Setbacks and Steps Forward

Setbacks and Steps Forward

The last few days have been a weird mixture of productive successes and deeply frustrating setbacks. And it’s not even like some things have been going universally well and some things haven’t — it’s far more muddled up and mixed than that.

Friday got off to a bad start. I cycled to a physio consultation, and when getting off my bike outside, my foot gave way beneath me, turning my ankle over with a worrying snapping sound and spraining it. Again. Okay, it’s the other ankle this time, but seriously? Can my ankles just stop doing this? Being on my way to a physio appointment meant at least I could get some medical attention immediately, which means it wasn’t the worst timing. He told me it was a mild sprain and wouldn’t take too long to heal, but I needed not to dance for at least a few days.

So, I cancelled the class I was meant to be teaching on Saturday. And the studio time I’d booked for practice on Monday (today). And I lay in bed feeling sorry for myself because it hurt and because I have a feis on the 29th so it would be kind of useful to be actually able to practise. Sigh.

Then I took a lot of painkillers and went to a job interview. Spoiler alert: I did not get the job. Not because I screwed up the interview particularly badly, I don’t think, although a mixture of pain and painkillers means (a) I don’t remember half of what I said and (b) I think I rambled a lot. But… shrug I’m not surprised, but I am a little disappointed by it, even if staying in Cambridge wasn’t my first choice. Back to the job application grind we go.

I took Friday evening off and watched Dancing on Dangerous Ground, which is an Irish dance show starring Jean Butler and Colin Dunne and based on the medieval Irish story of Diarmait and Grainne. It was awesome. I want to watch it again already.

Even if the costuming is peak 2000 and none of the cast except the leads look older than about 14.

And then, on Saturday, since my ankle wouldn’t let me do much and I’d cancelled the class I was meant to be teaching, I worked on my dissertation.

I’ve been getting bogged down in following up a lot of references and reading entire books that prove to be nowhere near as useful as I’d hoped they would be, and I kind of expected Saturday would be more of that. But I had some frustrating experiences with the libraries not having the books I needed (both recensions of the Tain are out of the University Library and the English Faculty Library, which is criminally unfair), and decided at last I needed to just… start rewriting.

So, I did. It took me two uncharacteristically focused days (5 hours of work each) but I wrote a new draft of my dissertation.

Some parts were fairly easy because they just needed to be rewritten for clarity. Some needed specific references, but were otherwise okay. Others were a bit harder — all the parts I left until later because they were too hard to do at the time, and now it’s later and I actually have to do them. I tried not to let myself leave gaps, but it was so tempting just to think, ‘I’ll come back to that…’ But I can’t! There’s no time to come back to things now! I have to actually finish them!

I ended up kind of hyperfocusing on it, though, to the extent of forgetting to move/eat for several hours, and I found even the tricky bits became quite rewarding. Okay, not the ones where I was hunting through fifteen different PDFs trying to find a passing reference, but there was one paragraph that I just couldn’t figure out how to reword so that it actually made sense. I knew what I was trying to say, but I also knew that what was on the paper… wasn’t that.

In the end I had to print it out, scribble all over it, and then write half of it out again by hand before typing up the new version and making a few more changes, but I made it make sense eventually, and there was something very satisfying about that.

I’ve been determined throughout this process that even when I’m using obscure and esoteric academic language (because sometimes you have to), I won’t let my style become so complicated it’s incomprehensible. I’ve read too much literary theory that’s almost impossible to get through, and I strive for clarity in my own academic writing, even when it’s difficult. I think this rewrite helped with some of that. I was sending a few screenshots to some friends, so I tried to make sure whatever I wrote made some kind of sense out of context as well as within it, which I think helped with clarity.

I finished fairly late on Sunday night and today I went to the libraries again to try and find the books I needed for the referencing stage. No such luck. (Then I got the job rejection through, so it wasn’t a great morning.) After plotting a few murders for a while, I decided to get started with all the formatting and referencing I can do, since that takes ages but requires less brainpower and mine has mostly leaked out of my ears. I discovered that my bibliography is a beast. I have fourteen primary texts. Fourteen! Okay, so four of them are different versions of the Tain, but still, that’s excessive.

And then I sent it to my supervisor in the hope that she can offer guidance in how to cut it down so that it’s no longer over the wordcount limit, and to my mum, because the more pairs of eyes the better, and now… I need to stop thinking about it for a while.

My physio appointment on Friday was because I’ve been having horrendous nightmare headaches and I thought they were probably tension related. I was right. Apparently my neck and shoulders are so tight that it’s actually causing my skull to contract. Observing myself over the last couple of days and how tense I get when I’m actually focusing means this is not surprising in the slightest — even with an ergonomic setup, I’m tense as a wire. So, I’m going for a massage on Friday to try and fix that. Hopefully by then my ankle will have recovered somewhat and I’ll be able to go back to dance, too.

Anyway. It’s been a weird weekend. Several frustrating trips to libraries. A fair bit of despair over ever getting this thing finished. Some very physical pain. Concern about my ability to dance in the next few weeks. And about my ability to find a job for next year.

But, I rewrote my whole dissertation, and I’m so close to being done with it (I have 16 days until the deadline and I’m already at the point I was at maybe 3 days before the deadline last year). So now it’s time to exhale, and focus on something else.

it’s only, like, 700 words over the limit, i’m sure it’ll be fine

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