So, What’s Next?

“How’s your dissertation going?” and “So, what’s next?” are the two questions I’ve been asked the most over the past year. Now that I’m very nearly free of the first (I spent much of today dealing with paperwork to file the dissertation so my PhD can be conferred next month), here are my many responses to the second:

Teaching: Next week I’ll start the fall semester as an instructor at the CET study-abroad program in Shanghai, teaching “History of Modern Shanghai” one afternoon a week. I’ve taught this course once before and really enjoy it; I’ve found that being able to link classroom discussions of the past with the city that students encounter every day makes all the difference in bringing history alive. In other words, I like being both a professor and tour guide.

Writing (short stuff): As I have been, but … more! For the LA Review of Books, the Wall Street Journal, and various other places. I have a nice list of freelance jobs for the fall already lined up.

Writing (a book): I’ve long planned to write a biography of the cartoon artist Zhang Leping and his Sanmao the Orphan character, and the time has finally come—more information about that when the time is right (the book proposal is going to the publisher next week). Stay tuned for “Sanmao Saturdays” here at the blog, where I’ll explain why Zhang and his character are so important and book-worthy, in my eyes.

Editing: I am thrilled to have joined the team at GradHacker, a site run under the Inside Higher Ed umbrella, earlier this month. I’ve been reading GradHacker since it debuted more than three years ago and applied for the position of Managing Editor as soon as I saw it advertised in June. Really—I literally sat down and wrote a cover letter that day, I was that excited. GradHacker publishes articles about life as a graduate student; most of my job involves coordinating the posting schedule, working with authors, and running social media for the site (follow us on Twitter and Facebook!), but I’ll also be writing my own posts occasionally, mostly about life right after graduate school.

Researching: I have a lot of work to do before I can start rewriting my dissertation into a book, mostly because I realized very late in the game that I really wanted to change the focus and time period of the project a little bit. Luckily, I’m still in Shanghai and can spend a couple days a week at the archives/library doing the additional research that this will require. I also need to start doing preliminary work on my second research-driven book—I’ve picked the topic but haven’t yet done more than make a few Amazon purchases related to it.

Traveling: One of the many reasons I wanted to live in Shanghai for an extended period of time was that I hadn’t traveled much in the rest of Asia and planned to see more of the region. Guess what? I didn’t have the time or the money to go anywhere! I still don’t have unlimited funds, but I do have more time now and am really excited about the trips I have on the horizon, both in China and elsewhere (two are already planned, others are works in progress). I got 48 blank pages added to my passport the other day—time to start filling them up!

Reading: Seriously, my to-be-read list is probably approaching four digits. Stop publishing new books, people.

Figuring out what’s next: All of the above is great, but it’s not a career. I’m looking for jobs … applying to postdoc programs … and generally keeping an open mind about where I might be this time next year. I’ve often found that the most interesting and rewarding experiences are the ones you never could have imagined might come along.

Also, figuring out health insurance. I give up. Someone please just tell me what plan to buy.

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