Posts in academic
#scintilla: academic tribes

I am skipping around #scintilla posts because I'm behind, like pretty much everything in my life right now, and I don't need one more thing to feel guilty about not keeping up with. 

I'd been thinking about the tribes prompt since it appeared on Thursday where I was in the midst of a conference with one of my tribes, my professional tribe. 

List the tribes you belong to: cultural, personal, literary, you get the drift. Talk about the experience of being in your element with your tribes.

Normally, when I go to an academic conference, M goes with me. This time, she had to work and the conference was close enough I could easily drive so I went without her. I went to a lot of sessions in the 2 days I was there and attended an art exhibit. Brain overload. 

What I love about conferences is learning from others, being around people I read throughout the year, people I admire. It's the closest I feel to being in graduate school again where ideas challenged me and I had intense conversations with other grad students and I felt as though what I thought, what I felt, how it all worked together was important or could be. 

I do have a tribe of conference peeps, those people I see mostly at conferences and get to hang out with for a few days. It's always wonderful to share ideas and pieces of my life with them, even if it is incredibly brief. The connections go beyond networking, usually and with the true tribe, we chat, send facebook messages and often work together or at least support one another's work by reading, showing up, asking questions. 

This is further multiplied when I go to my favorite conferences like Computers and Writing, which I've missed the past few years. Not being able to feel as connected not just to the field but to the group of people there was a bummer.

Academics are an odd bunch in the best of ways; get groups of us together and it probably looks like the most boring conversations from the outside. But for me, it's often incredibly productive. 


reverb10: putting it in writing

December 28 – Achieve

What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today. (Author: Tara Sophia Mohr)

There is so much I want to achieve next year both personally and professionally but I suppose the thing I most want to achieve is publishing an article. I don't even know what I want to write about or where I want to try and publish but I have a few projects in the works I would like to follow through on.

I will feel both energized and relieved when I accomplish this goal.

There are a few things I can do to begin feeling these things:

1) Read
2) Complete syllabi
3) Brainstorm
4) Have conversations with my favorite people
5) Begin writing

when in doubt
There are moments when you feel pulled in one direction and then everything changes. I find myself at a kind of crossroads feeling confused about which fork in the road to take. I keep waiting for some kind of message from the universe, something that will make me feel confident about my decisions. I realize doing nothing is also a choice, just a passive one.

When I was making decisions about where to go to college as a high school senior I had my mind made up, or so I thought. My parents and I visited the college, toured the dorm rooms and I sat in on classes with faculty. I was set to attend this university 5 hours from where my parents lived, at the time. Then a recruiter from a different university visited our high school and new possibilities presented themselves and I just emphatically and confidentally followed them and never looked back. My parents were incredibly supportive of my change of plans. Of course, it meant I'd be closer to them and could live with my grandparent but it was certainly a departure from my original plan. Then I floundered with my major for a couple of years back and forth between English and Communication before I landed firmly in English.

Once I hit grad school, it was full steam ahead. It was all about the next steps. There were doubts, sure, about what to research, about where to focus my efforts, but ultimately the process propels itself and you along with it. I never once doubted that I wanted to be an academic or a professor. I've loved school for as long as I've been inside classrooms. English courses were the one place I knew with such familiarity that I was able to excel inside of them and feel comfortable and secure being a smart girl. My Master's program nurtured me in ways for which I still long. The world was ripe with possibilities. My life was just beginning, at least that's how it felt.
But the Ph.D. program was a different beast with different politics and academic camps and professors who seemed more interested in their own research agenda to teach me anything beyond how I never wanted to be as a person or professor. Still, I rallied thanks to the support of my friends and mentors. I pushed myself and accomplished feats I never thought possible. To say that "being done" felt anti-climactic after finishing the dissertation would be an understatement.

I've heard others talk about the kind of depression that sets in after graduate school, after accomplishing something significant. I've written some of my thoughts about that here and here as I reflected on 2009. And I know that I wasn't the only person who felt alone and isolated that first year (or the second) in my grown-up, tenure track job. I'm here now, almost at the end of the 2nd year and Spring semester has been much better than Fall, in my opinion.

Still, I have doubts. I have doubts about what and how to teach. I have doubts about new directions and possibilities that seem to be emerging while there's an incredible undercurrent of change happening all around me. As I get older, I fear I have become more insecure not less. Is it that the stakes are higher now? Do I care more now ? Where has the confidence I once held so strongly gone?

I feel lost, untethered and unsure of what to do next. So, I am trying to stay open to messages from the universe. Meanwhile, the sun is out and the flowers are blooming and I can sleep with the windows open. I'm looking forward to summer and seeing old friends.

Best of 2009: Challenge
Prompt: Challenge: Something that really made you grow this year. That made you go to your edge and then some. What made it the best challenge of the year for you?

As the economy continued to be unstable many people faced a lot of challenges like relocating, losing their jobs, etc. I faced nothing as serious, though job security is certainly not a given even on the university level. In fact, after reading many of the #bestof09 challenge posts it became difficult for me to consider any of the events or experiences I had this year as challenges. They seemed somehow less important than the challenges of others.

And if anything was challenging in 2009 it was facing these moments of doubt. As a child, I was hard-headed, stubborn. I did what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. I was incredibly spoiled by my extended family who lavished attention and time with me, and who allowed my imagination to soar. Many of my favorite childhood moments are with my grandparents who, while strict with rules and expectations, certainly indulged many of mine and brother's whims. I was a confident child, easily carrying on conversations with adults and with other children. As teenage-hood hit, so did the awkwardness that comes with it. Still, I excelled at school and was praised for my writing in high school so I managed through it. School was the one place I felt the most like myself, particularly once I started graduate school. I tried a lot of other experiences in the year between my undergrad and Master's when I was in Europe. But academics were where I belonged.

I loved my Master's program. I became comfortable in the classroom, with talking about writing. During my Ph.D. program, however, something happened. I began to doubt myself in significant ways. Part of it was that I was putting myself on the line in ways I really hadn't before. I met M and realized I wanted new possibilities for my life. I began to focus on my emotional life as well as the intellectual one and as I became more engrossed in my projects for coursework, the more my emotions were tied to that work. I had some incredibly negative experiences with a set of professors about halfway through my coursework that really shook my faith, not only in myself, but also with my career choice. It took an incredible amount of therapy, friendship and a project on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to break me out of the despair. Traces of the experience lingered, however, through my dissertation and into my new position.

In 2009, I began my second year as a tenure track assistant professor. I'm trying to figure out what that means for me. 2008 was a year of beginnings and endings and 2009 has been about moving forward and letting go. The challenge (beyond the actualities of a 4/4 load plus a 1 hour roundtable, committee meetings, faculty meetings and directing internships) is not letting the doubt and insecurities hold me back. It's too easy, sometimes, to give in and believe the worst. It's particularly difficult because the university places so much emphasis on student evaluations that I'm constantly concerned about what students think of me both as a teacher and a person. I know I can't be a slave to that. I know that doing so makes me less effective. But that's the challenge, trying to find a comfortable place to resist all the ways I doubt myself.