Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Identity crisis

The thing about teaching, at least as far as my limited experience tells me, is that that it's less about knowing you're capable of standing in front of a group of people and conveying to them a bunch of facts--but it's more an exercise in figuring out and coming to terms with who you are. I'm saying this because, in the process of "learning" how to become a college professor, I saw a lot of my friends try to construct these alternate selves--constructing ideal types around themselves that weren't consistent with their personalities, and trying to say that this is how they were going to teach. I rejected that outright, because the kind of teacher anyone is going to be on this level--when the students are practically adults, for all intents and purposes--you can't affect their lives in an disingenuous way, it's just not going to happen. My problem is that I was able to do be real for 4 months, but now I'm left with my own identity crisis.

I'm going on a series of interviews and presentations in the next year, and so as a part of preparing for this--preparing for my complete entry into academia--I'm forced to finally deal with my demons and try to figure out, come hell or high water, who I really am. And I don't really know. This sounds trivial, or maybe even pretty stupid, if you're reading this, but believe this: job interviews in this world are so much more about selling yourself as well as your abilities, because of the amount of contact with other people, be they students, other faculty, or members of the community. I can't go into this feeling like I'm selling a lie, which is how I feel.

I haven't felt like this in a long time. Before I got married, I went through a complete transformation--and since then, I have undergone another one. I'm not assigning any value to either of those selves, just that my world now and my world then are completely different; the old me was a physical abnormality in some ways, reckless, uncaring, indifferent and alone. The new me is so much smarter that these newfound smarts have completely obliterated my old self, but the downside is that I'm so much softer now, physically and mentally, I think.

I saw a flash of my old self a few weeks ago when I lost my temper on a couple of my students and said "fuck" a lot, which was completely inappropriate and unprofessional but was somehow met with tepid approval by my peers. Other actions, including the unofficial hiring of several unpaid assistants, or I guess mentees, has also been met with lukewarm approval, like "Did you clear this with [the department head]?" "No...Why would I?" kind of stuff. I know I'm not popular, I never have been...

I guess what I'm saying is, I feel conflicted, in a way. I feel like there's some lost, forgotten part of me trapped...somewhere...and I don't know how to merge the "new" intellectual leader with the "old" creative fuck the world guy with the "older" passive follower/victim. That's what I don't know what to deal with.

I just don't know what to do anymore, it feels like I'm doing a lot of hiding, it feels like I'm constantly putting on airs depending on the people involved, and if I don't finally merge all of this soon I'm going to go insane. I have taken drastic measures to improve some parts of myself, while sacrificing other parts. I feel like a hypocrite. I don't like it at all. It used to be that I could hide this away from the world, or at least ignore it, but now I'm faced with not only having to sell myself as someone who is a leader and a mentor and a teacher, but actually fulfill those roles for real people with real consequences. It's one thing to drink almost every night and talk shit and try to forget about the world when you are someone who is almost completely invisible. It's another thing to do it when there are people who depend on you and look up to you. I feel like a gigantic hypocrite and a liar and a loser while simultaneously being someone who can be counted on to lead, who has enough intelligence to solve any problem, and who is basically unstoppable in the clinch.

My friends and I used to call ourselves champions, which was ironic, because we had nothing but our dignity and loyalty and honesty. I have made it a point to retain those qualities, and I sure as hell don't feel like a champion these days.

I am having a massive identity crisis, and I don't know what to do.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Last day of class

Not counting the final exam I have to give to a handful of people on 5/5, or the grading I have to finish up, today is the last day of the semester for me. This was my first semester teaching my own class at the college level (not that I have any teaching experience at any other level, but still.) It was an unbelievably fast semester, and I learned more than anyone, including my students, probably care to know. I'm teaching again in the fall, and I'm going to be changing a lot of how the class is structured over the summer.

But that stuff is too boring for this! I have been too srrrrious here! I need to post some random shit again! And so that's going to happen, when I'm done grading (BOO), I'm going to post some random sci-fi shit I have dreamt up for you to make fun of behind my back. Behold! CREATIVITY.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Just another update

1) I have been killing a ton of time playing Fable 2. I like it a lot, but it suffers from some of the same problems most RPGs do, especially more recent ones that allow for more expansive universes and elaborate plots. First, try as they might, the game is still completely linear and that bugs me. I don't like vendors adding progressively more expensive weapons and potions as your experience grows; I don't like the one-mission-at-a-time shit with the slavers and bounty hunters. It isn't realistic, and it's kind of just patting the player on the head. I also don't like the "hurry hurry hurry hurry THE END" aspect of these games. I know most gamers are ADD addled morons but come on, draw it out some, I can take it. That's my main complaint with Mass Effect- here's a gigantic, world ending problem that apparently is easily solved, and your characters basically were good to go from the beginning.

2) Spent the last three days grading. Have a meeting on Monday to talk about my dissertation proposal. Worried about that, to say the least.

3) Started watching Firefly. Like the set up a ton. Looking forward to watching the entire series in a single shot. We're about to finish season 3 of Buffy- 8 episodes in 2 days is always a good use of time. I remember very little about what happens post-graduation, except I know that Riley sucks. He hasn't debuted yet and I already hate him again. Seeing the Wesley/Cordelia interaction for the first time was fun though, since Angel is still a favorite of mine.

4) Had I think my all-time favorite story idea last night that I need to dwell on and flesh out some before I consider either putting pen to paper/fingers to keyboard. Well, that's premature. I have the universe figured out, I just need to figure out what stories could take place in it. Because it's one of those kinds of deals. It's the kind of universe that allows for a TON of creativity and complexity, which is what I like.

5) ESPN hired Matt Millen for Monday Night Countdown, which means I will never watch Monday Night Countdown again.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Killing time

I have a meeting in 10 minutes. It's the first meeting of the new AddHealth Working Group. AddHealth is a massive dataset that I use all the time. I fully expect to generate new ideas and papers out of these meetings. So I'm pretty nervous. But I've gotten good at channeling nervous energy in more positive ways. And I know all of these people anyway. I think I'm nervous because it's the first time I'll be talking about my dissertation outside of the one on one meetings I've had with my committee.

Going to Best Buy on the way home to pick up a new flash drive. May also be buying myself some presents. A little electronic therapy. And then tonight, it's an all Joss night with Buffy, Dollhouse, and then recording the AbG Podcast. Wherein I'll be doing my small, insignificant part to say goodbye to Andy Hallett, a guy I never met and know nothing about, except he seemed nice and died far too early.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I got nothing

Massively irritating day today. The org I run was criminally underfunded for next year, which is going to seriously piss off a lot of people, considering we spent the last two years doing everything possible to actually contribute to the university and the department in a major way. If I was a year behind, I'd be fighting mad right now--but I'm gone in a year, I won't be elected again (not eligible, and I said I won't let them FDR me), so all I can do is defer to whoever takes over, and hopefully get myself appointed to my own committee. Heh.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Someone has a case of the Mondays

Not much else this weekend because we went home on Saturday to visit my family, and then yesterday was a major decompression day, made less decompressy by reading an article about eating disorders from the book "Reviving Ophelia" that I made my students read.

Been developing an unfortunate thing for D&D for some reason, I think because my brain is sick of ignoring my imagination and demanding something more fulfilling than the typical academic fare. Which makes less sense to me than it does to you, but that's my cross to bear. I highly recommend the D&D Podcasts with Wil Wheaton and company that are up on wizards.com. I've been working through the original Podcasts that the Penny Arcade and PvP guys did, and those are hilarious too. But, I have to be careful about thinking I can obtain ANYTHING like that level of fun living in the middle of nowhere and not having any dork friends anymore. So I took the next step down, and have been lurking play-by-post games on the Penny Arcade forums. I think that is a circle of patheticism all its own. The writing is awful and the guy running it is doing a ham-handed job, but it's something stupid to kill time on. Which I obviously have a lot of. Mine is a lonely life, for sure. That's a joke.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Trying to make sense of teaching

Teaching is exhausting. I knew it would be exhausting, but I never realized the magnitude of it. Going into this, I knew what kind of professor I wanted to be in the classroom--engaging, someone who would be approachable, someone who would actually give a damn about the students--but that entails more than just designing entertaining lectures and making self-deprecating bald jokes about myself in class. I am constantly e-mailing them or interacting with them online. I'm helping as many of them with their papers as I can, which means constant reminders that USA Today is a pile of steaming crap, wikipedia is awful, and legitimate research is done elsewhere.

I'm really tired, and this is just my first semester, teaching only one class.

A big part of it is also doing the prep for the first time. I spend a ton of time each week going through the book, figuring out what is actually worthwhile, working in whatever geeky jokes I can, figuring out what I have experienced in my own life that is relevant to the material that I can tie in--for example, when I taught race, I talked a lot about growing up white in a diverse community and having a lot of non-white friends, and I also talked a lot about sports in a racial context to demonstrate how race is still incredibly relevant today.

I think it works, but we'll find out when course evals come along. When I was a student I always thought the semester flew by; on the other side of the classroom, time travels at warp speed.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

We want the funk

Making a new blog is always a gigantic pain in the ass, because the hardest parts of running a blog are the first things you encounter. What do you call it? Because all the good names are taken. On blogspot, you'll spend several hours thinking up random cool blog titles, checking their availability, getting pissed off, and starting over.

That said, Organic Funk is a way better name than any of the ones I thought of originally.

The second problem with debuting a new blog is deciding how much about yourself you want to reveal, because first impressions are everything. This is especially difficult for me because I a) am incredibly private and b) have compartmentalized my life so much that I have a lot of good friends who have no idea what kinds of stuff I do, socially or professionally, and the idea of merging those worlds kind of makes me a little anxious. So that end, the purpose of this blog isn't so much for me to speak topics of interest to one particular audience. This is more for my own amusement. If people get it, they'll like it. If not, I don't care.

As to me- I'm a late 20s academic, finishing my doctorate in sociology with a specialization in criminology and social psychology. That's the standard line when I introduce myself in academic circles. In "regular" guy circles, I'm a sports addict who is running several fantasy teams in any sport at a given time, is constantly thinking ahead to next year's fantasy football draft, treats the NFL and NBA drafts like Christmas, and actually looks forward to the Olympics and the World Cup. In "geek" circles I'm a minor movie and gaming fan, but my real life obligations and lack of any real money over the past 6 years has basically brought that to a grinding halt, so much so that this summer I'll be playing through Final Fantasy X, XII, Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and Mass Effect again, and I'm pretty much looking forward to that.

Not all of those worlds really work well together.

I have a second blog, but I haven't updated it in forever. It's at backtothefuture2.blogspot.com. That's the blog I kept all last year, but all it does is detail how I went about studying for my prelim examination. Prelims (or comps) are the equivalent of boards in med school or the bar in law school. Suffice it to say, it was awful. But I passed. Anyway, I don't want to turn that blog into a personal thing, I kinda want to just keep it as is. Hence, Organic Funk.

I also write for www.attackedbygorillas.com and will soon be writing for headblitz.com. Today, I'm writing next week's lecture (I teach SOC 101) on sexuality and listening to the second ep of the Penny Arcade-PvP D&D podcast simultaneously. I named my dog Einstein after both the real Einstein and the dog from Back to the Future. Except he's a beagle. And he's staring at me right now.