On care-full scholarship

I woke up at four am this morning. Not something I do often, but from time to time this hour seems to be magical, necessary, and part of my process*.

I am currently in this blissful window of time and space that is post-PhD submission but pre-anything-else. Yet, I still feel the pressure. Publish or perish is never far from my mind. And so, I am awake at four am.

This liminal space is a strange one for me. I feel myself expanding into spaces that I have craved for so long – fiction, stream-of-consciousness writing, creativity, art, beauty. These are the things I had no headspace for in the thick of my PhD. I never thought I would be that person; all consumed by one project. I refuse to feel guilty about it though – my PhD really mattered, matters, to me. I put a lot of care and connection into that piece of work. I sacrificed willingly.

So now that I have submitted I am ready and excited to share that work with the world. I have published three papers out of my PhD in the process, and have two more to go. I am enjoying this process of sharing my research, my vision, my thinking with the world.

However, I am also constantly being tapped on the shoulder by the shame gremlin that says: ‘well, what next? Are you capable of turning this into the next step?’ I am all too aware of the reality of academia post-PhD, that the competition is rife and the opportunities barren. At the same time, I realise that I can only do my best, and feel heartened by my friends taking up amazing positions and doing really great work. I feel hope yet. Perhaps that is naïveté, but I remain grounded in the knowledge that I am not my PhD.

I have been speaking with a friend lately on finding, holding space for, and maintaining connectivity with my work, with the work that I value. This is where, for me, the magic lies. To me this work has a number of different facets, but primarily it is in finding that space where I feel flow and competency, where I am proud of what I am producing, and am actually producing.

My PhD sent me into the thick of anxiety, where my own scarcity and perfection narratives ran deep. In emerging from that space it was more creativity, not less, that has helped me to write (I identify as a writer – I learned long ago that being a writer is not contingent on being published).

This weekend I have turned, once again, to Brene Brown “Rising Strong“, Amanda Palmer “The Art of Asking“, Elizabeth Gilbert “Big Magic” and Sara Ahmed “Living a Feminist Life” in building shame resilience and reimagining the academe, my academe, our academe – (re)conceptualising my contribution to this space I value so very much. I will write more on this in due course, when my mind has fully captured the pattern of these patterns.

It’s now five am and I have turned to Mountz and colleagues For Slow Scholarship: A Feminist Politics of Resistance through Collective Action in the Neoliberal UniversityI first read this when it was published in 2015 and spawned a host of ‘slow scholarship’ thinkpieces. It resonated then, but with unease. It resonates even more now. I think, back then, the unease stemmed from getting caught up, as most of us did, in the ‘slow scholarship’ trendy and easy aspect of the piece – and missing where the true power lay: with the more challenging Feminist Politics of Resistance aspect. Perhaps it is my own awakening recently that has amplified this, but I now read this piece and the words of Audre Lorde and Sara Ahmed sing. The authors state “Care work is work“, and in reading this now so many connections ping in my mind. There is inherent depth and connection here. This. 

This is not about doing less work. This is not about pitting productivity against self-care. This is about self-care as productivity. Not merely in our academic work but as humans too. As scholars contributing to the collective, doing our life’s work. It matters. 

I revel in the headspace I have just now. I find myself making new connections and feeling excited about the process of discovery, and of creation. This work, this writing, takes courage. Sometimes courage is a small, quiet room. But my whole being is telling me it is time to go there.

Ultimately, I am re-discovering my own inherent care and connection with creativity in my academic work, as academic work.  This is meaningful to me. This is what scholarship means to me.

 

*This writing, this post, is part of my process, too. It was written stream-of-consciousness style with very little editing, as I often do. Today, for some yet unknown reason, it felt important to hit publish. Sometimes our words just need to be let out into the world. Please be kind with them. 

6 reasons why students should attend conferences | BMJ Injury Prevention

[Sheree Bekker] This post is from guest blogger Amy Vassallo. Amy is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney and Research Assistant at the Prevention Research Collaboration.  As an advocate for women in science she is the student representative on the Franklin Women Peer Advisory Board and curates their monthly e-newsletter. In 2017 Amy is also the student representative on the 13th Australasian Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion Conference Scientific Committee.

Read more: 6 reasons why students should attend conferences | BMJ Injury Prevention

Take Action for Injury Prevention 2017 | BMJ Injury Prevention

In his closing remarks to the 2016 World Safety conference, Professor Adnan Hyder encouraged delegates to “take action.” These words also weave through the Tampere Declaration which encourages a global commitment for stronger injury and violence prevention by integrating injury and violence prevention into other health and safety advocacy platforms.

Read more: Take Action for Injury Prevention 2017 | BMJ Injury Prevention

Trust her

Some days a strong synchronicity lingers in the air. Asking to be acknowledged, waiting for us to quieten and listen closely. Yet, too often, we turn away from this voice…’too busy’, we say, in an attempt to numb the resident shame.

So when a teacher presents a lesson in honouring that voice, in the form of your own past self…well, just sometimes the moment is magical enough to stop you in your tracks. And then you know that this is life saying: ‘I am not fucking around here…it is time to listen’

My gorgeous sister (a teacher, & my teacher in all senses of the word) recently shared a profound gift with me in the form of my own muse & creativity & deepest self : a poem that eleven year old me wrote. I don’t remember writing it, although it feels incredibly familiar to me. I had already been thinking about writing poetry again in the week before she sent it to me, so to receive this message from my sister now…well, a meaningful coincidence indeed.

 

Mother Nature

Mother Nature, who are you? 

Where are you?

What do you do?

 

I am the Mother of nature

I am in all plants around the world

And I create new plants for you.

 

Mother Nature you must be wise

And very, very clever

To think of Honeysuckles, Pansies and Poppies

And creating wonderful trees.

 

Oh, I am wise and clever, o child

But you are clever too

But only I have the power to

Create all plants and trees.

You must use your brain

To help mankind too

And never waste your time or fret

And only try a million times until you get

Your wonderful idea right instead.

 

Oh, Mother Nature, you are so kind

To help me not forget,

I have a purpose on this earth

And I have only one life,

I must use it well

And help all mankind too

Then I shall teach my children

The wise lesson you have taught me

When they ask this:

 

Mother Nature, who are you?

Where are you?

What do you do?

 

Thank you, Mother Nature!

 

(11 year old me)

 

Poetry requires no explanation, yet I felt a strong urge to write a response to this poem from current twenty-nine year old me. Likely, a different future me will need a reminder of this muse, this intuition, too.

What struck me was how deeply feminist the poem was. Overtly in the juxtaposition between Mother Nature and Mankind, and the circular nature of eleven year old me and Mother Nature. But, mostly, feminist in this eleven year old girl who had a deep conviction that her brain – more than any other quality – has a purpose in this world…I had no idea how revolutionary that was, and remains.

Particularly poignant is the gift of failure hinted at in the poem:

And never waste your time or fret

And only try a million times until you get

Your wonderful idea right instead.

I needed this poem, this lesson, this gift this week. I needed myself this week. 2016 has been hard for so many reasons, for so many of us. That this poem arrived in this liminal space before the New Year feels beyond meaningful to me.

In the current climate I feel more strongly than ever the urgency of the need to listen to our selves and share our stories. Pre-teen and teen girls are so quickly socialised into a world that wants them to be smaller, in a million different ways. Pre-teen and teen boys are so quickly socialised into the hard cage that is masculinity. For us all, shame and vulnerability seep into our very beings…and all the other things become seemingly more important than that Thing…your Thing.

So we stop creating, and we stop sharing. Which is an utter tragedy.

Follow the synchronicity. Dive deep into the vulnerablility and trust the small but courageous voice that says be brave. Create things, share your story, make bad art. This world needs that, more than ever.

You are VAST and BRILLIANT: be THAT.

S

Meet Graham and Almost Impossible Cancer Spaghetti: The intersection between injury prevention and the arts | BMJ Injury Prevention

Over this past weekend I met Graham: the only person designed to survive on our roads. Graham is a remarkable sculpture. He has been designed with the bodily features that humans would need if we were to withstand motor vehicle crashes:

As much as we like to think we’re invincible, we’re not. But what if we were to change? What if our bodies were built to survive a low impact crash? What might we look like? The result of these questions is Graham, a reminder of just how vulnerable our bodies really are.

Read more: Meet Graham and Almost Impossible Cancer Spaghetti: The intersection between injury prevention and the arts