Wednesday, August 15, 2007


OK. I need a break. I felt dangerously close to having a breakdown last night, so I think it's high time that I take a day to myself. And try to banish as much anxiety as I can before I make myself ill.

For the record, I am already wanting off this merry-go-round, and it's three weeks before classes start. It's my own fault, of course - I didn't budget my time this fall wisely, not at all. I thought I could be superwoman. But I must say, when things get as bad as they did last night - I can't remember feeling that borderline crazy with stress in many years - then it is time to change something.

What sent me over the edge last night was looking at some documents related to preparing a SSHRC grant application. The monumental nature of this task feels crushing - and I don't feel like I'm getting much support. The research office people aren't responding to emails with a question and a request to see the past successful applications they have on file. I haven't had a reply yet from my friend M, who volunteered to send me his successful application ten days ago, but then went AWOL.

It doesn't help that I'm so locked up inside my own head all the time, spending 12 hours a day at the computer, and speaking to almost no one. The recipe for craziness.

It is a payday today, and this finally brings me out of the unprecedented money crunch I've had for the last month or so. So I feel as if I have some options, finally - I can take myself out for lunch, I can stock up on nice foods for the house, I can buy the plants this place so desperately needs because I had to leave all my plants in Home City. I can spend the day wandering.

I also decided to ditch the half-marathon plan for October. I just can't add another thing to my plate right now. I'll still run, of course - I've been loving running, lately, and it has been one of the only things getting me out of my house. I'll still do weekly long runs. But I don't need more deadline pressure, which is what training for a run turns into. And unfortunately, I can't just run a race for the hell of it...I'll be chasing a time, too. So, no, I don't think that's wise. Though I feel like I've failed for deciding not to do it (and yes, I realize how incredibly stupid that feeling is). I"ll aim for a race in the spring.

So I'll pay a couple of bills now, and then go out into the world. Shopping plans include some interesting cheeses. Eating plans include nori rolls and gelato. Drinking plans include something on a patio this afternoon. Maybe I'll even go to a movie tonight. Although I don't feel very relaxed right now - in fact, it makes me feel slightly nauseated to think of leaving my work for a day - I trust these things will work their magic.


dbm/gaa said...

Please, please be out having a lovely day and making small talk with people! I know exactly where you are at - I too am a born introvert (although most people think the opposite of me) who gets into the kind of funks you describe. A few years ago I was in a bad one and it took a lot to get me out of it, but getting out in the world did help!

You are going to have a hell of a fall term, but things will get done and you will emerge on the other side tired but wiser. Don't give up and freak out just yet, you need those resources for when school actually starts!

Sfrajett said...

I get really agoraphobic in that weird, "going outside is just too overwhelming" way. Running was always the thing that easily connected me with something outside my head. So go for a run, and don't feel bad about the half-marathon thing. If you find yourself wanting to do some longer distances on your own, great! if not, great! Don't beat yourself up. You are doing the best you can trying to sort things out.

Hilaire said...

GAA - Yes, I was out for almost five hours, and yes, I did have a bit of small talk with some people - a cool woman, in particular. Who owns a very nifty and urban shop that reminds me of home...!

And Sfragett, yes, that's what I need to try and do. Running is pretty fab these days...And longer runs make me feel good and strong, so I'll keep those up, as well, at 11 or 12 km once a week. And then after winter break, it'll be super-easy to ramp up the training and do a race...

Pantagruelle said...

I feel your pain re SSHRC. I was just on the site looking through the application instructions for Postdocs and Standard Research Grants. (Although I think the chances of me getting a second postdoc are somewhere between "slim to none" and "a snowball's chance in hell"--because surely they will wonder why my book isn't done already--I feel the need/guilt to apply as a back-up plan to another potentially difficult job season, even though I seem to be lacking a new project at the moment.)

I think that you are in a better position in terms of your upcoming SSHRC app though, if you approach it from the right perspective, and that perspective would be one of hoop-jumping. Don't stress out about it and don't get invested in it. You are starting a brand-new tenure-track job and running a whole new program and New Uni is expecting you to submit a SSHRC app by the Oct 15th deadline?! Quite frankly, I think that New Uni is out of its freaking mind asking you to do that!

Therefore, I think you should approach submitting the SSHRC app as a hoop to jump through (like comps or your diss defense, etc), and nothing more. Fill out the forms, write something up quickly, but don't kill yourself over it.

Have you gotten a SSHRC before, during your doctoral studies? If so, that's a good sign. I've been told that once you get SSHRC funding once, you tend to have a better chance of getting it again. On the other hand, I've also been told (and observed first hand, both in my own doctoral application and other people's doctoral ones and other people's Standard ones), that it usually takes two applications before you get funded. So, you should really treat this application as a practice run for next year. The good thing about SRG applications, as opposed to the doctoral ones, is that when you aren't funded, the committee actually provides helpful and detailed feedback about your application which goes a long way towards submitting a better one the next year. If you submit a less-than-perfect application this year, you should see it as an opportunity to get feedback for next year's application (like submitting an article to PMLA knowing full well it won't get published but will result in useful comments), and in your mind see next year's app as the "real" one. If you get funded this year, so much the better, but if you don't, you shouldn't worry about it. Focus on this year as a practice for next year.

By the way, I didn't blog about it, but I (yes, little ol' postdoc who can't seem to get a job me) was asked by SSHRC earlier this year to be a blind assessor for the SSHRC app of a very senior, tenured scholar. I've also been named as a collaborator on the application of one of my senior, tenured friends. So I've seen two SRG applications so far, not to mention the application of my current supervisor which pays for my postdoc (not one I applied to SSHRC for directly myself), and I can say that SRG applications require a ton (and I do mean ton!) more work than the doctoral or postdoc ones. I would say that it is simply, absolutely impossible to pull together a winning one in your first year as a T-T prof starting a new job. That's not meant to be discouraging or discount your intellectual abilities (which from your blog come across as quite impressive!!!), but simply to encourage you to put things in perspective and not get overly invested in this year's application. Cut yourself some slack, concentrate your energy on the things that really matter and which absolutely do need to be done, and consider this a practice exercise. It's not like you *need* the SSHRC funding right now anyway, so why kill yourself over the application? Just treat it as a hoop to jump through to please your department this year until you can put together a really strong project for next year.

Hilaire said...

OMG, thank you for the long comments!

First, I am sorry that you are having to do more cranking out of these kinds of applications simply because of job market stuff. That *sucks*.

Also - amazing that you were a blind assessor at this stage in your career! Wow!

Anyway, yes, I definitely know what you mean about just doing it in the hoop-jumping frame of mind. I waver between seeing it like that, and actually caring about it. It is hard for me not to care about things like this...much like how I can't run a 1/2-marathon without getting a good-to-excellent time. Too hard on myself much?? And this even when I know how difficult this is to get, and don't even expect to get one, by any measure of the imagination.

But, if we're playing the actually-trying game: I did have a SSHRC doctoral fellowship, so yeah, maybe that'll help. And I have finally got my friend M's recent successful proposal. Also will have access to another colleague's - he got one on his first try, last year. So I'm going to "analyze" these. But yes, the work involved is HUGE - that's what was freaking me out so much last night...realizing I've written a page and a half, single-spaced, and it is a drop in the bucket. *And* I'm writing in a vacuum, without having access to successful proposals in my area. (Which has changed now. Though the #$%^&* uni research office is still not responding to multiple requests for information, etc. They want to encourage every single scholar to do this, and yet they're not even going to bother to write me back??! Harumph.)

Look at me - this is supposed to be my day off! I shouldn't be blabbing at length about SSHRC! This just goes to show you how incredibly obsessed I am with this. I can't wait to feel what it will feel like when I send that puppy off by October 11th!

medieval woman said...

I'm glad that from your later comments, it seems like you're feeling a bit better! If I were there, I'd give you a muffin and a glass of wine!

First off, I think putting the 1/2 marathon on the shelf for a while is an excellent idea. And I'd also like to second Pan's comments about SSHRC - my first question was going to be, "do you really need to apply for this in your first year?" - TD is in the process of doing it now for the first time in his second year. But, I think that seeing this as a practice run might be great. If you get it, awesome, if not - next year for sure!

Once you send it out you'll feel so much better!


Hilaire said...

Hi MW - and thanks! Wine and a muffin - what a perfect combination! I am currently drinking a glass of wine on my lovely balcony, post-movie, actually.

I know, I know - I shouldn't be taking this on in my first year. But there's pretty intense pressure to do so. And we know me - put on the pressure, and I'm a goner. Yeah, it's good practice, for sure. That's the thing I don't get about the way I'm responding to this...I have felt quite certain that I *won't* get it. Quite certain. I suspect my project isn't fleshed out enough (though it's amazing what I'm figuring out about my own project, as I draft this thing!) and I am not enough of a star, etc., etc. So I have thought since the beginning that I won't get it, but still I feel I can't do a half-assed job. I just can't. Also because it's not anonymous, and it gets sent out to external assessors -- I can't look like a fool to them! Anyway, it's silly, how seriously I am taking it when I know odds are stacked against me. That said, Pan's comments about the extensive feedback I'll get are very true...that will be hugely helpful. I hadn't actually realized you got such detailed comments until just the other day, talking to someone about it. That's huge. So yes, a practice run for next year!

And now it is officially time for me to calm down!!