Sunday, September 03, 2006

Tiny Circle of Friends

I'm warming up here to go and take a whack at my article, but I thought I could think a little bit about a conversation going on in the academic corner of the blogosphere. Both New Kid and Dr. Crazy have posts up talking about the particular kind of isolation that comes with academe. New Kid is taking a lot on herself, writing about the ways in which she may be complicit in her isolation. Dr. Crazy, on the other hand, describes it a bit like an occupational hazard; as academics, we engage in a number of solitary activities, and then move around a lot looking for a job. The result? Aloneness. Either way you slice it, both writers are talking about the difficulties of overcoming one of the most personal and least talked about parts of our daily lives, and both are getting resounding confirmations from all over blogademe (isn't that cute? isn't that what we should call it?)

I wrote about this a little while ago as well, in relation to cultivating new colleagues. So, clearly, I'm all on board; it's damn hard to make friends, and it requires work. I'm anxious to add to my small bank of friends, I'm on the prowl for like-minded folks, so I'm certainly not immune to the concerns about creating a comfortable community for oneself--it's one of the most important quality of life factors. At the same time, I'm surprised to hear no one talking about what is for me, the equal and opposite priority: trying to CLAIM a bit of isolation for oneself.

Particularly now that the semester is in full swing, I find myself running from meeting to meeting, sending ungodly amounts of email, interacting with students all over campus, fielding phone calls, etc. That's a whole lotta social interactions. Certainly, this can't be equated with talking with friends; for me, however, it can tap into the same well of good cheer and conviviality that I use to interact with people I know and like. In essence, that's a limited resource that I possess, and sadly, its daily reserves can get expended on those who aren't nearly as deserving or delightful as my pals. Here's a lame metaphor for you: let's say that in daily life, my congenial resources are like our access to mid-East oil. They're there, but they're not the most reliable source, and so I find myself having to conserve and stretch them. (How can I make my daily life run like a Prius? That's a question to take seriously.) Now, in case of emergencies, I have my own little ANWR, but I hate to open it up unless it's absolutely necessary, or it has the chance of refilling the other sources. That last bit is an important recognition in the economy of friendship: the best interactions with good friends have the ability to replenish your resources, rather than drain them. Have a great conversation with someone who you really get and who really gets you, and you can feel refreshed and renewed. What's difficult about developing new friendships, however, is that it often takes a good many interactions before you reach the renewal part.

Where am I going with this? I suppose I simply want to mark the idea that making friends in academe is not just hard, it's also hard work, and it exists in what is for me a larger system of time/energy reserves that get parcelled out all over the place. For my part, I feel as if I often have to choose carefully, or else I risk running out of the steam I need to make it through the other parts of my life: my job, my family, my relationship to myself. Sometimes, the occupational hazard to me seems to be that the field is too crowded with potential friends, and I have to figure out a method of securing some isolation for myself.

2 Comments:

Blogger New Kid on the Hallway said...

Oh, I can completely understand this, too. One of the reasons why I say I'm isolating myself is because at the end of the day/week, I'm so tired of people from teaching and being around strangers, that I don't really WANT to hang out with anyone. Which comes back to bite me in the ass later. Anyway, it's definitely another factor to consider in the isolation game.

Sunday, September 03, 2006 2:54:00 PM  
Blogger Lee said...

Whoa. I so agree--and my first day was two years ago! The challenge continues to keep my space a zone to get work done in yet have energizing conversations with folks on campus who don't wander by my zone when I need the pick me up. On the flip side, small talk is a particular form of torture I tend to avoid. Wouldn't you know that the natterers are the ones who find my office the most?

[Not too rub it in but I can avoid this for three more weeks. Hang in there, you semester-ers.]

Thursday, September 07, 2006 5:32:00 PM  

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