Don’t think it; say it

gritte-346468-unsplashPhoto by Gritte on Unsplash

My neglected blog is receiving some attention again. I had the opportunity to guest on Yecid Ortega’s podcast Chasing Encounters this past week at OISE. The episode airs on Tuesday. We talked about International Women’s Day, digital self-directed professional development, and my research.

At a time when I am flummoxed with research possibilities, preparing for a podcast applied pressure on me to express the essence of what direction I want to pursue. Yecid’s thirty minute podcast touches on several issues, and my research interests need to be described in a succinct manner for an unseen audience. In the background of this podcast preparation, my coursework as a PhD student approaches completion; no more classes, no more notes, no more group work, no more direction from pre-assigned tasks which guide and shape responses. Dead air and self-direction  – the fears of broadcasters and graduate students, respectively.

A deadline from Yecid: “Prepare some guiding thoughts.”

Forced into action, I DM him my bio (easy), I give him some topics (still easy), and I also message:

“I’d like to address digital footprints as a form of reflection, briefly, maybe.”

So wimpy. Not at all what I think. Why so weak?

In the fall of 2017, I expected this to be a moment of clarity for me; my research plan would evolve organically after I completed my required coursework. I strategized about assignments and readings. #AcademicTwitter assisted graduate student me: academics talk openly about stress, mental health, doubt, confirmation bias, tenure, and imposter syndrome. Nothing though, prepares me for this step. Talking about my planned research exposes me, makes me vulnerable to questions. I recoil at the thought. But I promised Yecid. I don’t want to let him down. I think as I drive, I think as I prepare dinner, I think as I run, I think. I don’t write anything down. Yecid told me to bring notes.

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On the morning of the podcast, I go for another run and when I return home, I walk into the kitchen, grab a blotchy pen, and start jotting down my thoughts. I’m afraid they won’t settle in my mind long enough for me to remember when we record. My thoughts sound satisfactory, even respectable, in my head. I allow my ideas to circle in lieu of rehearsal as I take the Gardiner to OISE, and hope I can make myself understood when we converse.

Yecid and I have to wait for a mixer and a mic gone AWOL before we can get to recording in the studio. We chat, he prods, I answer, he pushes a bit more, I answer again, and he asks some more questions about where I want to go as a researcher and what I want to research; how I want to research; where I want to research. Each response helps him understand what I want to do and why I want to do it. Yecid thinks it’s a good direction; he reminds me that I need to position myself and that I need to demonstrate how my research will be a novel contribution to existing research on professional development and self-directed learning, and/or sociocultural theory, and/or landscapes of practice, and/or posthumanism/activity theory…

The opportunity to warm up before we began recording our exchange helped me; I respond and react to Yecid’s manner of interviewing: he doesn’t interrupt me, he checks his notes briefly as I speak, and it doesn’t feel much different from the way we usually talk. I find myself smiling and nodding as our exchange unfolds from the general to the specific. The thirty-odd minutes progress and I make it to the end, still smiling.

Did I say everything I wanted to say in the way that I had planned? No.

But I did write it down. At home. For the first time. From positionality, to theoretical framework, to methodology, to data collection, and analysis.

It will change. I know this.

And I’ll share here as it grows. At least the biga is fermenting.

julian-hochgesang-1178002-unsplashPhoto by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash

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