26 February 2014

Defending and the Aftershock

This past weekend, I celebrated the hard work of prepping and then defending my dissertation.  That moment – in the school room with my three committee members (one via skype), my colleagues, my tutors, my accountability partners, and other teachers – I reached my limit.  

There was something about the mixture of public speaking, summarizing my work, embodying the vulnerability that is foundational to my work, navigating desires to please my mentors, and also dealing with paperwork; this mixture was almost too much.  Too much in the way that calculus and chemistry and physics were for me in high school and undergrad.  Too much in the way that scuba diving through a tunnel 12 meters below the water’s surface were for me in the Philippines.  Of course, I imagine that one day, I’ll be fine tackling mathematics and diving and perhaps even speaking about my work.   But, nearly two hours of defending my study with all those other elements mentioned above was crazy making. I am trying not to analyze the “why” behind my feelings too much at this time; instead, I’d like to accept these feelings the way in which I accept my brain doesn’t quite understand, at this time, higher levels of math and deep levels of water.   

Celebratory Dinner at Gracias Madre
Thankfully, I will never have to participate in a “dissertation defense” (so "masculine" of a term and action as a friend writes and as I concur) again.

That is, my dissertation was approved!  I enjoyed much needed rest and relaxation these past few days: therapies of all sorts including massages, the company of friends around a fire, hiking, and kayaking through tunnels (above the water of course).

Now begins the final final revisions of formatting and tightening up everything.  

13 February 2014

Graduating. Graduating? Graduating!

Yesterday, three great things happened. First, I finished another complete revision of my dissertation; second, I spoke with my committee chair; and three, I applied for graduation (and the publication of my dissertation for a total almost $400).

Yep, I spent the morning finishing up the conclusion, and then I had a meeting with my chair, and she said, “well, congratulations!” and I said, “should I apply for graduation? Deadline is Friday” and she said, “yes!”

It’s funny because it’s still hard for me to believe that graduation is coming.  It’s that imposter syndrome perhaps, and another part of it is superstition (like knock on wood); it’s like I don’t want to, by celebrating my upcoming graduation, somehow stop it from happening.

And, yet, here’s my chair saying, “do it! You’re ready!” And, then there was the conversation with my second committee member, who said I was far ahead of others preparing to graduate. 

05 February 2014

It's been too long -- February Check-in

Well, here it is -- February -- and although it may appear that I have been lazing it with the writing, I'm here today to testify to my great accomplishments this past month or so. True, I haven't been in the midst of my dissertation itself, but I have been writing and organizing.

First, the writing: in the last few weeks, I have been a part of two amazing opportunities that are directly connected to my dissertation study.  I attended a three day writing workshop with Maestra Cherrie Moraga, and I worked as a TA (and also attended) a spiritual memoir writing class with Maestra Ana Castillo.  Both of these mujeres are pivotal in my PhD studies, and as a facebook friend noted, they are forces of nature.  I strongly concur, and during the workshops, I wrote about my family/shame as well as spirituality/belonging. Then, I spent last week or so processing and letting myself be transformed by their guidance.  Trying to let the transformation reach into my academic work as well as my personal growth.

Second, during this time, I received feedback from my two other readers on my dissertation committee, and I spent some time in dialogue with them about how to incorporate Indigenous roots, linguistic integration, and decolonial emphasis into my dissertation.  Big stuff I tell you; however, after it all (or in the midst of it all), I have a sense that although words may fail me, the creative aspect in my study will save me.

Finally, my energy has been going toward making sure all the paperwork and organization was in place for me to graduate this coming May. Indeed, I am almost there, and after many emails, my dissertation defense is set:
Women’s Spirituality

Invites You to

A Doctoral Dissertation Defense
Cristina Rose Smith

Finding Xicana, Filipina, and Euroamerican Transformational Integration in Solidarity in Multiethnic Creative Texts:A Mestiza Approach to Ethnoautobiographical and Literary Critical Methodologies

Defense: 3:00pm tp 5:00pm, room 307
Celebration: 5:00pm to 6:00pm, room 308
on Thursday, February 20, 2014
1453 Mission Street, room 425

Mestizas embody the multiplicity of their ancestral locations, ethnicities, and cultures.  Being "in all cultures at the same time," as Gloria AnzaldĂșa describes, these multiethnic women are in the borderlands and the diaspora.  Biologically woven in diversity, they are often internally restless within a socially constructed racial framework that would have them identify as either "women of color" or "white" when they have Indigenous and Euroamerican subjectivities. In particular, this study addresses those Mestizas who have been raised to pass or cover as "white."  Indeed, these women, and, I argue, all Mestizas must work towards integration in solidarity, that is, internal as well as external integration (within ourselves and women's spirituality communities) while bringing a conscious solidarity to these relationships.

Organized around three literary elements - characters, imagery, and diction - this study seeks this integration in solidarity through juxtaposing creative texts that portray Mestiza multiplicity. Specifically, using a transdisciplinary Mestiza approach - bearing feminist and decolonial Indigenous lenses - with ethnoautobiographical methodologies, this research explores my Xicana-Filipina-Euroamerican creative texts to find these literary elements which encourage "integration in solidarity within." Additionally, employing a Mestiza approach to literary criticism, this scholarship engages with four published works - (Xicana) Ana Castillo's So Far From God, (Filipinas) Jessica Hagedorn's Dogeaters and Merlinda Bobis' Flight is Song on Four Winds, and (Euroamerican) Starhawk's The Fifth Sacred Thing - to deepen this research of integration in solidarity.  Altogether, this dissertation offers nepantla spaces in which Mestizas –  inspired by nepantleras and babaylans – create kapwa.

Dissertation Committee Chair:        Alka Arora, Ph.D.
Dissertation Commitee Member:    Sandra Pacheco, Ph.D.

Dissertation External Member:       Leny Strobel, Ph.D.

So, finally, a month and a half from submitting my study to my entire committee, I am back in a grounded place and space (the gorgeous Huasna Valley that reminds me so much of Mora County, New Mexico), plans have been made for the rest of the semester till I graduate, and feedback has been given (and more will come this next week) from each of my committee members.

Thus, it is time to revise!

(Ok, I do have to move into the new living space today, but I have the next 10 days to figure out what I can revise and what I can work on for "further study."  Then, I'll email -- on February 14 is my goal -- the draft out again to everyone to prep them for the defense, and I'll have 5 days or so to prep myself for the defense too. And, really, I have a powerpoint and a prezi I've used before, so, really, it's just practicing and narrowing in on what I can cover in an hour presentation/defense.)

But, it is time to revise, time to let myself fall back into my dissertation, time to make time, and time to believe in my study again.

I write all this because it is a challenge and an opportunity; it is a walk through and with vulnerability and creativity; it is the place I must confront the imposter syndrome feelings, etc etc etc.

Thankfully, my wombyn's circle on Monday tackled this issue head on, and I have a new vision board to help me!

Maestra Moraga's Writing Workshop Circle