I haven’t felt like blogging lately; matter-of-fact, I haven’t really felt like journalling in any form. It’s been a quiet time of deep introspection, a time when words are not a satisfactory way to communicate such complex — and often messy — thoughts and feelings.
This has been a significant year for me in many ways, and, in turn, has been a year of “becoming.” I would be lying if I said that turning 45 in June didn’t mentally and emotionally affect me. More than any other birthday, my 45th has had a profound influence on how I see myself, who I am becoming, and how I see the world. In the months following my birthday, it dawned on me that I’m halfway done in this particular incarnation of “life.” If I live to 90 than I am currently at the midway point in my existence. If I live to my 70s or 80s I’m more than halfway done. Suddenly, those things that seemed so important in my previous decades are no longer relevant; and those things that I thought I had plenty of time for are now extraordinarily critical.
Scholarship, writing, teaching — in essence my career — have become a driving force in my life. And yet, I’m approaching my career with a much more mature, and perhaps sage, attitude. I’m focusing on my research and writing projects, learning new pedagogy, and taking the time to truly be with my students. I’m listening to them, and in turn, learning from them. My students are teaching me that my enthusiasm for the subject, my innovative methods of teaching, my empathy and deep-felt sympathy towards them make me a better and more effective teacher. We are partners in learning and, therefore, they need to be given the autonomy to explore new things, to screw up, and to succeed. I need to be a coach, a curator of information, a guide through the material.
I’m making time for my own scholarship … and I’m finally putting my dissertation to rest. My questions have gotten bigger and yet, more focused. My interests, although connected, have become more diverse. And, I’m finally exploring the things that I want to explore and not the things that folks expect me to explore. It’s taken me almost three years to finally admit to myself that I don’t want to continue the research associated with my dissertation. I was only doing so because that’s what I thought was required of me. Now, I’m doing what interests me and what I feel is important.
Most importantly, I’m removing myself from the competition, the nastiness, the back-biting, the gossip, and the narcissism associated with academia. I’m not interested in what people think of me or the what they think I should be doing. I am not responsible for the way people feel about me, and it’s not my job to make them feel secure or less threatened.
That’s really in all social circles — friends, family, social media, etc. I’m not responsible for how you feel about me and, unless I’m doing something terrible to you, I’m not changing to make you feel more comfortable with me, my ideas, or my life. I don’t owe anyone an apology for living my life the way I see fit. And I certainly don’t owe anyone an explanation for the way I dress, my interests, how I decorate my house, how I wear my hair, and what I do.
And maybe that’s why I haven’t wanted to blog lately. Reflecting on my past blogs — Le Professeur Gothique, Dancing Maenad, The Curious Professor Z on blogger — I have no interest in discussing subcultural constructions of self, or being “goth” in academia, or whether the “kids” are destroying the subculture. These issues may have been important to me in past decades, but these days it just seems like wasted breath … or bandwidth in this case. At 45, I just don’t feel the need to shout it off the rooftops, or explain myself, or yell at the kids to get off my lawn. I’d rather help them with their eyeliner and introduce them to music and art. I’d rather write about pedagogy and my research, art and cultural events, hiking and camping, gardening, and yes, fashion … but a deeper, more personal fashion that has nothing to do with a subculture, or vintage, or whatever label we like to put on ourselves.
This time of introspection has also made me realize how incredibly important my non-career life is, especially Ed, my nieces and nephews, creating in all capacities, my health, my spiritual health, and my time to explore the world around me. This realization manifested here in Texas, where I feel cut off and sequestered from all of those things that make me happy, that energize me, and that keep me focused and calm. Sure, Ed is with me and that’s awesome, but we aren’t doing those things that we enjoy doing together because they are completely unavailable to us. Life is way too short, and in my case it’s getting shorter. I’m not willing to sacrifice my personal happiness and my relationships for a “good job.” Thankfully, I’m able to bring that good job back to NYC with me, but I had to ask for what I wanted and be prepared for “Plan B” … or D in my case. I am truly thankful to my department chair and to Texas A&M for giving this new plan a chance. When I’m truly happy and at peace I can move mountains and do wondrous things, and that includes in my career an in my personal life.
Indeed, this has been a year of “becoming” … a year when I come into my own.