One year ago today I officially received my diploma and became Avigail S. Oren, Ph.D. It was the best week of my life: I had my family and friends in town to celebrate with me; my mom and mother-in-law and dear friends Desiree and Kip coordinated to throw me a big graduation party (and the weather was truly perfect); and I also got married the weekend before.
As if an omen, that week kicked off what has been the best year of my life. I started a business and found that self-employment really suits me. I joined a co-working space and met smart, kind, and funny co-coworkers, and through the internet I met other self-employed PhDs; all have been mentors and cheerleaders. I took on the role of webmaster for the Urban History Association and began co-editing The Metropole, which has kept me active and engaged in a field I still love. I experimented with Living Room Learning. I found an amazing collaborator in Ada Barlatt and together we developed the DEVONthink for Historians guide. I launched Brisket. I started reading fiction again. I escaped winter and became a snowbird. I was more active in my local community.
I admit that there's a paranoid, superstitious part of me that feels this year has been too good to be true. The other shoe is bound to drop. A new challenge will surface soon.
That may be true, or it may not be, but I think what's certain is that graduate school was a drag and took a huge toll on my mental health. Earning my PhD and leaving academia gave me sovereignty over my career--and I have made the best of it. For me, that freedom has been the key to happiness.
Here's what captured my attention this week...
I'm reading: some good, and varied, books! I had several holds come in from the library all at once--popular new books with long hold lists that I would not be able to renew--and so I put aside I Hotel and the Adrienne Rich collection. I want to focus on the book that I managed to finish, though I'm in the midst of two others--Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helen Peterson and The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish--that I'll circle back to next week.
I made quick work of Michelle McNamara's I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer. I'd had it on my TBR (To Be Read) list since its publication was announced, even though I don't generally read true crime, because the backstory intrigued me. McNamara died tragically at age 46, leaving the half-finished manuscript for this book to be pieced together by fellow amateur investigators. That fact ultimately handicaps I'll Be Gone in the Dark. By the end I was skimming because there was so much repetition and redundant presentation of data, which I can only assume is the result of there being too many cooks in the kitchen. Nevertheless, the parts that McNamara did write were gripping. The Golden State Killer is a compelling and creepy-as-hell character, a multi-hyphenate criminal (prowler, burglar, rapist, and killer) whose compulsions organically escalate the tension and plot of his narrative. McNamara writes gracefully and humanely about the victims of his crimes, and is self aware about the obsessiveness that both the investigators and the criminal himself share. So it's a book I would recommend, with the caveat that it's a little bit of a mess.
I'm listening to: A new single by El Kuelgue, "Con Dios," which I hope presages a new album.
I'm watching: Season 2 of Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix. This show is so underrated, and I cannot understand why it's not getting more buzz! It's a bizarre premise--realtor Sheila Hammond (Drew Barrymore) dies and comes back to life as a more energetic and assertive version of herself, but now with a taste for human flesh--but the show fundamentally explores how families endure dramatic transitions. Yes, an undead mother is an extreme example, but it allows the show to tread universal territory in a way that is SO funny. Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant have snappy and sharp dialogue to work with, making what could have been simple, stock characters into dynamic and energizing personalities. What else do I have to say to convince you to watch it!?
Enjoy posts like this one? Check out Brisket to read more about what's on my mind--just bring some bread to go with the meal!