Big Steps

October is always a wonderful month, and each year I try to squeeze as much as I can out of its wholesome autumnal fruits. Because October, to me, is really Autumn: distant enough from September, when the weather is still striving to be warm and accommodating to alfresco diners, and not quite scarf-and-glove-inducing like November. Of course, it’s no surprise that I enjoy October more than most other months, and I’m a bit (more than a bit) biased there – October has always borne witness to so many wonderful and special things in my personal life. This October has been no exception. In many ways, this month has been the hardest and most challenging month of the year, but it has been good, and it has helped to grow me.

Over this past month I have given two public talks – one at the British Museum and another at the Millennium Library in Norwich. The first of these was incredibly daunting in a way that I hadn’t expected it to be. I’ve always loved speaking, and am glad that I jumped on the conference bandwagon early in my career as a researcher, but have never really had an opportunity to speak outside of my academic peer group. It was both, then, incredibly rewarding but also somewhat intimidating to witness so many people from the general public turn up for my talk because they were interested in its content, and in what I had to say. Once the pressure was off, though, and the talk was over, I was reassured by the positive feedback and engaging questions that I received. This was mirrored in the audience response to the talk that I gave a couple of weeks later at the Millennium Library in honour of Black History Month.

I emerged from both experiences feeling for the first time some degree of certainty that I would like to have a career as an academic. From the onset of my journey as a PhD student, I have been reminded of the difficulties faced by early career academics – and academics in general – which have been amplified in recent years owing to government cuts in the arts, and in higher education. However, the more and more that I engage people with my subject, and connect that subject to people’s lives in the present moment, the more I become convinced that academia is my calling.

I now only have a few hours left in the United Kingdom, as I prepare for another big journey. October, it seems, was just a primer for an even bigger, better, and more challenging November in an unfamiliar space. I’ll keep you all posted while I’m away but, for now, I’ll leave you with some mementoes from this wonderful October.

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Gilt of Cain slavery memorial, Fen Court, London

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Me getting ready for my ‘big bluesy birthday’

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Sculpture installed at the ISM entitled ‘Freedom’, by Atis Rezistans, an art collective in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

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Julian and I toasting each other at the Five Bells Inn in Brabourne, having just booked our wedding!

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Senate House Library, Bloomsbury

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 The view from Lympne Castle, Lympne

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