Character outage

Feeling a little stumped for a post today, but still trying to chug along and keep my promise to myself of a post a day.  It’s not usual I have nothing to say (as you might have figured already!), but I guess everyone has their out of character moments.

And, oddly enough, that supposition actually leads pretty directly to the topic I ultimately decided to discuss here.  Though I’m loving this blog, this much needed outlet, it still feels a little odd and out of character for me.  First, after years of speaking derisively of narcissistic “bloggers,” here I find myself.  In my teen years I tried to coax myself out of my inherent shyness by essentially mantra-izing Andre Dubus’ quote equating shyness and narcissism.  “Shyness has a strange element of narcissism,” he proclaims.  “[A] belief that how we look, how we perform, is truly important to other people.”  In essence I’ve tried to draw upon my distaste for narcissism to coax myself out of introspection with mixed results over the years.  Ultimately, the act of blogging is something I never saw in my future, but something I now find myself relishing.

Similarly, after years of suppressing the drive to write creatively so that I could get on with my work as a SeriousAcademic™, I find myself getting out from behind my footnotes and embracing the comma splice, the run-on sentence, terminal prepositions, and, well, sentences starting with “and.”  I flirted with writing fiction in high school, and even dreamt of being a famous authoress when much younger, but by college that passion had faded.  My anal-retentiveness, dry wit, and aggressive, no holds barred writing style were a match made in heaven with academic prose.  In appropriating academic-ese as my modus operandi, however, I let that creative side stagnate for a while.  It’s been fun, if entirely out of character, to try and retrain my brain to reenter a written world where creativity isn’t measured by the pedigree and prominence of the authors represented in your footnotes.

Finally, this endeavor is out of character for its anonymity.  In “real life” Mr. But IF and I are exceedingly open about our struggles with infertility and repeat pregnancy loss.  But, for a whole host of reasons that likely need not be explained, we’ve opted to remain anonymous here.  As a young professional in an extremely competitive field, I worry about connecting these words to my identity on the open Web.  And, that worry itself, feels unfamiliar, as much of my professional identity is hinged on the academy’s respect for academic freedom.  Yet, I’ve witnessed first-hand the many ugly underbellies of academia.  In graduate school, a peer – a young woman in the second year of her dissertation writing in a stable marriage to a hard-working, income, and insurance-earning husband – became pregnant.  When her (and my) female advisor heard the news, she replied by, first, handing her forms to withdraw from the program, and, second, (sarcastically) congratulating her on choosing family over career.  I wish this was a one-off exception, but it’s closer to the norm than most might like to admit.  There are huge differences across disciplines, across institutions, and among colleagues, but it only takes a few cocktails at a faculty happy hour to get the stories rolling.  While it’s often not accomplished so bluntly, young women in academia are frequently reminded this is an either/or game.  Endless adjuncting/post-docs/visiting professorships, uncertain employment and un-benefitted positions, the battle for tenure, and publish or perish aren’t good bedfellows with a newborn.  So, here I am, leader of a support group, outspoken advocate, proud infertile, lurking uncomfortably behind a pseudonym.

So, for now, this creativity starved, anonymous, anti-blogger will listen to the rain hit her roof, with heating pad on back and kitty at feet, gazing appreciatively at flowers sent yesterday by a dear friend, and type away.

What did I do to deserve friends like these?  Thanks, A!

What did I do to deserve friends like these? Thanks, A!

5 thoughts on “Character outage

  1. I never saw myself as a blogger at all, but I have to say that it has been invaluable to me the past 3.5 yrs to have my space on the world wide web. The friendships I have formed have literally changed my life and helped me through some of the worst times and best times. Apparently I enjoy the narcissism. 🙂

  2. Oh, and speaking of narcissism, if you like what you’re reading, forward it along! I’d love to have more readers and commenters! As it stands, I’m only getting slightly more real followers/commenters than I am SPAM. Hurts a narcissists ego, y’know?

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