I don’t know what I thought research was, but I was certainly not thinking it would be this. This is way too familiar to be research- its youth I know and love, vols I can instantly relate to because I was like them when I was 16 and 17, its communities where I know where all the outlets are and narratives that are familiar.
I do actually have some idea about what I thought it was. I thought research was more… scholarly. I envisioned myself up late at night, in some kind of glamorous way, writing and having brilliant ideas and stitching pieces of interviews together. I thought this staying up late at night, this working by, in the vision candlelight (though there would be real light if you needed it) included having long and thoughtful conversations with people around me about theory (did I really think that?) and that I would get so caught in everything I wouldn’t be able to stop reading academic articles.
Reality check. Research, or at the very least, this research, is nothing like the scholar by candlelight engaged with articles for a thirst of knowledge and mapping ideas on paper into the wee hours of night vision. It’s more like… messy.
It’s interviews in the cabs of trucks after activities. It’s talking about video making with youth while waiting for the doctor to see a vol. It’s a truck with a broken tire and twenty youth in the bed in the hot sun trying to get to a regional meeting. It’s staying up late into the wee hours of the morning, to plan youth encuentros I am leading pretty much solo because supervisors just can’t go on route AND plan and lead multiple workshops every week. It’s falling into bed exhausted thinking about how maybe I should read that article someone suggested, look up that name, find that book online somewhere. But it’s only thinking about it. It’s plans with a wrench thrown in the middle when Plan needs me NOW or disrupted facilitation because someone is having an emergency. It’s a tripod tied to a hammock string while youth plan a video about machismo. Its pulling teeth to get youth to talk about their own personal experiences with machismo. Its using up markers by the hour and losing marker caps faster than I can buy them. It’s trying to remember all the things I want to write in my field notes but haven’t because the phone rang, or my friends came over, or it was time for feedback, or I needed a nap. It’s watching youth really get into a movie projected inside someone’s house on a mud or cement wall. It’s energy drinks and spilled coffee on poster paper. It’s youth watching a film about immigration and then recording the discussion. It’s youth coming to a planning session with a totally flushed out idea. It’s youth who can’t come up with any ideas at the planning session. It’s lying in bed trying to kill a mosquito under my bug net and writing blog posts instead of writing field notes… gotta run!