Support has been coming to me from all over in the last few days, from Eric’s comment on the original whiny post, to Jason’s comment on the followup, to several email messages and conversations with colleagues and friends. Most moving to me in all this is the students who’ve leapt to my side, and particularly that they’ve done so without disavowing their fondness for my colleague, who is equally deserving of their devotion.
This is the point at which I’m supposed to say that I realize that my whining post looked like I was begging for this kind of reassurance, but really I wasn’t, I just wanted to get this off my chest.
Not true. I was totally begging for reassurance. I really needed to hear that I belong in this profession, and that I’m not alone in the kinds of crises I periodically face. And you all came through, both on the site and in the backchannel. And for that, I thank you.
But at the behest of one e-mail communicator, I’m now contemplating what it would mean for this site, and my writing more generally, and my career on the whole, if I finally left behind the nervous, uncertain, forever in need of reassurance persona I’ve been lugging around and instead allowed the total ass-kicking persona that’s lurking in the background room to grow. Is this a persona I can give voice to? What would that voice sound like?
Many years ago, I found myself in a group therapy session with a cluster of massively depressed people, all of whom were talking that day, in various ways, about their complete inability to develop self-esteem. I’d been a member of this group for about a year and a half, and this day, for whatever reason, my patience with the process and with the kind of wallowing that the group inspired just flat wore out. I kind of lost it with them, and with myself, and said that the only way to develop a positive sense of self was just to DO IT. “Just decide,” I blurted. “One day I woke up and just decided that I deserved better than this. That I was worth it. You’ll never get out of this pit until you decide to get out.” (I left the group very shortly thereafter, needless to say.)
What I left out then, or maybe what I hadn’t figured out yet, was that it takes a while for belief to catch up with that decision. It takes a period of faking your way through being confident before actual confidence can take root.
So perhaps this blog will allow me a kind of space to enact this total ass-kicking persona in ways that will permit the persona to take root, for me to begin to believe in myself as a kicker of ass. It’s interesting to note, though, in light of the book that Jill pointed out, that one of the things that holds me back from fully inhabiting such a persona is the sense that it’s unseemly to brag. And if there were ever a self-defeatingly girly mode of being, man, that’s it.
So: more horn-blowing. Less whining. More imagining what can be, and less regretting what isn’t. And more kicking of total ass.