Thursday, November 30, 2006

am I honest?

Prof Me is moving. Reading her post today about blogging honesty and assuming a character moved me to a little soul-searching: Why do I do this? Why do I make the effort to write on this blog when there are plenty of other writing projects to keep me busy? Besides the why, is there a question of who? Might I have taken on a persona that doesn't ring true to the real me?

I started this blog over two years ago - a fact that stuns me every time I think of it. I started because I was interested in weblogs; I was considering them as part of the research for my dissertation and I didn't think I could do that without first experimenting with the concept. The first few posts were rather stilted (since I wasn't writing for any real purpose) but I gradually slid into academic mode: the blog became a way for me to think through dissertation issues - the research, the writing, the meetings, the literature. Like PM mentions, though, the blog "quickly evolved into a more personal statement" and I was writing whatever came to mind.

Two years later, why do I keep writing? Sure, I like using the blog to work through things as I type - but I could easily write in a journal. Yes, the blog gives me a place to vent about all sorts of things, large and small - but I could talk to a wall if the issue is just venting. Okay, I have found that the physical act of making myself think coherently in this informal space guarantees that I write something every day, which is necessary for my brain - but I could keep a notebook or scribble on a scratchpad to keep those juices flowing.

When it comes down to it, I write because of the community I feel here. Selfishly, I like the feeling of friendship that comes from writing, receiving comments, reading other blogs, leaving comments; I have a group of friends - even without knowing their faces or sometimes even their names - and I want to talk to them. I like that new friends might pop up; I like that I can ask questions and get answers; I like that I can have a bad day and hear the virtual nods from everyone who's suffered the same. This blog isn't the same blog that I started two years ago but I think I'm okay with that.

The question of "honest" blogging is harder to answer. Is this me? If you met me for coffee (or tea, as the case may be), would you make the connection between the me in front of you and the me on your computer screen? I'd like to think so. I "talk" here, so I feel like this is my voice. The turns of phrase, the muttered asides, the self-deprecating humor - that's me over lunch, too.

So, why blog anonymously? If I think of this as a community and many of you as friends, why not just open it up and say who I am, where I am, what I do? You know, I have a hard time answering that. I've thought about it at times over the past two years but I don't have a clear response. There are the issues of protecting myself from possible university retribution, perhaps (I definitely wouldn't link to my blog from my faculty website, so that perhaps may be more definitive than I want to admit). However, the best answer I can give is this: I'm still figuring out who I am. Right now, phd me identifies me as clearly as my real name, at least in my mind, and it doesn't come with some of the baggage that accompanies my given name. It's like meeting someone for the first time, offering your hand and starting a conversation; at that minute, you are only what exists between you. It isn't that you're creating a new persona, it's that you get to present a fresh you, the real you. Using my real name provides info that may or may not accurately present who I am - not the name itself (I'm not descending from a royal line or anything) but the accompanying bits that are easily interpreted to form a perception - what I look like, what I do, where I live.

That's the best I can do, and it may or may not make sense.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

and sometimes I'm not so sure

Another student meeting. Another successful discussion about the research project. I'm not leaving with my warm and fuzzy butterflies this time, though.

This student has had a rough semester; I knew that, on one level, but without knowing anything else, I just had a record of class absences and missed assignments leading to possibly failing the course. I stopped the student after class the other day and suggested (okay, told) that my office hours today would be an excellent time to talk to me. We'd had a similar discussion earlier in the semester, so I was a little miffed that we had to rinse and repeat, but such is my job, right?

I handed over the Kleenex five minutes into our conversation. This student has had to manage a personal issue and two major family traumas this semester, on top of an 18-hour courseload. The student was very apologetic in explaining that classes were the only flexible option in all of that and the intention wasn't to blow off anything but there was just too much to handle at one time, literally and emotionally.

I can only imagine. I wish I'd known earlier because, I assure you, I would have handled my irritation about missed classes quite differently. At the same time, I'm a private person - I wouldn't have approached any of my professors with something like this, either - so I can understand the reluctance to talk about personal issues. The student is headed back toward solid ground academically now and there was laughter before we finished, so I feel okay about things in general.

I just needed to remember, it isn't really about the classwork after all.

sometimes I am good at what I do

A student came this morning to talk about her final research project. She wasn't as lost as she thought, but she couldn't quite grasp how everything was supposed to come together (and don't we all know that feeling!). I drew diagrams; I asked questions; I used props; I scribbled down notes. She nodded and asked questions and explained where I didn't make sense and, in the end, left with a much better idea of how to tie the whole project together. I ran across campus to grab something to drink after she left and on the way back, I thought,
"I like this part of my job. I like sitting down with students to work through roadblocks; I like the push and pull required of working one-on-one with students; I like being able to challenge and support my students - and I'm good at it. Maybe it doesn't count for anything in the grand scheme of tenure and promotion - but I'm good at it. Maybe I don't do everything well - but I am good at this."
Self-aggrandizing, perhaps, but sometimes, it's nice to feel like you do something well.

I've got nothing

Well, the headache is gone but I still find myself with nothing very interesting to say. Shall I update you on the not-very-interesting, then?

I had a 9:30 meeting with a fellow prof this morning (and I was running late, as I always seem to be these days). I prepped for class and managed a few emails before a student came to talk about the final project (now they want to talk!). Class went well; we had an interesting topic for discussion and they managed to stay awake for my - very short - lecture (I had good examples). I finished up my grant proposal for the study abroad program and sent it off (one thing off the to-do list - whoo) before I met a prof from the department for a semester check-in. After a quick stop at the grocery store, home to grade student papers before finally fixing dinner and collapsing in front of the TV to do nothing productive.

Fascinating, I know.

And I'm curious as to whether anyone is actually getting my posts over this last week. I have a sneaking suspicion that the site feed isn't working.

Update: Thanks to Prof Mama for letting me know comment moderation was somehow enabled on my blog. There have been some weird happenings in my personal blog-land lately; I'll just blame it on the techno-elves.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

so - much - grading

Aside from making revisions to a grant application this morning, I've been grading all day. All day. Obviously this is a common complaint at the end of the semester, and since I'm the one that assigned the work in the first place, I have only myself to blame. However. Oh well, at least they're writing interesting stuff - and by interesting, I mean both intellectually stimulating and downright laughable.

Monday, November 27, 2006

and the visitors are gone

Life is back to normal again. My sister and nieces left this morning, after a brief whirlwind of shopping, eating, game playing, talking and dramatic outbursts of adolescent angst (ah, to be sixteen again).

That's about all I've got right now. I've got a headache and it's hard to think through it. Perhaps I'll have something to say tomorrow.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


My sister, with Nieces #2 and #3, arrived yesterday. Yeah! There was much shopping, eating, talking and playing of Uno. Today, I'm taking them to see campus and downtown PRU; I believe someone mentioned going to the bookstore (twist my arm); food will be involved at different times of the day; and I'm sure we'll end the evening around the table playing something. Despite my avowedly independent lifestyle, it's awfully nice to have them here.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

giving thanks

It occurred to me yesterday as I pulled into my pleasant little driveway under a brilliantly blue sky: "This may be as happy as I ever am." All things considered, I have a very good life at the moment, with lots to be thankful for, so rather than fixate on what isn't, let me take a minute to consider what is.
  • New friends. I couldn't have asked for a better group of friends than I have here. We're an eclectic bunch, to say the least, but we're a good bunch. I've laughed more in the last four months than I have in the last year. I have a social outlet, but just as importantly, I have the support that comes from all of us being in the same situation and understanding the ups and downs that entails.
  • Old friends. I miss my friends back in Home State but we talk regularly, we email sporadically, and we know we're still around. I've been very lucky in the friendships I've formed and I have no intention of letting them go, regardless of where I live.
  • Blog friends. You know, I'm rather fond of a number of you. I love reading your blogs; I enjoy your comments; and I look forward to meeting the some of you in the future. I like the little community that's formed through my wireless network and it's nice that people continue to come in.
  • Family. Admittedly, they're a little crazy but not in a bad way. All families have their moments and we've certainly had ours but we love each other, for better and worse.
  • Career. I finally have a career - not a job, not a stop-gap, not a way to pay the rent (although, yes, it does take care of the latter). I feel very lucky to finally know what I want to do and, more importantly, that I want to do it.
  • PRU City. It's not a metropolis or a cultural center or a hot spot of vacationing Europeans. I like it, though. It's pleasant; it's pretty; it suits me, despite my avowed love of big cities.
  • PRU. I couldn't have asked for a better first position. The issues that pop up would do so at any research university, and I'm developing a network of support to help me deal with those issues. Looking into the foreseeable future, I have no reason to look elsewhere.
  • My house. I like my little place; it's perfect for one person, with room for visitors when they pop in. I know I'm lucky to own my own home as a first-year assistant professor and that it's a nice place in a pretty neighborhood.
  • The little things. There are lots of little things that make each day a little better - spending half an hour playing the piano; having a student tell me it finally makes sense; getting an email from a friend; reading a good book; curling up on the sofa with a mug of hot tea to watch a favorite TV show; waking up to a clear blue sky; making headway on a writing project. Those little things, the quiet and often overlooked things, are a good reason to pause and give thanks on this particular day, too.

it's not you, it's me

At some point, I have to consider the possibility that I'm the one who causes all the problems in the (potential) relationship. There is absolutely no reason not to like Nice Guy; we can talk for hours, he is more than interested in me, we have so many things in common that I'm constantly surprised - so what's wrong with me that I don't feel anything when we're together - not aversion, not excitement, not boredom, not anticipation, not anything.

I met some girlfriends at a local place after dinner with NG; after a few pints, we met additional girlfriends at another local place. Guys everything - none of them paying the least bit of attention to me, but that's generally the case. As one of the girls explained to me tonight (after several rum and cokes, or perhaps she wouldn't have been so honest): "Honey, no guy is ever going to come up to you in a bar. You're're don't need them and they know it. Guys don't like independence. You need to be a little more needy." Oh, but I am - but I'm not about to show it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

update on date

For those who are interested: I went out with Nice Guy again Sunday. We saw the new Bond movie (pretty good, actually) and had an early dinner (local restaurant with atmosphere and tasty food). My general assessment: pleasant afternoon out, decent conversation, no sparks - at least for me. He seems to be smitten, which is flattering, but I'm not quite sure how to respond when I don't feel that strongly - which isn't to say I might not eventually but I don't right now. But I suppose that's the point of dating, isn't it? To figure it all out as you go and hope you have some fun doing so. Which is why we're having dinner tomorrow night.

back to boring

I'm not sure what happened with the margins in the old template but, rather than waste time reading through code - when I don't actually read code - I'm switching back to boring, in the hopes that everything will work again. I have a strange feeling this is somehow connected to me using a Mac...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

good news

Just got the email: I've been accepted to a conference in March. More importantly, I've been accepted to a conference held in a deliciously sunny location in March. 
How much will I appreciate that after surviving a long grey winter? 
And how nice is it to have something to put in the tenure file before my review this Feb?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

back-from-conference bullets

  • The presentations went well. And by "well" I mean I didn't trip over myself too often (literally or figuratively), there were people in both audiences (~5 in one, ~50 in another) and I managed the no-notes-(although-guided-by-a-powerpoint)-connecting-to-the-audience-with-inflection approach fairly well.
  • I got perhaps eight hours of sleep, total, while I was there. Why can I not sleep at conferences? I can sleep in hotels in other situations just fine. This is not a good character trait for an academic who expects to do the conference thing for years to come. Maybe I need to drink more.
  • Can I tell you how happy I am to have my very own bed in the next room?
  • I didn't see as many familiar faces at the conferences as I'd hoped but, then again, I wasn't there very long. I did manage to catch up with a few people I like, though.
  • I miss Grad School Friend. We are such fundamentally different people but she is just so great. I suspect I drive her nuts a fair bit of the time - between my short fuse, tendency to curse, and unwillingness to suffer fools gladly - but she takes it with good grace. Good friend, indeed.
  • Did I mention how happy I am to sleep in my own bed tonight?
  • I have another date tomorrow. Little nervous about that. Which is ridiculous yet true.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

the thing is, I want to do it

I'm spearheading a proposal for a new study abroad program in one of my departments. Yes, as a brand-new faculty member. A colleague/mentor of mine actually yelled at me today when I told her this and I completely understand her point. This is not the best use of my time and resources as a first-year faculty member since I should obviously be concentrating on my writing and research agendas if I intend to vie for tenure. Thing is, though, I really want to do this - not the admin, that pretty much sucks, but the teaching abroad. The fact that this university appears to value international teaching and learning experiences was a big draw for me, and I've said as much to various people in positions of power - which led my DH to mention my name to one of my deans as a possible candidate for another teaching abroad opportunity. Nothing will come of that for ages but, still, I'm taking it as a good sign that (A) he remembered my interest and (B) he thought I was worth mentioning.

Anyway, point is this: I've been sitting at my computer for the last four hours, revising and extending the proposal for this program. The full proposal is due Monday; I need input from my program colleagues, plus a few other interested parties, before I submit it; so my part needed to happen tonight. It hasn't bothered me in the least. I have been completely caught up in planning the possible details of this program: texts to study, locations to visit, students to participate. Usually, when I'm writing something of equivalent detail and import, I'm ready to bang my head against the table within 30 minutes (see: latest conference paper), so this is a very pleasant revelation at the end of a productive evening.

[And I haven't forgotten about the next installment of my love life series, if anyone at all is interested, but it isn't going to happen tonight. I'll try tomorrow.]