Mejoré, but this morning…

Tension physical pain headache fatigue sorrow regret anger nostalgia depression desire claustrophobia frustration oppression … these were some of my feelings last night and this morning.

Then there is this:

When I was teaching — especially at the University of Oregon and the University of Texas — my experience was always defined by limits. How many copies I could make; how much space I could take up in the shared grad student office; how little money I had for research. That’s not a problem inherent to the engaged and in-depth study of a discipline; rather, it’s born of the fundamental insecurities of academia as a contemporary institution.

Humanities academia is defined by lack and thus by its fraternal twin, desire: for jobs, sure, but also for systemic change, for less exploitative treatment of graduate students, for a staunching of the gradual adjunctification of the workforce. Operating in an atmosphere increasingly defined by limits and fear, it was no surprise that the atmosphere often felt toxic, competitive, and imbued with paranoia.

I had wonderful and supportive academic friends. But so much of what we talked about was undergirded with anger and despair. It was so difficult to keep ourselves buoyed by hope and altruism when the walls seemed to be falling down around us.

I taught at Oregon and did not find 10,000 photocopies a quarter stingy. Especially coming form Louisiana where we got none. But I understand the larger point. Limits and fear, anger and despair, the walls falling down around us. Also: looking in through the glass like the little match girl, at the people who get to do the jobs we, too, trained for — and who are the ones who say we betray the field when we say we can imagine a research job in another one.

They think we should be willing to suffer anything just for the sake of staying in field, and at the same time they say research is first; they do not allow anyone to leave the field because of also feeling that research is first.

Trying to be grateful for the porridge that is Spanish 4 when it was what one went on after the M.A. not to have to do again, and in fact never had to do again even in graduate school. One would rather have done something else, and has not found it is possible to become a major scholar when one’s days are filled with Spanish 4: although it is not as bad as one fears, at least not in those semesters in which one has a “smart” classroom and the students say it is so very much better than Spanish 1, 2, and 3.

I went to a dissertation defense yesterday and met with my research student, and they were good events and good things to do but they threw into relief the life I actually want and have to turn my face from. When I am able to resign myself to language teaching and recreational art I stay content enough, I am glad not to be homeless for example, but when I catch glimpses of the things I wanted I feel sad.


13 thoughts on “Mejoré, but this morning…

    1. It is as though someone had been murdered and I had not gotten over it. (I have just watched a long murder mystery with a lot of grief reactions in it that really are food for thought.)

  1. And it is such a strange combination of sources of pain. I cannot make sense of it. The fact that when I get into certain atmospheres it all goes away, and the fact that everyone points out that here is toxic, and the fact that there is too high a proportion of drudgery here, are all objective and must be recognized. BUT I also torture myself, and frighten myself too much, and there is an old wound that needs airing.

  2. And maybe it is straight-up self destruction, sin razon. (I want to be cleared of all this anger and guilt …)

  3. Well don’t take up Scientology. );

    All kidding aside, I found the way to deal with this shite that hits women in their 50’s is to be real mean and insist on getting your way in all areas where it counts. And let the less important things go. You have to guard your resources.

    Reading novels helped me a lot and still does. Elizabeth Bowen is great on families, but her style is very demanding. Her characters drag around all kinds of resentments and regrets, and they have a lot of trouble knowing what their feelings are. The characters I feel closet to in her work are sullen, ignored adolescent girls who commit faux pas all the time and insist on attention even though most would rather ignore them. Wish I had been even more like that instead of retreating as much as I did. I was not the compliant, hard working type like Florence Verducci, for instance. She was very popular, too, being pretty in the style of the 50’s, all plump and curly, although her appearance changed a lot, I think.

    I do go on. Excuse. I’m am not in my second childhood. More like my second adolescence.

    1. I have been dealing with this stuff since 30s not 50s but I think you are right, being mean and insisting on doing things one’s own way is the way to go. I should reread Elizabeth Bowen — I liked her as a child. Florence Verducci did not have a happy life, although I would have liked to know her when she was younger, as you did.

  4. Bowen is good for me,because I am an insensitive person. I have to fight my way through her work,which I consider to be very complex. She rewards this effort of mine with passages of stunning beauty.

  5. All day I have been thinking about Florence, who was the golden girl of our class. I was a pathetic geek. No one then would have thought I had any chance in life, whereas Florence would be a great success. Unlike most popular girls in the cutthroat world of high school, she was both kind and truly smart. I don’t know what happened to her, except that it was negative, as I have also heard from someone in the dep’t when I went there once, trying to find her.

    1. Perhaps it was because she was both kind and truly smart that she got so eaten up. She was perhaps not equipped to deal with adversity and women in Classics/CPLT at UCB in those days were dealing with it. She ended up depressed, as I understand it, and took early retirement.

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