I teach literature in higher education, but I have become increasingly absorbed by how and who we teach rather than what we teach. This is why I decided to pursue a Master of Education to complement my literature and language degrees. More specifically, I now study contemplative pedagogy. This approach incorporates first-person (personal), second-person (relational), and third-person (other) investigations. For example, it considers the student's experience of a given text as valid research material that can enrich more traditional academic sources.
This is a long and convoluted story. My undergraduate degree was in translation studies (Dutch-English-Italian-Modern Greek), which I chose because I wanted to study languages. During those four years, I discovered I didn't want to become a translator, so I decided to go to business school with the intention of then using my languages to work in import-export. Though I felt emotionally disconnected from my business courses, I had the most wonderful time with my international cohort. After I finished my business degree, I decided to return to my love for the humanities, and disregard concerns about employability. I pursued an MA in American Studies. After my business school experience, this felt like coming home again. During my literature courses, I thought: oh, I would like to teach a course like this. I found out that most literature professors in the program had Ph.D.s in Comparative Literature from US universities, and that seemed like the logical next step. The following two years, I taught college English, business English (in my previous business school!), and Italian in adult education, as I went through two rounds of applications to Ph.D. programs. I picked the right offer for me, and moved to the US to start a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature. During the many years of hard work in graduate school, I also explored and fell in love with the field of contemplative studies. The move from business school back to the humanities to contemplative studies can be traced as a progression from disinterest to interest to care. I had found the thing I didn't just enjoy thinking and writing about, but wanted to embody, experience, and practice. A discovery like this is nothing short of transformative.
My typical day varies greatly. It may involve teaching, preparing to teach, or grading. I may also have to get through reading for the courses I'm taking as a student myself, or write essays for those courses. I may spend some part of the day developing activities for any of the research assistant positions I hold. I also periodically present my research at conferences, so I may be preparing a conference presentation as well.
I find it challenging to stay creative as I shape my career. And while I love all of the things I do, it's difficult to be working on so many different projects.
It's invaluable to be able to talk and write about abstract ideas and concrete experiences for a living. My added focus on contemplative pedagogy means that my personal and professional lives are one, and growth in one area brings about growth in the other. That is quite amazing in a world where many desperately try to carve out time for themselves without compromising their careers, and try to develop professionally without burning out. In my life, I can categorize meditation and yoga as professional development.
I divide my time between working from home, working on campus, and I get some of my reading done in my neighborhood coffee shop.
Gather as much information as you can about your career options, and take advantage of everything your university has to offer. Venture outside of your department, and participate in events and workshops in the various centers on campus. You can create your own funding and learning opportunities just by reaching out, and having a variety of experiences will help you later on.
Love what you do! Pour your whole self into it; then let go of your expectations.
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