Thursday, April 10, 2008

Reflection

Several weeks ago, I stopped looking in the mirror. Although I have never been a fan of mirrors in the first place, I stopped looking because I started to fear that the person looking back at me is someone I do not know any more. So many changes, shifts and points of disruption have taken place in the past few months, causing me to feel like I simply cannot keep up or account for anything any more. Looking in the mirror fills me with tremendous anxiety right now. So many unexpected sucker punches have led me to feel emotionally atomized and disconnected. But, rather than dwelling on my state of limbo, I have just decided to suspend the limbo even more by just not giving it a point of focus. Hence, no mirrors.

Meanwhile, of course, I have been teaching. And loving it. In some ways, teaching has become the one thing that I have been able to manage to keep consistent in my life, where everything else has fallen apart both in and around me. And where I haven't been giving an ounce of solid care to myself, I have been pouring that energy into my students. I have somehow managed to love and nurture them at a moment when I suppose I have needed to be loved and nurtured the most. But I have done this without really expecting anything in return--other than the hope that they might attend my classes, read the stuff I have put on the syllabus, and get a kick out of my quirky references to pop-culture and regular reliance on You Tube videos to illustrate the points I make. The bottom line is that I have just felt that I have the love to give, why not give it? Why not just do what I like to do and do it with all of me? No excuses. Shit happens. Who cares, anyway? Just get out of your own way and give it everything you have for the sake of it? And if you're going to do it, do it fully, with passion, and yet, fully without ego...

So...today, I gave my job talk. The talk was presentation of my research, and open to the public. In the past week, I encouraged my students to attend for the sake of seeing what it is like to attend talks at the upper levels of the academy. I also invited a few colleagues, but with the schedule I had this week, I really failed to focus on whether they could make it. After all, people are busy. Students are busy. The last thing anyone wants to do is sit in a classroom at 4:30 in the afternoon on a nice, spring day. I am not the center of the Universe. Heck, let us not forget, I don't even look at myself in the mirror anymore...

I expected a few loyal students and a handful of faculty members to appear. I also expected the department I am interviewing with to be in full form, ready to pounce upon my research with the kind of viciousness that only the exceptionally educated yet grossly underpaid sort of people do in order to justify their noble sacrifices to themselves and others.

I was not expecting, however, a packed room of students and a wide array of faculty members who showed up to demonstrate their support of my candidacy for the job. I did not expect that every student from both of my classes this semester would be there. I also did not expect to walk into the room and see that one of my classes was sitting en masse with hand-made signs on their shirts with the slogans, "HIRE HER" and "WE LOVE PROFESSOR NAMASTE"...among others. I did not expect that this class of mine would take it upon themselves to make a poster that called for my hiring at their school. In fact, who could have anticipated the room to be so packed with people that students were standing out of the door, into the hallway, and creeping in to sit on the floor.

So I gave my little talk. I gave it, and, for what it is worth, it went well. I talked for 40 minutes, and then engaged 45 more minutes of questions from students and faculty. And it was...actually...exciting for me...really great...

But what made it even greater was looking up from my notes and seeing my own students in the audience with those beautiful signs on their shirts. And my colleagues were there, too, each one of them sending me the energy they knew I needed. Each member of the audience smiled and winked at me when they managed to catch my eye while I spoke and looked around the room. Several gave me the thumb's up sign as I carried on in my professional language, still feeling so removed from my body. And yet, as I talked on I began to I look out across the sea of 50 faces who all gathered in one place just for me. In a small way, it kind of felt like one of those rare birthday parties a person has when they can look around the room and see a bunch of people they love all sitting together in one place. They were there for me. To celebrate me. They were listening. And they were smiling. And it was amazing. Beyond amazing. And really, beyond words.

For better or for worse, what may come with this job will come...but I realized that I was today, for the first time in many months, finally seeing my own reflection.

10 comments:

Kim Ayres said...

Hold that moment and remember you ARE worthy of being loved. And that you need to love yourself. Take care of yourself, treat yourself as though you were a best mate rather than a foot servant.

And let me know when you start posting some of your lectures on YouTube :)

Alan Ward said...

A mirror will reflect some aspectes of your person. A full lecture hall will reflect other, perhaps more important ones. You may need other mirrors to see further aspects reflected.

If you give the reflections too much importance, you can start living for the reflections and not for yourself. Many people do. If you do not give them some importance, you may not see the writing on the wall in time.

So ... I tend to agree with your quotation of Dr. Seuss.

Mazel tov for your talk! Also - and more importantly - for the relationship it shows you have developed with the students. But: beware of professional jealousy. Been there, seen that.

VJ said...

Pretty damn stunning innit? Love makes the world go 'round, but it's rarely used out in public. And it still can make a tremendous difference. Everywhere. Especially in public contexts. So congrats for the performance and good luck on the job prospects. No one can tell if the 'demonstration' by students and staff is or will be effective at the intended objective. But it's certainly a moment to be treasured & savored. They don't come more golden that this. And it often comes from the deepest self, and the missing elements outside to feed same. It's an old discovery waiting to be constantly renewed. A secret jewel that lies in your belly when you speak with heart & soul. Cheers & Good Luck! 'VJ'

I-66 said...

This is tremendous. I am more than happy for you.

SeanG said...

What a great feeling that must have been.

EA said...

Wonderful! Had a similar feeling at my Oral Defense this week.

Psycgirl said...

What an amazing moment!

WiB said...

Some of us are not at all surprised by the reaction. :)

Glad it went well, and look forward to further news soon.

Restaurant Gal said...

Why am I not surprised? And what a special gift your students gave back to you.

hannahjustbreathe said...

Just reading this post...congratulations!!!

How exciting, how timely, how lovely to be recognized---by others and, more importantly, by your self.

p.s. I hit Boston on Friday. Do you know of any good yoga studios there??