Sunday, September 16, 2007

Time for a Rally (but not in a monster-truck sort of way)

Hey y'all. Thanks for the expressions of sympathy, for which I am eternally grateful. I'm feeling a bit less histrionic now, which is always a good thing. So where am I?

Well, I realize that this is yet another installment in the pattern that has constructed my academic life for the last few years. Crummy "collegial" interaction early in the week, days of depression and reaction with nights of bad sleep, and a return to some sort of equilibrium by the end of the week---just in time to start all over again. This is no way to live, and it's no way to get things done, since very little can be accomplished while depressed, meaning that weekends are spent making up for the crap week prior.

So where does that leave me? When I started the year, and anticipated that reentry into this kind of system, I thought about how I might change my own actions. I've been playing the "definition of insanity" game for too long. Given that I can't change how others act, I've got to change myself. But what to change? Trying to be honest and transparent hasn't worked; logic and data are discounted; silence and submission encourage targeting. What's left?!

The only thing I can think of is that I have to stop wanting. The more I articulate my support (or lack thereof) of something specific, the less likely it is to happen, and the more I activate animosity. So, not to be all watered-down Buddhist and shit, but my new purpose is to obviate desire. Detach from the outcome. Know that people will behave as their characters dictate, not as I think they should, or deem ethical.

Before you think I've gone all David Carradine (and honestly, wandering the earth like Cain is looking pretty good right now), I should probably note that this strategy is antithetical to my own nature, and the entirety of my experience in higher education. As a college student at a hippie school, I designed a major based on what interested me (literature and quantum physics. Voice recitals and directing plays. More German modernism than you can shake a stick at. No underwater basket weaving, but that was next.) In graduate school, I took independent studies, courses in other departments, and requested a qualifying exam that didn't exist. I wrote a dissertation with a departmentally-exiled professor and outside readers. I've spent my whole life figuring out how to get around "no" to get what I want. I live to get around requirements. (Now that I look at it like this, I have to wonder where all this academic rebellion comes from. I blame my parents.)

So here we go. Let's see if, at 32, I can kill the want. After that, I'll ponder the sound of one hand clapping.

In our next installment, I promise to lighten up. Hell, Sisyphus has tagged me for a meme, for crying out loud! How about I get on that?!!

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Blogger Ashley said...

Wow, I am so very, very much on this page. I got there about a week ago when I was pondering my role on the curriculum committee that has been trying to reform our curriculum for, I shit you not, seven years. In the course of a 40 minute meeting I went from "I want reform!" to "I will fulfill the roles that this committee assigns to me." It was kind of liberating, really.

Sunday, September 16, 2007 7:14:00 PM  
Blogger kiita said...

For whatever it's worth: the strategy you've outlined is one that I learned as I was growing up. It was the only way to survive the demanding and punitive environments of both my (immigrant) home and (sadistically waspish) school lives. My own depression in the first five years of my academic job stemmed from falling back into the strategy of not wanting anything. Now all I care about is not being depressed anymore, which means I have to take my own wants and desires very, very seriously.

Sunday, September 16, 2007 8:00:00 PM  
Blogger kfluff said...

Kiita--your point is well taken. And makes me think about the difference between wanting something for myself and wanting it for my department, my institution, etc. That way madness lies, I think. I need to contemplate this more, but there's a very sane space between what you're saying about the necessity of one's desires, and what Ashley is saying about the necessity of detaching.

And when I figure out that space and how to get and stay in it, I will also be able to float to my classes instead of walking there. Sigh. Thanks so much for responding!!

Monday, September 17, 2007 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

Exactly; it's about finding the right wants, I guess. I can't want my colleagues not to be a bunch of asshat reactionaries; I CAN want to do the best job of presenting this new curriculum model that I can. I can't want my students not to be complete idiots who don't know what a monk is (not kidding); I CAN want to adjust my pedagogies to give them the tools to learn if they want to.

Also, I can want to lie around on the couch and knit a sweater. I'm very good at wanting that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007 8:52:00 AM  

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