• Denby Weller

Journal Prompt 8

If the fabric of space-time got warped, and you met yourself from January 2020, what advice would you give them to help get through the first semester of study? Now imagine your future self from October 2021 walks into the room. What do you think they will tell you about how to get the most out of the next 12 months?

If there's anything I've learned from 2020 it's that my future forecasting skills are pretty much zero. The last 12 weeks have had a few surprises – not all of them to do with COVID, living in a new place or starting a new job.

The first thing me from 12 weeks ago would need to know is that the content of this unit of study is not what I'd expected – but I do still need to allocate time to developing that knowledge base. The nuts and bolts of 'how to do my PhD' is an ongoing source of discovery (read: consternation), as the various publications I've read haven't really summed it up. So July Me needs to know A) not to worry about that, and B) that I'll eventually work it out and won't get chucked out of the course.

July Me also needs to know that the ongoing journey of redesigning my research project for the degree is... well, ongoing. It's frustrating, exciting, scary, frustrating again, and still not over. I am beginning to suspect that this will be a continuing theme for the whole of the PhD – once I work out the research method, it'll only give rise to more high-stakes questions that take time and a lot of reading, talking, thinking, reading some more, to answer. Note to self for 2021!

The structure of fortnightly meetings with Heather has been a complete godsend, and has really kept me plugged into the project. That's been a surprise, as I'd sort of intended to cram the research into the summer break. Over the next three years, I can see myself developing some real muscle around incorporating research practice into my weekly schedule, and I know this will be especially important for my future (not to mention, heaps of fun!).

Speaking of fun, that has been a surprising discovery too – this deep conceptual reading, and this feeling that I'm always just at the edge of my cognitive ability, is really good fun. I find myself wanting to spend more time on this and less on everything else related to my academic life... I expect that to continue and deepen, and to shape my career in ways I never anticipated when I started teaching in 2017.

As for Future Me? I think... Well, if there's anything that 2020 has taught me, it's that my forecasting skills are pretty much zero.

I found the pigs in Tonga really captivating, so I decided to shoot a photoessay of Tongan pigs. This is the only good shot I got. It turns out that pigs are actually very camera shy, and getting a shot in focus and correctly exposed with such a flighty subject was not as easy as capturing a sunset. This is one of my favourite half-baked Denbyisms. I don't know why. Maybe because pigs are inherently amusing.

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