Sometimes a person goes out into the wilderness in search of their “true self,” or some other answer to a philosophical question prompted by a complete breakdown, existential crisis, or some other disorder or destruction of one’s perceived world or self. Sometimes that person is drastically changed by the experience and ends up in a brand new place, as a brand new person. Other times the results are more akin to what Glenda told Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz: she had the power to go home any time she wanted. She just needed to click her heels three times and POOF!
It’s no secret that I’ve had a challenging few years. Between fighting for my dissertation topic, actually writing and defending my dissertation, my Mom’s death and subsequent legal crap with my brothers, selling my parents’ house, looking for a job, getting a job, moving halfway across the country for said job, renting a house and then buying that house … and then dealing with Texas, the job, and an assortment of health issues … I’ve had a pretty chaotic and intense few years. At any given time I was under the covers bawling my eyes out. I’ve coped by trying to suppress my emotions with food and booze. I’ve questioned everything that I was, am, and might be. I’ve made an escape plan from academia only to trash it because there is no way anyone or anything is going to drive me away from what I love. And yes, I am constantly questioning my decision to take this job and move to Texas.
I know other academics would kill to teach at an R1. I also know that I’m very fortunate to have landed a full-time, though not tenured, job within two years of finishing my doctorate. Hell, this is exactly what I wished for: a large state school with a sports program (swimming please) and a strong research program. I never had that kind of experience because I went to Hunter College. The City University system isn’t exactly known for its sports, though it is known for its innovative research and pedagogy. What I didn’t know was that I was going to land in the fourth largest university in the US with a HUGE football culture. Yes, I’m gaining valuable experience: I’m teaching on-line classes, something that I never really did before. I’m teaching HUGE classes, something I definitely never did before … huge as in my Introduction class currently has 160 students in it with 10 more seats available. But I’m also experiencing some unforeseen “challenges” with departmental expectations and focus, and I am most certainly experiencing a culture shock within the university and state-wide.
I’m convinced that I’m not really meant to teach at a huge R1. I’m having a hard time with the amount of pressure and the high expectations to constantly produce. My teaching is suffering because I’m so worried about the never-ending cycle of research, writing, awards, grants, honors, etc.. I know this is part of all universities, of course they want professors who are actively producing thoughtful, solid research and, of course, we’re required to write grants and give papers at prestigious conferences. It comes with the territory and I accept that. However, at what expense do we pursue this? I’m a slow scholar who enjoys the process. I think slowly, I write slowly, I produce slowly; and I know that this will be a source of contention come my yearly review. I also know that I want to focus on innovative pedagogy and mindful methods of teaching; after all, art pedagogy is where my research lies. Unlike other scholars, I love to teach. I love discussing big ideas and theory with my students. I adore watching them grapple with the information and successfully unpack it. Teaching and pedagogy are my passions, and sadly I don’t feel they are being supported. It’s RESEARCH! HONORS! AWARDS! I work in a department whose professors and graduates gauge success by winning the Oscar for production and animation. It’s really hard to win an Oscar for researching 19th century art and aesthetic education.
Furthermore, I’m having a hard time with the predominately white, Christian Conservative mindset. This mindset invades even the most well-meaning Democrat and it always surprises me. NYC has a Starbucks on every corner; here, we have a church on every corner and some of them are mega-churchs. I’m having trouble keeping my mouth closed when a well-meaning Texan tells me that “Texas is the best state in the USA and we’re bigger and better and most friendly, yada-yada.” And forget about Aggie culture and tradition, because it’s the BEST. Just hugely awesome. sigh … I’ve been wearing a Hunter College or Graduate Center t-shirt and my class necklace to keep myself grounded. It’s kind of difficult not to get angry and defensive when someone keeps telling you that Texas is awesome and every place else sucks, including other colleges. School pride isn’t really a thing in CUNY, even though the majority of us knew we were getting a solid education. School pride has suddenly become very important to me.
As for what I’ve been wearing, I found myself toning down simply because I was getting tired of the stares, the comments, and the folks who make the sign of the cross when they pass us. If you’re different in any way, Texans (not all, of course. There are some good eggs here) don’t like you and won’t give you the time of day. I’ve been really spoiled being a New York City gal, that’s for sure. I’m in a position where I need to be approachable to students, fellow faculty and staff, and others outside of the college. Stripping the black dye out of my hair and going red, lightening my makeup, and wearing less black allowed me to slip through the college and society without being too noticed. But you know, I’m tired. I’m tired of “worrying about my career,” I’m tired of “being good,” I’m just fucking tired of trying to make other people comfortable at the expense of my own comfort … just because they are too immature or to bigoted to accept that folks aren’t all like them. I’m tired of so many thing and for so many reasons. I’m just TIRED. Go Hunter!
I’ve been thinking a lot along this chaotic walk-about and have decided that …
Academically, my focus will be on my students and myself, everything else be damned. I want to bring innovative pedagogy to my classroom, no matter how large it is. I want to flip a classroom of 160+ students, build crazy-awesome, creative on-line classes, and give my students the tools to take control of their learning and speak with truth and power. Hell, I’d be happy if they learn how to write citations correctly. sigh …
I want to approach my own work with passion … engaging in the material slowly and methodically. I want to sniff in the darkest corners of my research, slowly unpacking long-forgotten slips of paper. I want to write with measured words that have been chewed on, flipped over, edited, and chewed on again. Slow. Sure. Steady. That’s how I’ve always been. I don’t want to write towards some crazy qualitative number that judges my output based on how much I get out the door and how it compares to an Oscar.
Personally, as you can see I cut off my hair and dyed it black again. I’m wearing my black eyeliner and thinly lining my eyebrows in black again. And yes, I’m focused on reasserting myself as “Academic Goth” once again, just like I did with Le Professeur Gothique back in 2012. I’m tired of explaining myself to people, like a colleague who wanted to know if I thought all my Halloween stuff protected me. From what, I have no idea. No, I’m not kidding and neither was she. I’m tired of trying to make THEM feel comfortable. I’ve been on a huge fashion walk-about that took me from classic Goth to Gothabilly to 40s to 20s, and back again. It’s all me and that’s all I have to say on that matter.
As for this blog …
Yes, I plan on blogging more. No, I don’t know how many times of week. The plan is to get back to my normal blogging themes and subjects: fashion, academics, life-style, Bat Fit, cooking … and how I’m surviving as a NYC gal here in Bryan-College Station, TX.