Independent scholar, cat addict, tattoo lover

Life and work of an indy scholar part 2 - It’s been a week with high professional ups encircled with a deep down in my private life. Literally encircled in time, as last Sunday I heard the sad news that one of my closest friends had suddenly lost her beloved husband the day before, and today we had his funeral. In the emotional rollercoaster that followed the news, I managed to escape into my mind once in a while, like I’m doing now with ordering the work I did this week.

This Monday I had a meeting with the people of Meet my Street. They put social issues on the agenda with the help of film. Our joint project is about PhDs who enter the job market. It’s part of a campaign that aims to shed light on the options that PhDs have both inside and outside of academia, and to raise awareness that it’s a good idea to start thinking about life after the viva at an early stage. Let’s face it, the academic job market is tight and a lot of PhDs leave the university. It would be a waste of intellectual capital if they were to underuse their brains at work. Last year we had already spoken with several stakeholders and they were all enthusiastic about our proposal. This week I managed to make appointments with two more potentially interested parties. It feels great to move beyond the research data and to constructively address a problem many academics face.
On Tuesday I had a workshop with civil servants who wanted to learn about narrative research for their own practice. This was the last of four sessions and they had prepared a database with coded narrative fragments. I showed them how to identify patterns in the data. It was an intense session and I’m confident they know what to do next. On Wednesday I gave two workshops to teachers who want to apply for funding for a PhD project. In the Netherlands, a lot of PhD candidates are external and NWO (Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk onderzoek, Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) supplies grants for non-university teachers as a means to improve education. As I co-authored a handbook for external PhD candidates in 2013, NWO invited my co-author and myself to deliver workshops that help the aspiring PhD candidates to prepare their application. My first two workshops, in November, were about methodology, those of last Wednesday were about academic writing and about feasibility. We also sold several copies that day and by the way, writing a book is an excellent way of creating a steady stream of income, and these kinds of workshops are a nice spin-off too. I know that Wednesday is our weekend, but for an independent scholar it would be silly to turn down the opportunity to make some money, and we spend an easy evening for compensation. Then Thursday I went with a colleague to see two project developers about our potential involvement in one of their latest projects. Nothing is definite yet, but this could become a very exciting project and I’m really looking forward to put my energy and creativity into it. And in conclusion of my week I hosted a mystery tour yesterday. I had designed a walking tour throughout the city of Nijmegen with several puzzles one could only solve by using everything the environment had to offer as information. It was the premiere of this city game that is meant to make the participants aware of the richness in knowledge and wisdom that a city contains, for instance as expressed in graffiti, historic sites and urban art. I also offer these games to civil servants and public professionals, to reground them into the territory in which they operate and to make them see their city with fresh eyes.

And then came today. The funeral was a sad event, of course, but also a celebration of the love they had for each other and for the world. And a love they shared with a lot of people. I recognized a lot of people she also works with. In fact, that’s how our own friendship started too. The line between work and private life can be very thin, even absent. That only increases the number of sources that can inspire you. Two months ago, when my friend learned she was very ill, she and her husband drew up a bucket list. It was on the reverse of the mourning card. I so wished they had more time to get some of their items ticked. And now, while writing about my past week, I realize that my current wish list is also some sort of bucket list, but without the immediacy of a bucket to kick. Life is too short to be doing stuff you don’t have your heart in. So while writing this blog, I also made a preliminary design for a booklet I want to publish this year. In the last year, I’ve been looking for ways to address other than mere academic and professional publics. I want to make my work as a scholar in narrative sociology accessible to a broad public with the strategy of ‘show, don’t tell’. I think I’ve found a way and today stimulated me to get started. That too is what death does, it reminds us that we are still alive.

Part 1: Life and work of an indy scholar          Part 3: Me in a getting-things-done mode          All weekly blogs