I read with great interest and furious devotion a blog that the singer/song writer Josh Ritter had written a few years back. His blog, ‘Book of Jubilation’, was a way for him to converse with his many fans, share his ‘tricks of the trade’ for making it in the music industry, and generally about how he goes through his exciting life of being a working and travelling musician. Though I am not a musician (some days I still think it could happen!), I found many of his tips and pieces of advise relevant to my life.
If you have yet to read it, I highly recommend checking it out: http://thebookofjubilations.tumblr.com/
Though I do not purport to do the same here, I find inspiration best to hold close, and so thought it appropriate to reference Josh’s blog at the outset.
One of my favourite passages from Josh’s blog (called “We’re All Going to Die”), reads:
“As you begin to try to make a living in music, you need to fix your eyes on what is beyond all the little stuff you’re going to have to go through. In choosing to make a life in music, you are choosing to be a part of something grand. You are making, helping to make, or presenting engines of human understanding for yourself and others that attempt to make sense of the big questions. Whether the song is serious or not, an hour long or a few seconds, it may one day help you or someone else to understand a tiny piece of the enigma around us. Most of the real truths in life I’ve gotten from other people’s songs. I carry them around in my head. They make me happy because they give me a way to understand my own experiences.”
Man, what a way to describe one’s onset into the music business! Equally so, I think Josh speaks to any calling. And, especially, I think this reads true for those pursuing a PhD. I believe that in order to survive — yes, survive in a very real sense — I will need to keep my eyes on what is beyond all the little stuff, and remind myself that I will be/am part of something grand. Im helping “make sense of the big questions” and will hopefully help me or someone else “understand a tiny piece of the enigma around us”. Or, at least, one should hope.
Okay, so maybe a life (or at least a few years) in academic pursuits isn’t quite like a life in music, but its an art just like music is. Its a craft. Its deliberate. Its all consuming. It takes soul searching, and it takes humour. We can get lost in ourselves, and lost in the songs (or ideas, or theories) of others. We hope that when pen hits paper, there will be a higher achievement (other than finger exercises).
What I am trying to achieve with my own blog is slightly (or perhaps, drastically) different. This blog is meant to be a journal of sorts. Its meant to capture my thoughts, ideas, rants and raves, as I travel down this long path of a PhD. It will be a time for reflection on where I am going. A place to store ideas for later. A repository for my frustrations. An excuse to write (which is my trade, currently). It will also allow me to look back and see my progress, to remind me that I am not standing still in a shallow pool, but riding a swift current that is taking me farther than I may at times realize.
I’ve just started along the path of this PhD – only 8 months in and at the beginning stages of studying for my comprehensives, putting together my research proposal with my committee, and trying to decide where in the world I might want to do my research. Is it exciting? Well, not entirely. Is it frustrating? Certainly. Is it frightening? Depends on the day. But, what the entire process does promise is a life altering experience, one that I hope will be for the better.
So, with having said all this, I hope to use this blog to its fullest potential, with regular updates, bits of information thrown in, with a smattering of inspirational quotes, and a pinch of brilliance I can call upon when feeling not so sharp.
One quote I had in my research journal I put together for GEOG 523 is quite appropriate, as it reminds me to stay human, to stay real, and to remember, when I can and as often as I can, have some fun:
“I must inquire, Wilson, can you still have fun?”