?

Yes, I am an unusual graduate student who hates being snide. I do not see a use to it, but I have to swim with the PhD’s and the people who otherwise could intimidate me out of the program. One of my programs is more “touchy-feely” and the school is small enough as a nice, suburban place. I got there and I felt like I’m in a little nice cocoon, protected. Yes, it’s grad school, but it’s softer. The other school is sink or swim. The candidates in the second program know their stuff and make you fight to keep up. It’s challenging as all-get out and reminds me a lot of my undergrad institution. You either make it or break it. If you make it, you fly. I don’t want to think about breaking it. The people who go to this school are smart, savvy, opinionated (in some cases), and otherwise give me a run for my tuition.

I presented a paper at this school for a conference. The first positive public reception to the topical love of my life, family history/genealogy, dumb-founded me. These people aren’t my religion. Due to geographic density and age/marital-demographic, I would go to Church with them if they were, so I would know it. These people have no connections to my topic, but they were more respectful than most of the people who I know. My treatment was as someone who had relevancy. This has only happened a few times in my niche groups, and so I it took me off-guard in the most pleasant way possible. Perhaps I was a little defensive going into it. My topic is more-niche than most, and in the historical field it is traditionally seen with a derision that makes boiling oil look pleasant.

My commentator changed my life with a simple email and phone call. He thought that the topic was great, and after the conference (which, as stated above went over enormously well considering the pressures I was under to get the paper ready, perfected, and updated from a senior thesis of four years earlier;) he met with me about further work in the topic of my paper. It’s as if the topic is seeing new eyes in the field. I am so glad and grateful. Fighting for this for my entire college academic career (much longer than most people’s), I feel like for the first time I am coming into my own. Twitter and the resources there are opening things up for me that did not exist years ago. Although I don’t have funding for it, I’m even considering a PhD. If I could find funding, then why not? A teacher of mine in the undergrad once remarked to the class that she got her PhD at 40. This surprised most of the class. She said that she was going to turn 40 anyway, so why not? I’m kind of in a similar boat. I love learning more than almost anything. Good things, good people. The Masters degrees will probably put me in hock for the rest of my life anyway. I didn’t think about being a professor, and still don’t, honestly..

It may not work, but I’ve thought of ways to teach classes in Family History to undergrads. Maybe not the same way that BYU teaches it, because honestly, you don’t have to know the ecclesiastical to do well in it. Just that I was thinking of how to present such information to a bunch of teenagers. Well, older teenagers but people with the same mind-set. It’s different from how to present it to children or to older adults. I taught Sunday School on the topic for around five years, and my typical presentation has  entertainment value. No one has ever seen me present like that out here. It’s candid, but a little abrupt and needs refinement. I haven’t taught in a long time, either. It’s a persona, performing. Although performing like that is fun, it does not translate into the personality that I want to have when not in lecture mode. I like the idea of being strong, but being a kinder, gentler person. Teachers have the line and they play along it, but I don’t know how to put it forth for an undergrad audience where it will translate well. I guess I just haven’t taught in a long time.

That was more than I was planning to write, and I need to get to my section of the transcription and then make key lime pies for tomorrow. There’s a part of me that can’t stop writing, loves it, wants to do more of it, and when not posting on social media I am looking up information to write something else or hw. My life is busy, complicated, and I feel like I fall in love regularly. But it’s good. My life is the best that it has been in an extremely long time and I want to express sincere gratitude for that. Everything may fall apart tomorrow, but I am happy with what I am doing now.

~The GenealogyDr