Maintaining Direction

For the first time since I was 5 (probably 3, but Kindergarten was a bit more relaxed so I’m not counting it), I began March thoroughly directionless. I’ve always had something I was beginning in March – a new year at school or university, something to aim for, something with structure and progress and direction. This March was different.

March began the way February ended – directionless. Obviously I’m still doing things, applying for jobs, blogging, seeing friends, but it’s not the same. This year was always supposed to be a great from study, my gap year if you like. I wanted a year out of education to make sure I was going into post-grad for the right reasons, not just because it was the nextstep on from honours. I didn’t want to be that person who goes straight from high school to undergrad to post-grad to working as an academic without experiencing any of the outside world. I wanted to give myself the time to really work out what I want to research, not just throw together a research proposal to meet the October deadline (btw, I don’t think any of my friends did this, it’s what I would have done because I am me).

I still want these things. I still want to experience a bit of the world before I commit myself to academia (well, to postgrad). I still want to have my gap year. I just miss having something I’m working towards. I love having time to read and write and watch netflix without feeling guilty, but I miss the constant background drive, the constant urge to be doing something, researching something. Basically, I miss studying.

Now, instead of moping around like a little moper (that’s what Alex would call me), I’ve decided to look at this year a different way. Aka the way I was originally looking at it before I went down the rabbit hole of unproductivity (I know it’s not a word) and moping.

Basically, I’m thinking of 2017 as one big ass preparation year. I already have a few ideas in mind of the general type of thing I want to research, so I’m going to use this year to develop the skills I need to do it, and to get super totally prepared. What are they, you ask?

Learn Scottish Gaelic and (maybe) Irish and Welsh. I know I want to continue to focus on Celtic Studies, and I know I want to maybe research something involving language, so learning Celtic languages seems like the obvious place to start. Also Gareth keeps telling me I should really learn them, and I can’t really disagree with that. I’ve started Scottish Gaelic through a little online lesson thingy, just to get the basics. From there, I’ll probably move onto textbooks and try and find a little speaking group I can go and meet with. Oh, and watch BBC Alba (Scotland’s Gaelic TV channel) whilst I have access to it.

Research. I discovered last year, somewhat unexpectedly, that I really enjoy reading academic texts. I particularly enjoy reading them when I don’t have to take mountains of notes. So that’s the plan. Expand my knowledge. Delve into the context. All that good stuff. Also keep reading academic things so I don’t forget to write like an academic, because, as you may have guessed, it’s a little different from how I write on this blog.

Keep organised. It’s a lot harder to slip into directionless despair when you’re working towards goals. So that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’ve set up a bullet journal (the only planning method that really works for me), filled it with lists of goals and tasks, and committed to stick to it. It keeps me accountable, but also shows me how much I’m achieving each day/week, which helps fight off cases of “what am I doing with my life I have no direction” blues. Also, my bullet journal is orange, so it sort of stares at me from wherever it is until I pick it up. And a bloody love lists, so for some strange reason using it makes me weirdly happy.

Enjoy. This may sound stupid, but bear with me. I love history. I loved my thesis topic, and I never got sick of it throughout honours. I want to get into the habit of bringing that love of history into my everyday life (outside of annoying Alex with “fun facts”). I’m really enjoying my little history walks series (I don’t even care if no one else is), so I want to keep doing that. It gives me a good excuse to explore more of Edinburgh (and Scotland/the UK in general), and I get to nerd out over history. I also want to try and go to more history-related talks, and read some history books outside of my specific research interests.

So basically, I’m using this year to become even more of a nerd than I already am. I don’t have a problem with this.

(You may be thinking “what does the featured image have to do with this post?” The answers: 1) I love Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Marvin, and 2) It’s a reminder to myself. Don’t panic. You got this.


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