No, I'm not writing about HIMYM again, though Barney's approach to life would probably help out the cast of today's show of choice. Despite the continued melodramatic, over-wrought writing, I continue to keep tabs on Grey’s Anatomy. Perhaps it’s the similarities between medical training/hazing/the academy sorts of things, or perhaps I’m just a sappy person. Either way, the show sometimes hits a nerve in one sense or another. The first two episodes of the season have not been great in any sense, but I find myself thinking about some of the issues they raised.
This week our cultural fixation on “the economic crisis” hit home for the doctors at Seattle Grace as they all start competing with each other to establish their relevance (and hopefully save their jobs in the wake of an impending merger with Mercy West). As I’m watching these people be borderline ridiculous (at the expense of their patient’s best interests for the most part – an annoying facet of the show that I guess must be there in order to advance any kind of relational plot), I started thinking about my own experiences in the academy and how I often feel trapped in the same kind of “paranoia” the characters find themselves in. There are simply certain jobs in our culture that produce excessive demands on physical and emotional resources. There are always going to be sick people, at every hour of the day, so you always need to be working. My job is certainly not as stressful as medicine, but there are always students/administrative concerns/articles to be written that can eat up every minute of your free time if you let them. I personally suck at drawing boundaries, but I’m aware of that and working on it.
One of the characters this week voiced why I think I have a hard time finding time for myself – “I am not awesome yet!” In a profession that demands constant surveillance and performance, it is hard to gage whether or not you’re performing at the standards expected. The standards also change as the general body of knowledge changes (new research = new methods = more work kind of thing), so it’s hard to keep tabs on something that works in one year and suddenly doesn’t work the next year. It’s a profession that spends a lot of time telling you that you’re not good enough – from teacher ratings, to article reviews, to peer reviews, etc., ultimately concluding that you will never be good enough and need to get back to work to prove your relevance. Of course, that’s part of the gig when you sign up, so complaining about it is sort of a moot point, but it can breed unrest as to whether or not one is up to snuff.
So most days, despite a very large number of accomplishments, I don’t feel “awesome” yet even though I have data that clearly indicates that I should. Perhaps it’s part of occupying a space that many don’t think I should be occupying, (yesterday a tenured faculty member dismissed a comment I made in a committee because “I’ve been teaching longer than you’ve been born”) and perhaps it’s because I don’t often feel like I embody the archetype of “professor” very well. I’m not pretentious (at least very rarely so), not wedded to any particular body of knowledge (interdisciplinarity is pretty much a reality that I feel most people should embrace, especially given the rise of technology and the availability of research), and I’m sort of a cool person (as opposed to the socially awkward nerd who prefers books to the company of people). So at some point, I should start feeling like I’m awesome. It’s just a massive intellectual shift to make, and it’s taking me a while to adjust.