Chicago

Today I'm off to Chicago to attend the Urban History Association Biennial Conference. For the first time, I'm attending a conference without presenting my own work. Without the distraction of performance anxiety, I am especially looking forward to sitting in on a variety of panels and learning about the newest scholarship. It is also an opportunity to catch up with colleagues and friends, and to make new acquaintances. I'm optimistic that it will be a worthwhile and fulfilling experience!

Chicago from the 51st floor, looking south towards downtown from an apartment building in Lakeview. 

The Painted Ponies Go Up and Down

I prefer to set annual goals on the occasion of the Jewish New Year rather than on January 1, because it coincides with the academic year and the cycle of productivity that academia imposes. Last year, before Rosh Hashanah, I set three goals for myself: 

  • Write 3 dissertation chapters.
  • Get an article out for review.
  • Visit a new place. Preferably a tropical island.

Well, I came close. I only submitted one chapter to my committee, though two more are almost finished. I wrote an article, but am still working on revisions and have not yet sent it to a journal. I slayed the final goal, however, by visiting two new places this year--Nashville and Croatia--and even if neither were a tropical island, Croatia was pretty darn close. 

When I set these goals, they felt very manageable--I was not trying to be too ambitious. And yet this year has taught me that I'm not very good at estimating what I can accomplish in a set time. Three weeks ago, I vowed to myself that I would finish the chapter (now chapters, plural) that I have been working on by tomorrow, the last day of September. I worked so hard, and so badly wanted to achieve this goal, but I did not even come close. It was not for lack of effort. This chapter has required more research and methodological rigor than I could have ever imagined, and it was time consuming work. I think it has all been worth it, but I need at least another week, or maybe even two, to finish writing, editing, and polishing the chapters before they're ready for my advisor to read. I set an overambitious goal, and I should not be disappointed that I failed to meet it--it still motivated me to do my best work. And that, after all, is the real goal of setting goals.