Sunday, June 17, 2007

End of an Era

Ooooh, this may mark the longest I've gone without blogging. I wish I could say that I was chomping at the bit to get back to it. I was! Really! I was thinking of y'all every day!

In truth, I've been so exhausted that the concept of producing extra words has made me want to cry. The aggregate of the workshop, on top of the summer class, following close on the heels of the spring semester was a tactical error on my part. I just don't have that kind of stamina, and I sure as hell don't have the deep bank of small-talk and good will toward strangers that it takes to be a shiny, happy participant in all of these activities.

Now, however, I'm finally at home, and despite the fact that I'm covered in hives (oh yes, that's right: I don't know what I ate or touched, but I'm covered in red bumps from shoulder to groin. It's awesome. And very attractive.), it's starting to feel a bit like summer. I say a bit because there are some lingering crap tasks from the spring that need to be done: adjunct evaluations, administrative tasks, putting together budgets and such for next year. The biggest and most immediate task of all? Moving my office.

On Monday, the movers are coming to take thirty-some-odd boxes containing my office life to another building. I've been in the same office since I started this job, and so as I shove my books, in ever-more haphazard fashion into tiny, carry-able boxes, I do feel like I'm moving into a new phase of my career here. When I started this job, I was a newly-minted PhD, with dreams of a high-powered liberal arts college job, turning my dissertation into a book, and trying to think about ways that I could make my mark on the field. The beat-to-hell anthologies on the bottom shelf of my bookcases tell a different story. They're evidence that the job was created for someone with a different, and perhaps no field specialization. The notebooks I have from my first few years are for the classes that I most often got to teach: gen ed courses or entry-level surveys for the majors. There's something significant, I think, in the radical disjuncture between who I thought I was and the job that I was hired to do. What happens to the junior faculty member caught between these two poles?

If I were a different kind of scholar, the answer might have been that I ignored the job, published my ass off, and got a different position at a school that fit my self-image better. Instead, my office tells a different story. I've packed boxes of files that relate to my administrative work---one place that I turned to for intellectual challenges when my teaching wasn't bearing that out. I've thrown out (ahem. recycled) pounds of paper from departmental meetings that show proposals for curriculum changes, shifts in teaching schedules, requirements, load. In that same pile goes reams of committee work offal. What gets boxed up are the materials for my co-directed lunch series, my reports on campus tech practices, flyers announcing visiting speakers. In short, the evidence tells a story about changing my self-image. Not changing it to meet the job, but changing it enough to create the job that I wanted to have.

On my off days, I wonder if I haven't simply rationalized my shortcomings. Am I just lazy? Incapable of maintaining the kind of vision that I had throughout grad school? On better days, however, I hope that four years of metamorphosis have given me a clearer vision of the kind of work that I want to do, and still have ahead of me in a new space.



Blogger Ashley said...

I so feel your pain here. I'm just revamping my Brit I survey syllabus for the millionth time in 2 years (ok, 5th) and thinking about how very very not often I ever think about my own period any more. It was actually interesting at first, kind of an intellectual challenge ("Beowulf? Why, I haven't even read that since aught-one!") but now it's just tiresome. But am I ignoring that, publishing extensively, attending pertinent conferences, and gearing up to get the hell out of here? Noooooo. I'm revamping my Brit 1 syllabus for the millionth time.

Sunday, June 17, 2007 3:15:00 PM  
Blogger kfluff said...

I was just talking to a friend about the ways that many of us get into professing because we love to have great conversations about books. How very seldom, however, do we have those conversations in our own classes, or with our own colleagues.

Eeesh. Brit lit I.

Monday, June 18, 2007 8:47:00 AM  

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