August 2009


The sun has finally showed up today, which is nice. I haven’t seen much of the Chicago area in the past few weeks (school and neighborhood). I’m going to miss it. I’m a sentimental fool at times, but I did like living here. I did make some friends. I think, unfortunately, to continue the theme from Fight Club (a small handful of my friends and I have been obsessing over it; it’s amazing if you haven’t seen it), I came to Chicago at a very strange time in my life.

Moving this time has been one of the more stressful moves. I’ve never hired movers before, let alone cat movers. The communication has been fair to poor, and that leaves me anxious.

I look forward to leaving Chicago right now, because my life feels like it’s stagnant. I have an interview Monday and hopefully another interview this week coming up (I received a call back interview from a job I had interviewed before). I like Chicago a lot, and I ambivalent about moving back to the East coast; however, there are simply not jobs here. I did try getting a job here for quite a while, and it just isn’t happening. I’m not convinced that it is me but the economy. Five people in the class before me don’t have jobs; that’s 5 out of 7, and one of them had a job coming into grad school. Some of them haven’t had a job for about a year. It’s scary times out there. As much asĀ  I hate a thousand mile move, I can’t wait around on a job that probably doesn’t exists. The odds don’t appear to be in my favor.

Even though I’d close to being done with packing, there is still more to do. I guess the next time I write, I’ll be in Providence, RI.

I have been looking at what search terms bring people here. One of the searches is “don’t like my dance studio.” I’m not sure what the person who was searching for it hopes to find, but I suspect maybe advice on what to do.

My first question is why s/he doesn’t like the dance studio. Is it the environment (catty students)? The teacher (incompetent, ineffective, just don’t jive)? The classes (switching times, offerings)? The physical space (too small, cold, far from home)? Once you know why you don’t like something, a solution is easier to find.

If you don’t like the students, how much do they affect you? I’ve been non-dance situations where I don’t like the people but I have to take a class. I’m polite and civil, but I’m not best friends with them. I learned to make the best out of it that way, because I like other things about the class.

If it’s the teacher you don’t like, I would be more inclined to leave the studio, depending on the situation. Students come and go all the time, teachers often stay at a studio for awhile (or forever). Figure out what you don’t like, though. If she lacks skill or you can’t learn from her for whatever reason, I’d leave. If she isn’t the warmest person, I’d reconsider. I’ve had good teachers who I don’t love and I’m not close to, but I’ve learned a lot from. If the teacher is just plain mean or abusive (insults students), I’d definitely leave without a second though. A former dance teacher of mine once said “I’m not paying money to be insulted and feel bad about myself.” I think that is excellent advice. You do want a teacher who’ll correct you, but there is a difference between correcting you and making you feel awful.

If you’ve talked to me in the last few weeks, flakiness annoys the heck out of me. I can empathize with people who have issues with unreliability, especially with classes. In that case, I’d suggest talking to the teacher/director about that matter in a polite way. Ask why it is and is there any way to ensure that the classes always run. If what you’re after isn’t being offered, you have two options. Find a new teacher or see if your current one is game for starting a new topic. I know both of my teachers were always interested in suggestions; I think some of mine have even helped start classes. Sometimes, teachers don’t know if their students want to learn new stuff. I know Sonya has honored requests, if there are a lot, for class time changes.

If you don’t like the physical space, I’d step back and figure how bad it really is. If it’s cold, you can always layer on clothes. Working in a small space may or may not be an issue; in Middle Eastern dance, there isn’t always a lot of traveling or moving about the stage. The stage sometimes is only 4 feet by 4 feet! Sometimes people carpool if the class is far; you save gas and you have a friend along for the ride.

The last thing, before you call it quits at a studio, is figure out if it isn’t them but you. I’ve been there about getting discouraged by my lack of progress at times. I know sometimes people feel like the teacher is “jus jellus”, but perhaps you really aren’t ready for the next level or to perform. If you have a good teacher (knows his/her stuff, is honest and helpful, etc.), you should trust and respect their opinion.

Ultimately, you have to weigh out the pros and cons and figure out what’s most important to you. Your money and time are important, so why waste it if you are unhappy somewhere? Shira’s site has an amazing directory of teachers; it is the largest one on the internet. If you want more of a recommendation for a new teacher, ask around on Bhuz, tribe, Livejournal, or the many other communities; people are always willing to recommend others. Good luck!

Evidently, according to some study, we’re not doing too well. I agree that paying math and science teachers more isn’t the answer. How does that help, if they’re not doing a good job? Obviously, teachers should be paid well. A friend made a video that has good ideas on how to improve education. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he has, but I think it is definitely a starting point to really analyze we’re behind. The video is located here. Make sure have about a half hour to watch it.

I haven’t gotten to see very much lately of the city, besides my school and where I live, but I started realizing today that I did grow to enjoy living here. Chicago isn’t perfect, to say the least, but it has been home for the past 2 years. After being rather transient (since I was 17, I’ve spent the academic year living in one place and summers somewhere else), I liked living in one place consistently. For misc. reasons, I’ve lacked a lot of stability in my life since my mother died, so being in one place and having a routine was good for me. That isn’t say that I would’ve been thrilled having a set routine in another city. People in Chicago are incredibly nice. It’s very pretty, and I love my neighborhood.

One of the biggest disappointments for me this summer has been that I haven’t had the time to trek up to Arabesque or go take lessons with Danielle. I’m going to miss them. I have had a lot of growth in my dance since moving here; I think I have more questions than answers, though! The more I’ve learned the less I realize know or am solid about, like what style am I? I regret not playing more in the dance community, too. They are very nice people, and- it’s nice to be a part of a good community. I’m thankful that I did participate in the community, even if it was on the fringes.

Probably around every time this year, I write something about getting nostalgic. I’m not one who embraces changes. The unknown scares the beejezus out of me, honestly. Some people say good things can happen, but I don’t see why bad things aren’t equally probable. I still don’t have a job. The money Obama is pumping into science- it happens in September, allegedly, but national labs take a long time to hire, and who knows what kind of jobs they are? One of the downsides of physics jobs is that they want specific knowledge and experience. I talked with a professor the other day; his best advice was to learn as much as you can and network like crazy.

In any case, the summer is drawing itself to a close. It’s cold here in Chicago, about 60some degrees Farenheit. The future is creeping in, even in the weather.

My thesis defense was yesterday. It went okay. I was disappointed by the lack of crowd (one adjunct admitted he went to the beach). The presentation was not flawless. I use Keynote, which is the Mac version of Powerpoint; I prefer it, though I have Powerpoint. The day before, when I rehearsed, Keynote had an aweseome presenter only display, where I had a clock and my notes on my screen, and the presentation on the big screen. True to how life rolls, I wasn’t able to get that back the next day, even though I hadn’t changed any settings on my compuer and no one had used the room for my presentation.

The defense part (the part behind closed doors) was intense. At least mine wasn’t a friendly meeting of professors; we were there for business and nothing nice. I have to do rewriting. Everyone has different standards; some things that my advisor had wanted me to do and loved were things the committee hated. Go figure. The only bad thing about the edits are that some of them I need to have access to stuff at school. Due to my job search and lack of job, I am moving in with a friend in Providence, RI next week sometime. I have to work hard to get stuff done all while packing.

The other thing that made yesterday rough was a friend wanted to cancel on me for moving. I was relying on this, since I’m moving within a week or so. I have since found a reasonable mover, but I now need to figure out how to move my cats. Airlines won’t let me fly with three cats or buy seats or anything like that. I’m not sure why, but that’s what I found out from customer service tonight. Anyone have any advice?

That’s where my life stands. My big relaxing stuff today (and part of yesterday when I wasn’t freaking out about my move) was eating malai kofta from my favorite Indian restaurant, playing Sims 3, and sitting around in my PJs.

Tomorrow is my defense. My advisor, the kid who defends Wednesday, and I did a dry run, along with two others.

Remarkably, my dry run was painless. I have to make some corrections tonight, but beyond that- it went well for my first, last, and only dry run. I have to admit I was nervous- I respected everyone’s opinion in the room, and I don’t have that much time to make major corrections. Also, being questioned is not fun at all. I was particularly scared when M, the guy going on Wednesday, was asked a series of difficult questions. My questions weren’t easy, either, and my advisor has one mean poker face (I couldn’t tell until I finished answering if I was on the right track or I was completely wrong). Thank goodness, I was right with my answers.

Around this time tomorrow, I will most likely have an answer of whether I have successfully defended my thesis. Please send happy, good vibes my way.

So my thesis has gone to committee. Scary, huh? I spent yesterday scrambling to get myself together; Mathematica crashed on me 5 times. While that sounds unfortunate but not too bad, Mathematica chose to crash when I finished loading all 6 sets of data. Those six sets take about an hour to load.

I’m right now saving video and putting together my talk. I look forward to it on some level. I like talking :), but I’m also a little nervous. I’m only getting one dry run through it on Monday with my advisor.

I’m also a bit sad. A few people who I would have loved to have show up will not be. Oh well. I plan on doing what a former grad student did after he got through the grilling: sleeping. I sleep terribly right now. I don’t want to do poorly. I don’t want to be stuck in huge rewrites (I learned today that a former grad student had 40 pages to add onto his). I expect some revisions, but I don’t want to get swamped. Right now, I’m simply too busy. I’m thesising, working on getting a job, TAing, and trying to plan a move. A lot for one person to get done in a short amount of time.

I defend on Tuesday. Wish me luck!

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