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.

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