Thursday, October 18, 2012

Biittner's Book Review: My Left Foot by Christy Brown

Another month, another book review. This is the second last book of this year's book club line up and the second autobiography/memoir. I was really looking forward to reading "My Left Foot" as I clearly remember watching the movie (and Daniel Day Lewis win an Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Christy) when I was a kid (I was eight when the film came out). I've always admired authors (as someone who sucks at writing) and Christy's story really made a big impression on me. That's probably what I enjoyed the most about the book: I loved reading about Christy's journey learning how to write, how to be an author. The movie and book both cover his childhood and development as an artist quite well, his struggles with his identity, capabilities, and his cerebral palsy, but the book excels in highlighting the author's journey as an author. I love the circular nature of the book (when you get to read about him writing the numerous drafts that would eventually the first two chapters of the book your are reading) and the final pages are so powerful to this end. Christy's voice is so strong that it is hard to believe that he wasn't always a great writer. There is just so much to take away from this story; the more I think about it, the more I recollect like how crazy big his family was, or what a nasty, sharp sense of humor he has. I find it is similar to Jann Arden's memoirs (Falling Backwards) in how brutally honest and self reflexive/critical it is. It is a great read. I would highly recommend that you read the book and then treat yourself to the movie.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Life Happens, Literally!

It's been said that "life is what happens when you are busy making plans". For me, life is what happened when I was busy trying to not make plans. A couple of months back I wrote about facing decisions - a discussion of some of the decisions I was facing following the completion of my PhD and starting to look at planning for my future.

I decided at that time to trust my gut, to focus on breathing, and to not stress out about all the decisions I thought I had to make. I chose to move back home to be with my husband and my family, to not apply on jobs that would move me away from them, and to continue my full-time non-academic job while still pursuing any sessional teaching positions locally that my schedule could accommodate.

Another decision that had been made months prior to the post was that my husband and I wanted to start our family. I must admit that part of my anxiety over making decisions regarding my career had to do with my uncertainty over whether or not "the baby thing" would actually happen for us. Our decision to try to have a baby was largely based on our decision to stay in Edmonton near our families and where my husband has a stable, fulfilling career. I did not talk about this in that post because it was a sensitive, private issue for me at that time. Further, many other bloggers, far more articulate and talented than I, have already addressed the issues facing female academics today including especially the decision to, or to not, have kids, when it is "best" to try to fit a kid into your career path, and what are the impacts (both positive and negative) on those who chose to have children. These were all issues that ran through my head as I wrote that post on facing decisions, but was not willing, nor able, to address at that time. Now I can admit one question, in particular, stole my sleep: what if we are not able to have children and I'd passed up applying on a great tenure-track or permanent teaching position while in the process of "trying"?

Turns out I need not have worried. I'm pregnant.

So yup, it happened for us and so far everything is going well - both in terms of the pregnancy (another post on that later...maybe...) and in terms of my career. I just had a great Summer Term contract teaching a night class on cultural anthropology, and just started another contract for Fall Term for a world prehistory course that my non-teaching job schedule and due date accommodate. I've also secured a year-long distance education tutor position for this academic year that will help support us through my maternity leave.

I realize I'm lucky for so many reasons. I'm very content with how things worked out. I now only feel twinges of anxiety when a "perfect" job posting pops up in my inbox but no longer feel like I'm missing out on opportunities. Instead I'm excited about taking on the title I've chosen for myself for the next phase of my life: "Mommy & Academic-at-Large".

Besides, if I learned anything in grad school it is this - I can be extremely productive when sleep deprived.