Sunday, August 21, 2011

On Family Trees

Greg at work on the "Family Tree"
Babies look remarkably alike and remarkably different.

I spent the past week looking at a lot of old pictures. The professor I'm research assistant for is a scholar of hyperlocal photography--specifically focusing on the work of small-town Mississippi photographer named Pruitt. I also spent a lot of time in the Missouri journalism buildings, looking at the great profile pictures of past professors, deans and distinguished students for the first time. Since Missouri was the first school of journalism, those pictures go back quite a ways.

When I look at those photos, I'm struck how certain looks just seemed to disappear. When you look at pictures of square-jawed guys from the World War II, I wonder--what happened to that look? Maybe it does it exist, but the context has changed so much that they don't seem to. Or is it really gone? Evolved out of us.

Mimi's great creative project for the baby's room has been to create a "family tree" on the wall--the interesting aspect is that all of the pictures are baby pictures. Usually, when you see pictures of people in your family whether your grandparents, great-grandparents or otherwise, it's at a certain stage in their life. Usually surrounding the age when they had children or grandchildren (because that's when the most photographs are taken). But looking at baby pictures is such an interesting exercise. Who knew I had my maternal grandfathers ears? (At least the top part looks the same--see right).

Equally interesting was the search for these pictures--because in some cases no photos exist. My grandmother and grandfather both grew up in farming families in New Brunswick. My grandfather was one of three children, and thus there were two baby photos. My grandmother was one of twelve children, (and thus there were no baby photos).

The process made me think a lot about the people on the wall who will never see it. My grandfather and grandmother on my dad's side were amazing people. So brave. When my dad (the youngest of seven) was only two, they packed up and moved to Chicago, IL because that's where the work was. Leaving Grand Falls, New Brunswick meant leaving all the people they'd ever loved and known for place that must have been scary and a great unknown.

They don't make people like that anymore. Certain kinds of people disappear too. 

My grandfather on my mother's side was a man I never met but would liked to have. My grandmother gets quiet when she describes him--his family had been quite rich prior to the Great Depression and lost most everything. My family describes him is as if he was a man from another era who wasn't quite sure what to do in the middle of the 20th century. I wonder if he felt like the world had moved on from him?

Maybe it's not the people who disappear but the world that moves on without them.

This is far too serious a blog entry. On a lighter note--how about some pictures of the Family Tree!?

Me with the family tree, pointing out my place.
Note the empty spot for Little Miss P.
I really like the idea that our little girl
will get to grow up with this great history
above her.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tales from DC: What I'll Miss About Washington

U Street in northwest Washington, D.C.
It's impossible to be comprehensive here because there is so much I love and cherish about this city. But I'll try to be brief.

This city has taught me so much. When I came here to study at Georgetown and work at a semester-long journalism program, I thought I came well prepared. I was wrong. It was humbling how much I had to learn and learn quickly. And now that I'm leaving I'm realizing I'm a more confident person than I've ever been before. As my wife recently noted, this city was a chapter in our lives where we really grew our resume and developed more professionally.

But beyond that I'll truly miss the PEOPLE of Washington, D.C. I felt the similarly when I left West Palm Beach--I still miss the people of West Palm Beach. But what's different this time is my attachment to the PLACE. I love the place that is Washington, D.C.

I love that it is a city as broken as it is beautiful.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Died and Gone to Heaven

A lot has fallen into place in the stressful month (or three) since I've posted on this site. Mimi and I purchased our first house. Woot. I've been offered the opportunity to teach my first semester at Mizzou which is actually a bit rare. I won a student paper award through AEJMC in St. Louis (it comes complete with a plaque!) where I will be presenting in August. Mimi has found a new doctor. We've spotted a couple of ways we could quickly get involved in the community and get to know the people there.

That said, I'm not sure I can completely wrap my head around the stress I feel right now. I'm moving next weekend before returning to DC to finish out at my job. The AEJMC conference is the second week of August. Orientation for Mizzou is the third week of August. And I have a baby due in October. It's a bit overwhelming. We've got to fit house painting, Lamaze classes and CPR training in there.

I've been doing a lot of running. About 24 to 28 miles a week.

People have asked me a lot about what this transition is like.

Basically, I'm going to place I've never been. To program I've never visited. To live in a house I've never seen. In part to prepare home for a child I've never met.

It's kind of like the afterlife. Good friends have told me that Missouri has a great program--the program is truly the stuff of legends. People I trust have told me Columbia's a fun town with very nice people (emphasis on "very"--I'm not sure I'll know what to do after living in DC and Florida). Family has told me that have a child will be the greatest responsibility I'll ever had, make me busier than I've ever been and happier than I could ever imagine.

Am I moving or dying to go to Heaven?

Monday, April 4, 2011

It's Mizzou!

This has been perhaps the toughest decision I've had to make, but today I confirmed my slot on the doctoral cohort at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Missouri's program, faculty and resources just seemed to fit me and my needs as doctoral student better than the others. This morning, they offered me an additional fellowship--thus offering me more financial assistance than Texas and Maryland. In addition, there would be numerous opportunities for further professional development in Missouri. Beyond, the great mentor figure at Missouri, I'll have a much better ability complete my research cognate at Missouri.

This will be a big move for Mimi and I. And it will be difficult to leave all of the people we love in Washington.

The only things that really have shaken me from Missouri are fears--fears of leaving the places I love and the people I love.

The opposite of faith isn't doubt but fear. I have been fearful when I should have had faith. And besides the cruel winters and the occasional tornado, what's so scary about the Midwest? It's risky to leave the people and places you know behind but great stories aren't written about those who stay comfortable but about those who take risks.

Here goes.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tales from DC: National Half Marathon

Me, the day after. Plenty of energy and stamina, but some joint soreness.
I've come a long way.

I'm too goal-oriented for my own good, and I don't often glance back to see where I started.

I've struggled to be athletic when I was younger. As a kid with childhood asthma, I was benched the entire year I was in little league soccer. It doesn't help that I also was born with a leg twisted funny so I tended to trip over myself when running. Of course the only way to fix problems like that is to, well, run anyway. But that's hard to do when you're sitting on the bench.

After soccer, bless my parents, they put in martial arts. Turns out the next best thing for leg twisted like mine was to do a lot of kicking. I did a lot of kicking. I kept the inhaler in the sensei's office desk and it took some time to ween myself off of it. I used to have to use it two or three times during a one-hour class. Gradually, I got to where I only needed it once. I remember the day when I took it out the last time--very out of breath and ready to use it. But I decided I didn't need it. I finished the class and felt mildly proud when I finished the class without needing to use it. I didn't tell my parents, or anyone really.

I joined track in high school because my friends were doing it and because there were pretty girls and because my friends made me realize I should be doing a sport where you got to hang out with pretty girls. At first I threw disc and shotput which made no sense because all the rest of the guys were linebackers and I, well, wasn't a linebacker. But then I got into doing 4x400 relays and fell in love with running.

I took a considerable break from it when Mimi and I moved to DC. Balancing fulltime work and fulltime graduate school is crazy by the way. But since I've restarted, it was with the goal of working up to a marathon at some point. Halfway there!

The National Half was a good race. I was warned to train hills, but I thought that was ridiculous (this is DC! What hills?!). Apparently there are quite a few. So some soreness in my ankles but no blisters and no other soreness.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Decision 2011

Whew boy...
So with a baby coming in October, I have a huge choice before me that will affect my life for at least the next three years. Which Ph.D? Thus far I've been accepted to three (with two others that I should hear from in the next week). And three I've gotten into are all excellent programs with good reputations. There are a lot of positive things about each one. What makes the decision so difficult is that there isn't an obvious "bad" choice.

All three programs are fullrides--they include all the bells and whistles of stipends, insurance, conference funding, etc. 

All three programs encourage continued growth in practical experience in the field, and the development of at least one foreign language.

University of Missouri-Columbia: Is consistently rated as one of the best journalism programs in the country (if not the best). Missouri was the first university in the United States (the world) to create a journalism program. Missouri also is the only option with an obvious mentor relationship (although I would likely work with them little beyond the dissertation phase of my study) and is the most accelerated communication program in the country--PhDs finish in 3 years as opposed to 4 plus.

However, there are few job opportunities outside of Missouri for working and there are limited options for study/research outside of the Missouri-Columbia environment. My wife and I have a few contacts in Missouri, but largely we'd be forming a network from scratch in Missouri.

University of Maryland-College Park: Would offer a broad range of options for study outside of Maryland as well as within. The consortium at Maryland includes Georgetown (my alma mater), Catholic University of America and George Washington University. It's proximity to Washington, D.C. also makes it a prime location for research in the city.

Since my wife and I have lived here three years, we also would have solid support network. On the downside here, Maryland also has no obvious mentor figure for my field of research and the cost of living in DC Metro area is significant to say the least.

University of Texas-Austin: Would offer me more chances to teach. I'd be teaching perhaps throughout my entire career at Texas which would bring more income as well get me used to large, lecture hall teaching of which I have little experience. Since my wife is from Texas, this also allows for a solid support network for us.

On the downside, there are limited options for study at universities outside of Texas and there is no obvious mentor figure there that I could study under.

This is a tough one.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Letter to the University of Pennsylvania

Annenberg School of Communication
University of Pennsylvania
3620 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

To Dr. Michael X. Delli Carpini,

Thank you for your letter in late February. As you know this was an especially competitive year and I've been particularly impressed with the rejection letters I've received this year. With such a promising field of candidates, the decision making process has been especially difficult.

While there is no easy way to say this, I regret that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me admission into the Fall 2011 doctoral cohort. Despite your excellent qualifications and experience in rejecting potential doctoral students, your letter does not suit my needs at this time.

Therefore, I will be assuming a position on your doctoral cohort this coming August. I will be attending the accepted student orientation the last weekend of March and I look forward to seeing you there.


Greg Perreault