AHHHHH WHY AM I DOING THIS TO MYSELF????
(For my CV, obviously.)
Anyway, on a more positive note, my stressful Monday turned out pretty well. First, I scored 96% for my French test. Guess what my reaction was? Hint: I am Singaporean. It is biologically ingrained in us to care about grades. And so my reaction was, 'BLOODY HELL WHAT'S IT GONNA TAKE FOR ME TO SCORE FULL MARKS?'
I don't even know what I got wrong. It was probably the du/des/de la/de l' bit. Or the aux/au/a la part. I basically conjugated present tense verbs like crazy, memorised them, and forgot about the 'some' and 'of' bits of the grammar test. My studying method is so incredibly Singaporean: memorise the day before, regurgitate on the day itself, forget everything afterwards. Well done, self.
Second, my presentation/discussion group session also turned out rather fun. I was a nervous wreck just before it started, but seeing friendly faces helped: John, Ivan, Daphne and Edward (so nice of them to come along), Barry. Announcing my fear of speaking in front of a group of people also helped. Diffusing any potential tension or embarrassment due to lack of intellectual words coming out of my mouth by laughing, smiling and/or cracking a self-deprecating joke also helped. Of course, these two tactics worked only because it was an informal setting; I won't announce to a group of complete strangers or actual professors that I'm afraid of public speaking, and neither will I make any attempt at humour; or rather, I would probably minimise the humour.
But it was what it was, right? And I think it went pretty well. It's quite fun when people are gathered to discuss my work. I think the two most incisive comments came from John and Josh. John challenged my definition of a constitutive community (which I stole from Appiah) and Josh wondered if I wasn't using an empirical description of a person to do the normative work that I want it to do. I'm not sure how to deal with these two comments but that's the whole point: to invite comments, think about them, and improve the work. The paper was a really rough draft anyway (reading it over to prepare for the session was nightmarish as I spotted so many typos and missing words), and I'm not entrenched in my views yet, so everything is open to revision.
Apart from that, Edward pointed out a very practical issue I need to address: Singapore's economic liberalism versus its social conservatism. I probably need to clarify that I'm only addressing the latter.
So two things I took away from it: first, my PhD needs to be more rigorous; and second, when all else fails, fall back on my charm. I don't want to write too much about my PhD, save to say that the theories that I engage with somehow seem like easy targets; this concerns me a bit. As for the second point, I don't know how I come across to others, but I am beginning to realise that it's not as bad as I envision it in my head. After the session was over, Tom said I did really well, and if I hadn't announced at the start that I was nervous as fuck, nobody would've been able to tell. So I suppose this means that people's perception of me is more positive than my own judgement of myself and how I come across when speaking in front of a group of people. I suppose I am a bit too biased by this lifelong fear of public speaking, which I am trying to conquer - slowly, but surely.
I was also pleased that Tom specifically praised the writing when he was giving me comments. It is (obviously) important to me that my work maintains a certain level of good writing. Most of the time, when I am cringing over my papers, the thing that makes me cringe the most is the shitty writing; but for this paper, I consciously ditched my old stuffy academic style and went for something more...I don't know, I would say literary but that's definitely an overstatement. Something more stylistic, I suppose. But the topic of the paper lends itself well to a more creative style; it's theoretical, semi-philosophical, so I could take some liberties.
In fact, over dinner, Ivan commented on the semi-autobiographical feel to it. I suppose that's also what I enjoy about this issue (conception of the self, how our identities are formed): it's almost a personal reflection and I inject a lot of myself into the arguments, using my own experiences as examples. But that makes sense, right? I can only speak from my own experiences; I can't use the experience of a black person because I don't know what that is like, and so I won't purport any authority on the issue. So yeah. It's interesting.
I have been sleeping rather badly the whole week. I had dinner and drinks with Ivan, John and Josh last night, and came back with a headache, and the headache prevented me from a good night's sleep, and this morning I woke up at 7.50 for no bloody reason, and so I am quite tired now. This entry isn't particularly well-written but well, we can't always be perfect, yeah? I need to do the dishes, shower and get to the library.