Today is my 27th birthday. This year has been a mixture of continuities and new things, sometimes both at once. I’d like to record just a few of the highlights of my year.
1. Starting my PhD at Northeastern University. It has been great to be back in school. I’ve been out of school for three years, so it felt a little strange at first, but I got over the awkward feelings pretty quickly.
Taking classes is, of course, nothing new. in fact, after the initial adjustment period, it felt a little like I’d never been away. (That’s actually a good feeling, I think.) Even though it takes more than emotional connections to accomplish something big like a PhD, the feelings of belonging and enjoyment certainly make me think I’ve chosen the right career path.
There were a few new things about the start of classes. For one, it’s the first time I’ve taken any classes not from my undergrad alma mater. And on the surface, the contrasts between that institution and Northeastern are striking, to say the least. Nevertheless, my upper-level undergrad classes were more than adequate preparation for the courses I took this semester. And the values of hard work, integrity, and preparedness were the same here in Boston as they had been in South Carolina.
The bigger difference this time was additional responsibilities at home, namely, my daughter. She certainly makes school different from my BA and MA studies. (The general topic of having children while in grad school is one I will save for another blog post, perhaps.) But I think I did OK in managing my time so that she never felt neglected. Getting to spend lots of extra time with Daddy was probably a bonus in her mind, anyway.
2. Introduction to digital humanities. Getting involved in digital humanities has definitely been a highlight of this year. Again, here, there are continuities and new things. I had a backdoor entrance into some DH ideas because of my husband’s connections to the DH world, but I wasn’t really interested until I realized how it could work with my own ideas about history.
My newfound interest in DH has opened up more opportunities than I ever imagined. Of primary importance for me is the incredible community I now feel at least a minor part of. My initial forays into the DH community through HASTAC blossomed into other more valuable connections I gained through THATCamp New England and (mostly) through Twitter.
Twitter has proved to be my primary path into the DH community. I was assured early in the semester that the community is very welcoming, and that claim has been substantiated many times over. From getting simple technical support for silly questions, to involvement in DigiWriMo, to having a voice in discussions about the future of higher education, Twitter contacts have enriched my academic life in ways unique and unexpected. I hope that I have managed to provide at least a little enrichment of the same kind to my Twitter followers.
3. Watching M grow. OK, I know I already mentioned her, but I love that little girl, and watching her grow from a 4-month-old into a very intelligent, very sweet 16-month-old toddler has been nothing short of amazing.
As 2013 arrives, I’m anticipating that its highlight reel will look very similar to this year’s. I’m greatly looking forward to my courses this coming semester, not least because one of them is about DH. My TA assignments also split evenly between maritime history and DH, so I anticipate a lot of great work coming out of those two assignments. I’m hoping to attend another THATCamp in 2013, maybe two, as well as one or two naval history conferences, so I hope to continue to build and strengthen mutually beneficial connections with people in my fields.
So here’s to a great 2013!