Thursday, October 30, 2008
Whatever you do, do NOT throw me into the briar patch!
I'm kind of in a tight spot. In all my mad preparations for my oral exams and my marathon, I've slipped into a funk. One of those "I do NOT like being where I am" funks. I'm tired, I'm grouchy, I'm critical, I'm lonely, I'm overwhelmed, I'm flabbergasted. I've got books and papers and 3x5 cards all over the place, not to mention the fragments of information flying around my brain that I can't seem to reign in.
Was the Great Awakening an actual movement?
Discuss the debate between women's history and gender history and how each contributes to the master narrative...
What were similarities and differences between the three big reform movements of the 20th century?
Define the construction of slavery and race. How do Native Americans fit in?
The New Deal: conservative or radical?
How do you define the long 19th century?
Use hard soundbites from the books you've read!
Show us how you think and talk like a historian!
Connect patterns across the centuries!
Tell us what scholars have said and then how you concur!
Prove that you could teach an American history survey course!
And I remind myself that I chose to be where I am (was I crazy? really tired? on ambien?). I love the ingenuity of Brer Rabbit. After his encounter with the Tar Baby and threat of Brer Bear to have him for dinner, Brer Rabbit quickly recognized his tight spot; he remembered his home base and used it to his advantage. He challenged Brer Bear to throw him in the middle of the briar patch.
You can skin me alive, you can hang me from the tree, you can roast me over that fire. But whatever you do, do not throw me into the briar patch!
And so I say to my orals committee, to all the disgruntled people around me who are puzzled by my banishment to the basement library for hours on end, to the unanswered emails and text messages and phone calls, to my own discouraging demons who seem to be winning battle after battle with my psyche, to every little thing that seems to be the end of my world: bring on the briar patch. I'll show you where I was born and bred.
And then I have to remember where I was born and bred and draw upon that with every ounce of my being.
So I came home from work and before settling into study, I found a package in the mail from my sweet mom: the book Hip Hip Hooray for Annie McRae [or Jenny Reeder as per Mom's nursery school teacher instructions]. Delightful. Perfect. Then I made our favorite family tacos for dinner, wrapped myself up in my great grandmother's green apple tree family tree quilt, turned on some Tchaikovsky under Grandad's tutelage, and set out to attack colonial provincialism. Yes, I can call up my crazy briar patch even on the East Coast.