Starting to feel like I might manage to finish this MA

Its Christmas Eve and I am sitting at my Mum’s as I write this.  She has been at work this week, leaving me to my own devices during the last couple of days giving me time to start writing the next term paper and also to let my mind idly wander over various subjects, not least being my progress on my MA so far.  Christmas is a good time to reflect on how far you have come over the year as I rarely find time enough to stop at other times.  I finished work until Jan 4th last Friday and don’t have small children or inlaws to keep happy at Christmas so I have had just the right amount of time to relax and calm down after a really busy 6 months.  Now I have started this latest paper I feel quite confident I can finish it and be pleased with what I have written.  That means I will soon have completed 3 of 4 term papers, leaving only one 5,000 word paper and the dissertation to do before I finish the MA.  It hardly seems possible that I might have come this far.  The other thing that helps is that I have an idea what to write my dissertation about so even that feels like it might just be doable.

!!!

The thought of actually finishing my MA fills me with euphoria.  Thus far I have hated and cursed it but also loved it.  I love the reading and I love the discussions in seminar groups.  I hate the feeling of being well out of my depth and of not having enough time to read as much or as deeply as I want to.  Then I love the feeling of having mastered a subject well enough to write about it when it all seemed like nonsense to me to begin with.  I still vividly remember talking with my Programme Convenor in the first term about my anxieties that I wasn’t reading critically enough.  Although I was enjoying the reading I didn’t feel it was sparking any kind of response in me, and she had been talking to the group about how important it was to develop our critical faculties.  She told me that I needed to find some friction (mentally, that is).  It seemed incomprehensible and I despaired of ever managing to complete the programme of study.  However, 12 months on from that point and I know I am getting what I want out of this MA.  I am not quite sure what that is or if I am truly critical enough in my approach (though I have definitely developed my abilities in this area as it is essential in my field of study).  That doesn’t matter a great deal any more and I am perfectly willing to make decisions about what I think is important and how my learning is progressing and stick to them.  Not that I don’t take in to the account the advice from my tutors, I really do.  Its just that I also have a strong sense of what I want to achieve from this MA and I feel that I am getting there.  Its not as if I and my tutors radically disagree, my essay marks have been pretty good and I have had good feedback on the 2 other papers I submitted.  So I am happy with my progress.

Funnily enough, despite how much I curse my MA in the middle of term or when I am struggling to find a topic for the next assignment, I do find it is a good escape.  To become absorbed in the reading or a series of ideas that might lead to the next piece of writing I have to do is a great way to forget about the stresses of work and other anxieties/irritations.  It feels virtuous too.  Not only am I getting to escape, but I am doing something worthwhile as I do so!  I find it difficult to relax and enjoy time off if I don’t feel that I have earned it.  Time off is not as precious if you don’t have the contrast of having been busy or the self righteous feeling of deserving a break.  The other thing I love about the studying is having motivation to go and read/think about things I would not encounter otherwise.

I am just trying to decide if I can persuade myself to sit and work on my term paper for a short while today.  I will have company from about 1pm onwards so I don’t have much time and the paper is up against going out to get some mincemeat and making a mincemeat lattice tart thingie.  The tart might win.  It is not like I haven’t worked hard enough on this MA so far this year.  I think I can allow myself to procrastinate for a day on Christmas Eve.  Or if the company of my family becomes too much this evening I could always slip away with the excuse that I really MUST work on my paper …

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On speaking up in seminars

I really should sit and write a proper blog entry in the next week or so. This has to be short because it is late and I have to be at work tomorrow morning.  I was just reading over the blog in an effort to get an overview of my written observations on my study over the last 15 months or so and I was reading about my post earlier this year about trying to speak up more in seminars.  I suddenly realised that it has become easier to make contributions to the group discussions in seminars!  It really has.  I do still feel my face redden and my heart start beating faster when I think I might have something to say, but it is less scary than it was a year ago or even 6 months ago.  I think that as I am (a tiny little bit) more relaxed about it than I was that I can choose my time more carefully and give myself more time to organise my thoughts before opening my mouth.  That in turn, tends to reduce the pressure on me when I do actually speak.

I feel that I have managed to make many contributions to the seminar discussions this term.  The group has been a particularly interesting and engaging gathering of people this term so I suspect that has helped.  My experience just goes to show, though, that by sheer perseverance and practice it is possible to get better at really scary stuff.