Fashion, My So-Called Academic Life, Philosophy and Deep Thoughts, Texas Adventures, Updates

One Crazy Walk-About

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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. 

 

 

12 thoughts on “One Crazy Walk-About”

  1. Go, you! I know you’re committed to doing good work at your R1, and it’s important work. But part of me hopes you can find a home at a SLAC or even a smaller state school sooner rather than later…

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  2. Yes, churches abound!
    There seems to be more Christian and Catholic churches than places to eat… and that’s kind of funny lol. Kind of.

    My experience with Texans is quite the same; it’s a little frustrating how they validate their biases about other places just because you’re there/here. It never seems to occur to the few I have spoken to at length and in detail that perhaps it wasn’t the first choice but an only choice for some of us in order to advance towards our actual goals.
    Everyone is here or stays here because Texas is the only beautiful State with the most liberties and it doesn’t get much better than this! … *ahem* …

    You show ’em, Franny. >:) ❤

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    1. Weird, we only seem to have Christian churches. I’ve only seen one or two small Catholic churches around here. Growing up in Staten Island, I’m used to Catholic churches so that wouldn’t bother me as much. Where are the synagogues? Hindu temples? Mosques? I come from a very diverse city, so this homogeny makes me very wary.

      Oh my gawds! Yes, all of this!!! And thank you.

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    1. Hi!!! I’m still here. I had to take a bit of a blogging break because of all the craziness. Besides, I needed to catch my breath. I really had to consider if I still wanted to blog … and decided why the hell not? I like doing it. Folks seem to like reading it. VOILA! 🙂 Glad you found me.

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  3. Oh, sigh. I don’t even know where to start. First things first– Virtual Hug! I have a Virginia friend who ended up moving to Texas for her husband’s job; she hates it and has mentioned that Texans enjoy talking about how big and great Texas is. She’s in San Antonio though. I love being a Virginian and I love my Southern city but I typically use the phrase, “It’s complicated” while rolling my eyes about particular aspects. I cannot trust anyone who continually says something is great. It raises too many red flags; and, the bigger and better? Well, I like miniatures and tiny things ;P

    I also laughed because Catholics, presumably those making the signs of the cross, rarely pay attention to such stuff but there are few Catholic Churches in my area.Growing up, I was told “We have Jesus in our heart, not around our neck”… oh, religion. Sighs.

    I completely understanding the research pressure R1. I was a doctoral student at one and it wasn’t on my radar for employment. Even in teaching- centered universities where I am, there are faculty members who don’t like teaching. I love reading about your passion for teaching, about the new ideas that you have for and with your students, and about your reflections on pedagogy. I have no doubt that you’re an amazing professor and that some school is going to fight to have you.

    This reads like you’ve processed a great deal. I look forward to your posts whenever they are available. Scheduling seems too calculated. I would rather follow an organic process anyway.

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  4. The whole “Texas is the best and if you don’t think so than go home” thing is getting really old, really fast. I had a Catholic student who was all “hush-hush” about her beliefs because she told me that folks desperately try to convert her and bring her to their church. I was surprised, but then I realized that we don’t actually have a lot of Catholic Churches around here. I really felt bad for her because she was tucking her cross under her shirt just so folks would leave her alone.

    I went to an R1 as well. Yes, The Grad Center CUNY is an R1, but it certainly wasn’t huge … well, unless you consider the fact that all of the senior CUNYs are part of its system. My experience there was quite a bit different than what I’m going through here. The size of the school coupled with this push to not only produce, but to constantly produce in top tier ways just isn’t for me. My scholarship is so left-of-center and extremely pedagogically based that CAA doesn’t want it. I’m also very inter-disciplinary and that makes it tough as well. I don’t know, maybe it’s the fact that the school is huge, there’s a chip on it’s shoulder (one that I’m not sure is recognized outside of the state), and my research will never get me top tier because it’s not just art history. Anywho, enough about that …

    I’ve been having a hard time blogging because of my mindset. When I’m not excited about where I am and what I’m doing I don’t see a need to talk about it. This walk-about has certainly helped to refocus me.

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  5. Sorry that you have been going through such difficult times. I hope you figure out what’s right for you in the end!!

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