Here's the thing I'm thinking about. I'm thinking that maybe I *have* been working tonight, that it's one of those times when I'm gearing up, and so I've needed to be quiet and mindless. Part of me resists this interpretation, thinking that I'm just making excuses for my poor work ethic. I'm telling that part to shut up. Because I know that it's important to just have space to think, and that's what I took tonight. Notice I didn't watch mindless tv, nor did I try to force myself to do some sort of thought-requiring activity. I played scrabble, which uses the brain, but which also allows one's mind to wander. I'm hoping that this will spur me on to ever greater productivity.
So I'm feeling pretty good. I really do think that I can manage to get the things done that I need to get done in the next few days, and I'm feeling pretty positive about personal-life stuff as well. That said, I've been doing a lot of thinking about what I want in my life in the long term, reflecting on my experiences on the job market, reflecting on where I see myself heading in this profession but also on where I see myself heading as a person.
- I'm currently in my fourth year on the t-t. So I've got next year, and then I've got my tenure year. The reality is that if I'm moving, it's most likely going to happen in the next two years.
- My personal life has been... well, it's been on the back-burner for some time. Part of this has been the job, but let's be honest: part of it is that I needed time to recover from the Last Big Relationship. Did I need a full four years? Probably not, but I took it. When Crazy loves, she does not love easily but she does love hard, and that requires recovery time. Do I think those four years have been wasted? Certainly not. I think I've figured out a lot of shit in those four years about who I am and about what I need (and don't need) in my life. I've also opened myself up to possibilities that didn't seem like possibilities four years ago. So this is all positive, if not particularly evocative of anything concrete, if that makes any sense.
- My research agenda is totally insane for the kind of institution at which I currently work. Now, this institution is changing. It may be that this institution will allow me to continue at this pace in a more reasonable fashion sooner rather than later. But there's no guarantee of that. So as soon as the book is done and as soon as MLA 2007 is done, it's time for me to make some big decisions about what I want my productivity to be like in the next five years on the t-t.
- I'm very happy with what I've learned and what I've become as a college teacher. I really enjoy the work I do in the classroom, and I don't see myself in another career. That said, being a teacher isn't who I am, and if this career got in the way of being who I want to be, I think I'd consider not being a teacher. I don't know entirely what that means, but I think that one thing I've learned this year is to separate who I am from what I do.
Part of this realization comes out of the fact that I'm much more known for the dabbling I've been doing in what now seems to be the primary thing that I'm known for. Working on stuff for MLA has driven home to me that the work I thought of as the "break" from my "real work" (the book manuscript stuff) is actually much more important than the "real work." More important to other people, I mean. I'm making a bigger dent in literary studies in this work than I've ever made in the "real work." The work I'm doing is more interesting and more "of the moment" in the dabbling area, and it's more important to the advancement of the field. This is a fluke. A total fluke. But it's true. I realized it when people cited me to me in their proposals for the panels I'm putting together; I'm realizing it further in looking at students' research proposals from my upper-level class, in which they are anxious because they can't avoid the work that I've done in the dabbling area. (They're horrified at the idea of getting me wrong. I've explained to them that this is ultimately the whole point - that they disagree with me or see things that I didn't see. I never imagined having this problem when all of this began. I didn't imagine anybody'd ever need to look at what I'd done in the dabbling area.) For this reason, the book almost seems like a foundation for the thing I'm really doing, as opposed to the real thing from which the other thing is diverting me. So if that's true, then clearly we can't be what we work on, because if that were true, I wouldn't be in this bizarre situation.
But even with that, it is strange how so many of my recent thoughts about where I'm heading are bound up in the book. I think I've come to realize that for a long time, I've viewed that - publishing a book - not finishing the diss, not getting the PhD, not getting a job - as the achievement. After this, then, what? Is the next book really the next marker? I don't think it is. I think the next marker is probably nothing to do with career. That's not to say I won't write another book or continue to Think Great Thoughts and Pursue Ideas, but I don't think, ultimately, I really care very much about continuing to strive so hard for professional stuff. I care about not being an idiot, and I care about being respected, but I don't care about adding more notches to my lipstick case professionally. And I don't think I really care about leaving here. That's not to say I won't go on the market again - I may - but I'm not interested in going on the market just to rise in the academic hierarchy. The bottom line is that I don't really need to do that. People who know my work and who know me respect me. Isn't that actually the point? And I'm not terribly motivated by money. I make a fine amount of money where I am. I didn't get into this for the big bucks, you know. So what do I care about? Where am I going? And is this really what I need to be thinking about right now?
See, but maybe it is. Maybe this is the process. Maybe it's all about fits of self-reflection and starts of productivity. That's how it's always been for me. And maybe that's ok. Maybe it's ok to contemplate the state of my immortal soul when I should be writing or editing or doing other professional activities, because maybe thinking about the state of my immortal soul helps me to do those things. Maybe that's why the blog has been so crucial to my achievements since I've started - and I do think it has - because it's a space that affords me an audience (I'm not just writing to myself in a journal) who will listen to this stuff, and so that audience forces me to think about things more productively than I did when I only had my journal to rely upon. I don't feel particularly accountable to journals. Never been able to write in them every single day, never have particularly thought about being coherent in them. Here, I've got to be at least somewhat coherent. And so maybe the reflecting (read sometimes: whining) here, actually gets me where I need to go in the work.
And in a weird way, I think it's getting me where I need to go in my life, too. The people whom I've met through the blog, and the experiences I've had with meeting people through the blog (in whatever form) have given me... I don't know. They've given me a strange perspective about who I actually am. It's strange when people "know" one through one's writing - and particularly through one's personal writing - and then when one "meets" those people, whether in person or via email or over the telephone, and gets to know them in a different register, in which the knowing is reciprocal. It makes one much more open than one might be in meeting a stranger, and one comes to realize that one can be much more open in many more situations than one might have been previously. I've lost a lot of my angst about self-presentation. I've become a lot more comfortable in my own skin. So which came first, the blogging or the egg?
So yeah. Tonight has been "unproductive." But it's not been Dark Night of the Soul unproductive. It's been... I don't know - Light Night of the Soul unproductive? Does such a thing exist? I'm just feeling so... centered. I feel like I have a plan. I'm not sure if it will work, but who cares about that? I think I know that I don't necessarily want to leave this job or this location at any cost. I also know that I would leave them in a heartbeat if there were a compelling reason to do so. I know that I want to have a more vibrant social life here, but I also know that having that doesn't mean I'm stuck here - it just means I'll have even more long-distance friends should I go. Laying down roots isn't a bad thing, even if one ultimately ends up pulling up those roots. Sometimes a plant just needs to be repotted. It's not the end of the world, right? And sure, I want stability. I want consistency. I want routine. But I also want adventure and light and life. And I think that it's possible to have both - maybe not at the exact same time, but to have each some of the time. It's not an either or.
I've been living my life like it is an either/or. I'm sure I will again - that's my way. But right now, I think I'm in a both/and sort of a place.
So. Tonight may be a wash (oh, who am I kidding, it is) but tomorrow, I'll work like a maniac. And Saturday, I'll work like a maniac. And Sunday I'll take the day off and clean my house. Fits and starts, people. Fits and starts.