The little kingdom of unimportant research topics

Originally posted on May 17th, 2013

Only when you think that your research is getting to that point where no one will ever understand why it’s important, and when you doubt of its own relevance and interest, some magnificent things occur to make you change your perspective, or at least brighten your day.

Three things in particular have happened over the last two days, and all three have given a positive kick to my ultimate procrastinator mood. First, I was at a seminar yesterday. Well, it was in fact two seminars, but for me it felt like they were part of the same thing. They were organised by the University of Glasgow and Shinton Consulting. I had seminars by Shinton before, and they are really good, especially in the sense that they get you to interact with other people that, for one reason or another, might have encountered the same problems as you when doing research. At one point during the day, I was on the spot of explaining, as if presenting a poster, my whole research in 1 minute. It had to start with the hook of “why is it important, and why are you doing it?”. Whilst scrapping for words, I found myself explaining a part of my research that I have had inside but that has not yet developed into being: the reception of Russian 19th century classics into the Catalan context of the 1930s. It definitely seems easier and more attractive that having to mention an unknown “that author” (since people outside the Iberian studies have no clue of who Rodoreda is) and her connections with Russia. I guess it’s just a way of explaining it. All of a sudden, as I was done, one of the girls that was listening commented that it seemed like a really good yet very complex research, and asked how I was coping with the language interference (or something along those lines). My reaction was “well, I don’t really have a problem with that”. Which made me see that the problems I have or might have have nothing to do with what other people might think. And it was great to see that somebody thought that what I am doing is interesting. For a change.

Today, a completely random yet cheering story. As I was making this woman some coffee, she asked where I was from, and of course the chat went on and she said that she had been studying for a year in Catalonia, in an inland, very traditional and of course only Catalan speaking. We spoke for a while, and then she asked me if I go back to Barcelona often. I answered I had just been on a research break, and of course she was interested in knowing what I was researching. So I used the hook from the day before, and took 30 seconds to roughly explain what I am doing, which she deemed to be very interesting. That, again, cheered me up greatly. Straight after I had said this, the next customer, a nice American guy who I had spoken to previously, said out loud “Well that makes me feel better, welcome to the random topics of research” (or something along the lines). I felt his pain, and I thought it was funny yet very true, that some times we pick stuff and then we ourselves realise that those topics might seem of very little interest (or hard to explain why they are interesting) to other people. So he was my third “fan”.

This support comes with great timing, especially when things around my research are slightly shaky due to unforeseen personal (more like mental really) reasons. It has been hard going back to work after submission, especially considering the amount of hospitality work I have had, and the pushing stress of the new house. I have identified that I am stressed, and I am learning to cope with it. I know that I am procrastinising and avoiding work, but I think that I have perhaps found some ways to gain back the edge into the project. Certainly these small boosts of confidence help.

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