On Tuesday, I turned in my JP, a 34-page labor of love that was half a year in the workings. And now some real talk: After that experience, writing Dean’s Date papers feels wrong.
My JP was, perhaps, my single biggest academic accomplishment at Princeton. Submitting it was the culmination of six months of work that began this summer in Juchitán de Zaragoza, a rural city in Oaxaca, Mexico. Juchitán, as I’ve written about before, is widely known for the indigenous Zapotec culture’s acceptance of a third gender option, muxe (pronounced “moo-shay”), and for the myth that it is a “matriarchal” society.
There, I conducted a series of in-depth interviews with activists and NGO workers, seeking to understand their work, how they define their communities, and what they believe to be the greatest issues facing women and LGBTQ+ people in the region. These interviews were the basis of my JP: ethnographic non-fiction, in which I told my story — the process of getting to know a culture so distant from my own — while telling others’.
I want to celebrate. Throughout the semester, I transcribed interviews, read articles, and watched documentaries. During Winter Break, I dedicated hours and hours to writing, revising, and perfecting this paper (entirely in Spanish). And now, I want to finally — finally — relax. But the nature of Reading Period means that I have to plow forward with Dean’s Date papers and then exam period. It means that my celebration must be cut short. There’s still a lot of work to be done.
I wish I had some sort of easy advice to give. Princeton offers us a lot, but it also takes a lot out of us; I’m sure anyone who’s just finished a long research project feels the same way. Right now, if the pile of chocolate in my room — rations for the long paper-writing journey ahead — is a testament to anything beyond general stress, it’s that I’m trying to revel in the small moments. Chocolate breaks. Friends. Work-free meals. Little bits of time where I can step away from the computer and maintain my sanity. Because I did all that research, wrote all those pages, and expressed my ideas to the best of my ability. And even though the work doesn’t end, I — we — deserve some rest.
– Dylan Blau Edelstein, Humanities Correspondent