As you’re no doubt sick of hearing, I took my PhD qualifying exams this semester. One of the things about the quals process is it leaves you so sick of everything you had to do for them that you’re super eager to have it behind you so you can finally start your dissertation. Knowing I’m someone who thrives under deadlines, I have myself a fairly compressed schedule for my dissertation. I’m supposed to start serious writing in January. If you aren’t paying attention, that’s four weeks from now.
So how’s it going? Well… I haven’t started. I don’t mean I haven’t started writing, I mean I haven’t started anything. Haven’t so much as cracked a book. And while I know some of it’s me being a slacker, most of it is that my life just won’t seem to let me.
First I was behind at all three of my jobs because of taking quals.
Then I had grant proposals due (For grants I didn’t get. Joy.).
Then I had a course proposal due (Which was rejected. Joy.).
Then there were papers that needed grading.
Then I got in hot water with the faculty over other people not doing their jobs.
Then I got severe vertigo.
Then it was the end of semester crunch.
And here we are. The real kicker is that several of those things were done with the hope of paying my bills while I write this here dissertation, and they won’t be doing that.
And at this rate I won’t be writing my dissertation either.
Today Kateri Tekakwitha was officially canonized. It’s a little odd that she is only officially canonized now, since there are several churches and at least one convent already named St. Kateri Tekakwitha, but, you know, you have to appreciate that the Catholic Church has never really discouraged its folk elements. Most sources are declaring her the first indigenous saint from North America; this is highly debatable. There’s also an Orthodox Saint Peter the Aleut; my Canadian friends seem to classify Aleuts as something other than First nations, but this is not something I know a whole lot about, so I’m not going to take a stand. I would hazard a guess he gets left out of the Vatican’s press releases on account of that whole “not being Catholic” thing (his martyrdom is actually said to have taken place at the hands of Jesuits). There’s also Juan Diego. He’s definitely indigenous, but he’s also Mexican. Apparently we’re not counting that as “North America” anymore.
Both the US and Canada want to claim her as their own; she was born in New York and died in Quebec. In reality neither nation existed yet and neither would have given her citizenship rights if it had for quite some time. So it’s all kind of a moot point.
But I don’t care that much about any of that; none of that is what I’m excited about. Why did I spend the day eagerly reading news on the canonization? Because she’s in my dissertation! So while some marked this day by praying and some by rejoicing (and a few by protesting), I spent it googling and saving stuff to Zotero. And man, I have to say, the media did not let me down as far as giving me gems to talk about. From calling her the “Pocahontas of the Catholic Church” to the AP talking about her exchanging the “totem for the crucifix” (btw, that’s totally a dissertation chapter title now, thanks AP) it was like they were just showering me with gifts.
It’s not common for anyone to see the topic of their dissertation in the news. It’s less common in my field than some. It’s unlikely to happen again for me. I can’t quite describe what it feels like. It’s kind of like how suddenly at Halloween folklorists become the cool kids everyone wants to interview. Granted no one has called to interview me about this yet… It’s a different kind of excitement though. It’s the permission to go ahead and be a know-it-all. I’m not saying I’m not one usually, but right now I can back it up.