learning to think again

Ok, so I jumped on the bandwagon…then fell asleep. I think it’s that old problem of looking at a blank page – you just don’t know where to start! So I’ll start with something that’s taking up all my time lately – academia.

I’m smack-dab in the middle of my ‘advanced’ degree, probably the most advanced one I’ll ever get. I can’t imagine doing a PhD. I think I’d be one of those ‘ABDs’ who could just never finish their dissertation. It’s such an open-ended process, and I have realized over my 16 years of formal education that I am a serious deadline person (read: procrastinator). No matter how hard I try or how early I start, I just can’t turn in a paper more than an hour (max) before it is due. I am always so envious of my classmates who turn their work in a week early and then just sit back and relax as the rest of us panic. But how do they know that they’ve made it the best they can? Here’s my usual scenario: the day before it is due I am still frantically finding new sources, looking for just the right quote or idea. Then the morning it is due, I am tearing out my hair to figure out how to fit all that info into my word limit. I think somewhere subconsciously I must love the adrenaline rush that last few hours gives, but at the time it is pure hell.

Grad school isn’t really what I expected. I am spending much less time learning ‘how to’ do things, and spending much more time deconstructing what I learned in undergrad. Part of that is the difference between the US and UK traditions. I am only now realizing that my BA was really a very one sided view of International Relations and Politics. I can’t at all remember learning anything about ‘critical theory’, or some of the more radical views of IR. Of course, I went to school in Washington DC, and then worked for USAID projects for 5 years, so I was completely indoctrinated. Not that I disagree with everything, it’s just that now, at Sussex (notorious for its radical nature) I am realizing that I have to learn a new language of critique. It’s fascinating, but my cynical side asks how much I will be able to use these new ideas when I go back to the field…so much of development is ruled by these norms and ideas associated with ‘neoliberalism’. I am just trying to enjoy the learning and thinking…I know I won’t be able to have this luxury when it’s back to the crazy life of jumping through hoops for donors


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