So I woke up this morning feeling less funky (in the sense of being in a funk and not in the sense of having a strong beat and being very danceable.) I did some writing in my journal last night, talked to my peeps on the phone, and just generally spent some time trying to think through the funk and to figure out what's up with me. The night culminated with a really nice chat with FB, who is often annoying but who is also very patient and wise and things that I don't often give him credit for being, at least not publicly. At any rate, he said he'd been expecting the Existential Crisis that I've recently registered to hit around December, so the fact that it's showed up two months early, while surprising because of the timing, isn't really surprising to him in its scope. This actually made me feel much better. See, I was thinking that the whole thing was surprising and stupid and weird, and so it's nice to hear that in fact it was coming all along, and also I feel slightly proud of myself for the efficient timetable that I appear to have when it comes to entering Existential Crisis Mode. I am very self-aware and fancy.
At any rate, I think there are two major things that are combining to make me feel "off," for lack of a better way of putting it.
1. Realizing that now that the tenure materials have been turned in, nothing I do actually matters. You'd think this would be liberating, wouldn't you? Relieving, at the very least? Yeah, I think it's more like being a hamster and having somebody take the wheel that you've run on for five years out of your cage. Sure, you were never getting anyplace running on that wheel, but being able to run on the wheel made you think that you were getting someplace. Take the wheel away, when you're still trapped in the cage, and what exactly are you supposed to do with yourself? Who are you now? What next?
2. Knowing that the book appears this month and that, ostensibly, people could read it and that they will think it's laughably bad. That there are things "wrong" with the book that I've somehow missed. That the book is an embarassment. Again, I'd thought that I'd be excited about the book coming out. That it would be this huge sense of achievement. But no. Instead, I'm feeling totally apprehensive about it, like it's a bad thing rather than a good thing. Add to this the feeling of "what exactly am I supposed to do with myself now?" and "will I ever be that interested in anything again?" and there we are.
But I woke up this morning feeling like this: sure, these two things are forcing me to reevaluate who I am and who I want to become, and sure, that sucks. But also, the way that things have shaken out (i.e., the fact that I've got nothing on my plate right now in terms of must-be-done projects) is actually a good thing, because it means that I can really reevaluate and reflect without excuses not to do so. I can focus on the whole me rather than just on the academic me for a change, and the fact is, I haven't really done that since high school - or at least my first year or two of college. And also, come on: I know that I'm going to be excited and interested about things again, because I'm an excitable and interestable person, and I know that ultimately whatever comes next will matter just in a way that is different from the way things have mattered on the tenure-track, and I know that even though some people will think the book stinks that other people (including people I really respect, like the person who wrote the fancy blurb for it) will think it's interesting and grand and makes a contribution, however small, to the way that we think about the period and authors about which I wrote. So even if I don't feel those things in this moment, I do know that they are true. So to some extent, I think that I have to let myself move through all of these feelings and to come to grips with them while at the same time I know deep down that a lot of this has to do with insecurity and fear of change and all of that stuff - not with the basic truths that I hold to be self-evident about who I am and where all of what I've done fits.
So it's not that the funk has entirely lifted, or that it's gone, but I do feel like I "get it" a bit more than I did yesterday and in recent days. And "getting it" for me always makes me feel better. If I "get it" then I can make plans and strategize and move forward, even as I still feel a bit off. And the more I plan and strategize and make goals and go full steam ahead, the better the likelihood that I'll come to terms with the funk, rather than just wallowing in it.
So it's a sunny day, and really the first fall-like day that we've had in terms of temperature, and while I'm probably going to descend into the funk periodically for the next while, I also feel hopeful that I'm not doomed to the funk for eternity. And what this means, practically speaking, is I need to get some things done so as to stay in a sunny and positive mood as opposed to returning to the place of angst and despair because I didn't get anything done with my morning. And off I go.
5 years ago