Thursday, October 08, 2009

I remember reading, and later hearing about, a story about a professor who, after a few years of trying to obtain tenure, decided it wasn't worth his energy because it was making him unhappy about everything in his life. It was not that he could not teach, nor was it based on any presupposition that he couldn't write. Although it is true that he was likely constrained by the growing pressures of his "publish or perish" R1 university, what is most intriguing is that he rejected the model of professionalism—of decorum of a full-time professor—in place of his own personal happiness.

In rare moments like this, when I read, hear, and later remember stories like this that I revisit my place in the academy. Sometimes I look at how far I've come and realize that I have ventured forth without a sense of place and with a schizophrenic sense of time: I'm altogether whole and placed, yet completely disconnected from anything, any place, and any particular time. In short, my life is liminal.

Perhaps this state of affairs is precisely why, from time to time, I feel so uncertain, lost, and alone. While it is fair to say that I enjoy the company of friends, and while I also am close with my family, it is even more clear that I am continually distanced from them. My life is rendered in distance to these people who, for all intents and purposes, "see" me, yet fail to fully acknowledge the sight and site of me and my life. This is not to say that they are not concerned or that they do not care, but rather that the state of affairs of my life remain largely unknown to everyone else but me. So how is it, then, that I am both connected and yet alone?

Unlike the professor above, I do not necessarily blame the academy; I do, however, recognize that the academy has inevitably affected my life and the way I conduct myself in relation to others. If, by the very nature of being a scholar-in-progress, I have learned anything of primacy from my time in the academy, then it is true that I have learned to be the embodiment of liminal. That is, I occupy many spaces and no space at once; I am transition.

It is in recognition of this way of life—the way things have become in the last six years—that I have decided to, from time to time, (re)articulate my presence by way of words, thoughts, and (inter)action. The professor above did the same thing in his own right and fashion: he started writing in a journal all of the things on daily basis (or as close to it) that he took for granted, that made him happy, and brought him joy. These observations, he felt, confirmed his presence in that they detailed the thoughts of a person dismantling a constructed reality in a positive way—to self-preserve and to thrive. As he continued this personal work, he not only felt better about himself and his transitional state in life (which, it seems, is the position my colleagues and I will occupy until tenure), but he also came to realize that happiness through the recognition of now helped to displace the negativity and stress the pressures of being in transition brings.

So too, then, I plan to, more in my own journal than on here, detail those things that I have taken for granted, but also make me happy and bring me joy. I will title these entries "About Today" and I will seek to encapsulate, in brief vignettes, those things that "slowed me down" and "cemented" my sense of place and time, even if only ephemeral.


Post a Comment