Self-Isolation Diaries – Week 8

Greetings, Internet! This is the week I got to unbox my guitar, name her (Ginny!), and play her until visible cuts appeared on my fingers (lovely visual, but the cuts shall heal, and then I shall become a better player). I also ate a lot of cake as I read about the implosion of academia/higher education as I know it. But this is week eight of quarantine, so you know what, let me eat cake. Daily summaries are below!

Day Fifty (5/1/20)

  • Did the FES cycle.
  • Ate more apple cake with my mother. She left a couple of slices here. Hooray for more apple cake!
  • Watched the “Parks and Recreation” special. I want to read Ben Wyatt’s screenplay.
  • Currently feeling: I am the worst at sticking to a schedule. I mean, it’s day fifty of not going outside, so how surprised should I be, really? Gosh, I want more apple cake.
  • Currently looping: Sara Bareilles’ album, Amidst the Chaos. Just a great album, all around. “Orpheus” is amazing.


Day Fifty-One (5/2/20)

  • My family stopped by today! So, my mother and father drove over from Bay Ridge, picked up my sister, brother-in-law, and niece in LIC, and then drove here. Everyone has been self-quarantining for weeks now. We’re pretty sure this was the safest way to do this. My father and sister both have birthdays in April, so we had to celebrate their birthdays somehow.
  • My brother-in-law got my guitar out of the package! Thought about potential names for my guitar. I need to tune her, but I can already tell I’m going to love how she sounds.
  • My niece is fast! Like, really fast. And she really loves running down the hallway in my apartment into my bedroom (which is definitely not adequately baby-proofed). I chased her around plenty, only to realize about twenty minutes before she left that the solution was to shut the door to my room. Three masters degrees, and for what?
  • Had a Google Hangout with my blockmates. They selected my guitar’s name: Ginny.
  • Currently feeling: I’m really going to miss my sister when she moves to California. I can mentally prepare for this all I want, but I’m still going to be a mess. My sister and I weren’t sure if we were allowed to hug when she came over today. We both had temperatures in the 98-degree range, so we just went for it. I haven’t hugged anyone in seven weeks. I have never been happier to hug someone.
  • Currently looping: Still listening to Sara Bareilles’ Amidst the Chaos on repeat. I know this came out months ago, but dang, I was not giving this album the attention it deserved before.

Day Fifty-Two (5/3/20)

  • Did the FES cycle.
  • Someone commented on one of my videos that I could be a Disney princess. I lol’d. People on the internet are funny. I’m looking forward to getting my first hater, because I’m told that’s a good thing.
  • Got drunk at writing workshop. Again. This is a pattern, but my writing buddy seems to be amused with my drunken ramblings, so at the very least, I’m a funny drunk.
  • Currently feeling: I should thank Inside Higher Ed for publishing this interview, because I can tell from the article that I do not want to read this book. Here’s the most enraging quote of the bunch: “Anecdotally, there seem to be two types of grad students. Some treat their Ph.D. as an extension of college. They want graduate school to be a time to stew and develop. Others treat it more like an M.B.A. — or, to use another metaphor, they act like athletes training for the Olympics. The latter think strategically. They try to ascertain what their CVs must look like when they go on the market to have the best chance of getting a job. They engage in backward induction, trying to determine what they need to do year by year to make their CVs look the right way when they enter the market. These students appear to be the most successful in terms of getting a job. For that reason, I suspect they are in the long run less stressed and happier, though admittedly I don’t know of survey evidence verifying that.” IF YOU DON’T KNOW OF ANY EVIDENCE VERIFYING YOUR CLAIM, THEN DON’T MAKE THE CLAIM. Are you freaking kidding me? This author fails to grasp the notion that you can do everything right, you can “act like athletes training for the Olympics,” think strategically, and STILL NOT GET A JOB. He also leaves out things, like, oh, I don’t know, student-advisor working relationships (not all of which are uniform), the diversity of demands within each PhD program, all of the implicit biases in higher ed, etc. And I get that he’s responding to how higher ed “is” and now how it should be, but his own assessment of how things “are” is of little help to me as a current PhD student. What a waste of a book deal.
  • Currently looping: Hilary Duff’s “So Yesterday.” Oh, you bet this is happening.


Day Fifty-Three (5/4/20)

  • May the Fourth be with you!
  • Recorded, and then posted, my cover of Hilary Duff’s “So Yesterday.” I am not embarrassed to admit how much Hilary Duff I listened to back in the early aughts. And also, like, last year. Those are some catchy tunes.
  • Recorded another song for Wednesday. I rap in it, so, stay tuned.
  • Tuned Ginny! She sounds beautiful. I also forgot that guitars sound way louder than ukuleles, so I’m either going to learn how to sing louder, or play softer. Or both. It’ll be a bit of a learning curve. I played her for about an hour (after like, four hours of recording ukulele). So I’m looking at five hours of music-related activity today, compared with the one hour I spent on my dissertation. It’s okay, it’s the pandemic.
  • Currently feeling: Hey, look, another article about how this pandemic is turning higher education into a mess, specifically at my campus. Princeton loves to brag about how much money it has until students request that they use it for an emergency. I don’t know how things are going to go with degree completion timelines. Even if there are students, like me, who haven’t planned on doing a semester or year abroad for research purposes (and I mean, I haven’t ruled it out entirely, it just depends on where my sources are), this whole pandemic has thrown a wrench into our lives. Princeton’s asking me to write a dissertation in an environment where I literally have not left my building in over seven weeks. I’m channeling a lot of nervous energy into musical side projects and ensuring that I don’t get cabin fever by scheduling multiple Zoom/Hangout/Skype/FaceTime calls per week. Meanwhile, I’m also reading about how my field is hitting the roughest of patches. Is this really the state in which Princeton wants a dissertation? I mean, there’s always the chance that the cabin fever brings out some sort of genius writing. But then there’s also an “all work and no play makes Val a dull girl” scenario, and I’d like to avoid that very much, please. Princeton’s currently considering judging all extensions on a case-by-case basis, and probably, they would see my ability to finish these chapters in my apartment as not worthy of an extension. I get that. But the completion of a dissertation is stressful no matter what, and now this extra stress grenade has been thrown into the mix. Everyone’s feeling the effects of the pandemic. An extra year’s worth of funding for all grad students just makes sense. #rantover
  • Currently looping: Hilary Duff’s “Come Clean.” I will apologize for nothing.


Day Fifty-Four (5/5/20)

  • Did the FES cycle.
  • Did a work hangout with a friend. She introduced me to this awesome and reassuring clip.
  • Hey, look, academia continues to implode! There are tenure-track faculty cuts at Ohio University, and public higher ed funding has still not recovered from 2008. Super. I wonder when Princeton’s going to start laying off the grad students.
  • Had a phone call with a friend who lives less than a mile away from my apartment. She recommended that I try putting music on TikTok. So, that’s going to be a fun new thing to learn?
  • Currently feeling: I emailed the psychotherapist who was assigned to me while I was at Rusk. It’s been twelve years, so here’s hoping she remembers me and can either virtually (re?)accept me as a patient or recommend someone she knows. It’s nothing pandemic-related. There haven’t been any notable mental breakdowns or anything dramatic to spur this. If anything, this was way overdue. I’ve been managing my mental health fairly well, all things considered, but it might be nice to work with a professional.
  • Currently looping: Phoebe Bridgers’ cover of The Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love.”


Day Fifty-Five (5/6/20)

  • Posted my cover of Nelly’s “Just a Dream.”
  • Recorded Friday’s song. Get ready for some Foo.
  • Relearned that the steel strings of a guitar hurt way more than the plastic strings on a ukulele. Ow, barre chords.
  • Finished Book Five of Gregory of Tours’ Histories and started on Book Six. My spreadsheet is getting real full. I should probably email my advisor to schedule a meeting sometime next week so we can talk about it.
  • My hair is currently at the length where if I’m not careful, it gets stuck between my back and the backrest of my chair. I don’t think it’s ever been this long. Too bad I have no idea how to style my hair, because this would be the perfect time for a Daenerys-Targaryan-inspired hairstyle.
  • Currently feeling: Does anyone else miss hugs? I miss hugs. When it’s safe to see my friends again, they’re all getting bear hugs. Be prepared.
  • Currently looping: Paramore’s “Last Hope.” I forgot how good of a song this is live.


Day Fifty-Six (5/7/20)

  • Did the FES cycle.
  • Watched a livestream of a Within Temptation concert from 2015. Sharon den Adel’s voice is magical.
  • Practiced guitar until visible cuts appeared on my index finger from practicing barre chords. I don’t think I’ve spent this much time working on my guitar skills(?) since freshman year of college.
  • Finally changed out my hair elastic for another one. The new one is so much better. Why was I using that old one for so long?
  • Currently feeling: This week is going by quickly. It’s weird, I constantly feel like I’m doing things and I’m never bored, but I also feel like I’m not getting anything done. How does that happen?
  • Currently looping: There’s a Spotify playlist of women in metal called “Heavy Queens.” I haven’t gotten through the whole playlist yet (it’s seven hours long), but I’m loving it so far.

Thanks so much for reading! Stay safe, everyone!

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