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Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Notebooks, a.k.a. You know going for a PhD if…

Me and my stone-age tablet. Hey, didn't Moses write on tablets?

I know. I'm still in the Age of the Dinosaur when it comes to small modern gadgets that I've been told could be used to call, SMS, take pictures, book appointments, scribble notes, and play Candy Crush all at the same time. In 2013 A.D., I still have a basic mobile phone (from 2004. I'll hop and cheer when it turns 10), I use a cheapo spiral-bound calendar, and I write my checklists and ideas in Post-its and notebooks. 

Recently, when I browsed through one of these notebooks looking for usable material for my thesis introduction, I just had to smile about the quirkiness of this old-style hardware over digital files. In notebooks, I tend to scribble rather than write. Also, rather than being in neat subfolders, my Intellectual Life and Life in General share the same spaces in my notebooks, just as they do in my brain. I found a Post-it note between the pages, now pinned to my corkboard because it made me laugh:

“Relationality is a result of the data ... Water plants.”

This afternoon, I cleaned my office from unused paper. I thought that since this was my last PhD year, I'd save myself future trouble of having to deal with articles and course notes that were just, at present, gathering dust on my shelves. And you know how it is, when you find yourself there with half of your body submerged in a pile of paper to sort: you begin reading random stuff, and reminisce. I remember having the same feeling after college, when I was supposedly cleaning my room and found Val's and my “Nonsense notebook”, which was passed weekly between us in senior year. Come to think of it, I've always doodled and passed notes in class (more like wads of paper flying across the room), since grade school. I even got caught once, by the math teacher I was writing about. She took my note and read it. Thank goodness for codenames. She was clueless.

Fast forward to PhD years, I'm still writing notes, but mostly to myself...

...when pooped / dead tired / knocked out (KO'd).

(Interesting with the Paper-Tetris detail.)

... or when stuck / frustrated — and I'm both struggling and yet trying to force myself to work (I'm both the ranter and the beater here):

Thanks to these random notes, I remember what must have been happening in my life around the time of the lectures / seminars / conferences. In the pages of one notebook, I wrote “SIMNING” (“SWIMMING”) in big letters under lecture notes. Elsewhere I wrote the word “MIDDAG” (“DINNER”). When I wrote notes during my meeting with my supervisor, I must have just gotten my car because the message at the margin reads: “Car parking 250/month; Tax 350/year. Full insurance!”. I also must have went hiking after coming back from one conference, because after my notes on Biography and mental health and Defamilization of care, I find GPS coordinates and a weather forecast.

In between course notes, I take time to hone the artistic and creative right side of my brain:

Food, cats, and stick figures abound among thoughts on student essays, outlines of articles I plan to write and notes about everything from phenomenology to dementia. I even drew a plan for how to build a cat-climbing tower. I'm aware that I might be wasting a portion of these tax money-paid notebooks. Maybe I can make up for that later, when I start to raise my own research money.

Between pages of (actually!) serious thoughts and my reflections about interview data, I found this remark, apparently about my state that day:

Very mature. I bet you can really tell that I'm a PhD candidate.

And I bet you don't have anything like that saved in your phone.


Anonymous jeline said...

I love the Fika doodle! Glad to know I have a fellow analog-lover. I have a smartphone which has been marvelous (especially during fieldwork, since it takes pictures as well as pretty good video and audio recordings), but i find myself switching back to notebooks all the time.

2:14 PM


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