Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Long and Winding Road

Last week, I finished what was literally a long road in the course of my life, when I officially stopped being a student and completed my dissertation. I've been in college in some form or another for 13 years straight now and so I am very much looking forward to this period of my life where hokkok i umestudiante-ku, or I'm through being a student.

I first started college in 1997, at Cuesta Community College. I spent three semesters there before transferring to the University of Guam. By spring of 2001 I graduated with a double major from UOG in Fine Arts and English/Literature. While I was an undergraduate at UOG, I had two one-man exhibitions of my artwork, the first in 1999 titled "Typhoon: An Island's Intensity" and the second in 2001 titled "I Matan i Kuttura Siha." I was most known during this time for having paint on my clothes all the time, and some people still remember me as "that painted guy."

From there I jumped into the Micronesian Studies program at the University of Guam, spent ti tufung'on na oras siha in the Micronesia Area Research Center, reading and photocopying and learning as much as I could about Guam history, and later wrote a master's thesis titled These May or May Not Be Americans: The Patriotic Myth and the Hijacking of Chamorro History in Guam.

I graduated in 2005, but before I had technically finished at UOG, I was accepted in 2004 into the Ethnic Studies program at UCSD. While at UCSD, I got to broaden my intellectual horizons quite a bit and was exposed to the works of many authors and became grounded in the developments of Western social theory. I got very involved in ensuring that my Ethnic Studies department was seen as a suitable place for scholars and students from indigenous communities or doing work on indigenous communities. For about two years I participated in a podcast called "Voicing Indigeneity" and also helped draft the plan for a large indigenous studies cluster hire, which sadly never materialized. I finished in 2007 my master's thesis in Ethnic Studies titled Everything You Wanted to Know About Guam But Were Afraid to Ask Zizek. The reference to the Lacanian tentago' Slavoj Zizek is indicative of how I had from UOG to UCSD as a graduate student, modelled my approach and voice after the unorthodox, yet insightful style of Zizek.

I qualified in 2007 and moved to the ABD level, and for the next three years worked on researching and writing my dissertation. In June of 2009 I defended my dissertation, but was given some revisions. I finally completed my revisions in February of this year and submitted my dissertation to my committee for their approval. It took about a month and a half to hear back from them, but by the end of March I received their approval that my revisions were acceptable and was all clear to submit my manuscript to the Graduate School at UCSD.

For the past two weeks I was making small revisions here and there, making formatting changes, writing up my acknowledgements and slogging through rearranging my 50 page works cited. Last week however I finally received word from my Graduate School, that they had accepted my dissertation titled Chamorros, Ghosts, Non-Voting Delegates: GUAM! Where the Production of America's Sovereignty Begins.
So ends, my long, winding, academic road.

This hasn't been the only road that I've travelled, but it has been, especially the past three years, the one which tortured me and consumed me the most. As my eyes, my mind, my very cognitive map starts to readjust to take into account what it means to no longer travel that educational road, things naturally seem uncertain, ti fitme, ti siguru. With my dissertation finished I can now focus on other things, and now feel the stress of things which I minimized in order to get the dissertation finished. But at the same time, with that focused gaze gone, the stress of not knowing where I will be working in a few months is starting to hit me. Contrary to what most people think, I do not have a permanent job at the University of Guam, and unless I secure one soon, then I will have to look elsewhere for stable, long-term employment. I have for 10 years wanted nothing but to teach at the University of Guam, and it is disabling to think that if I can't get a decent job, I will have to pursue some other opportunity, somewhere else.
But, as I often write on this blog, the uncertainty that I'm feeling. Este siniente pina'lek, is the feeling of freedom. It is that feeling that a road ends, and that there is no obvious road before me. That now that this dissertation beast has been slain, my schedule, my life, my research can hopeful be reordered and reorganized. That the road of my life is something I can think of again as being open, waiting to be plotted out and travelled.

Puede ha' este na nuebu na chalan gi me'na-hu, ti chago' taiguihi i esta hu fa'pos gi bandan eskuela!


Moñeka said...

congrats on all your hard work! you are truly and inspiration for young academic Chamorus on Guam. I hope you get a permanent position at UOG, our young minds need to learn your perspective! No other community will benefit from the knowledge you've gathered over all these years of studying. I cannot understand why UOG does not recognize just how valuable you and VicLola are to the institution! UOG has its way of keeping shotty ineffective professors and losing true assets like Vince Diaz,Keith Camacho and Mike Perez. It would be a huge loss to our island if they lose you both to off island colleges.

Angie said...

I'm so glad that you are done with your dissertation (or they are done torturing you about your dissertation)! I look forward to reading it, teaching it and hope the UOG realizes what they have and hire you immediately for tenure track.


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