Monday, December 20, 2010

Due to arctic weather conditions this blog post was almost delayed. Or, what do botched travel plans have in common with an academic profession?

As you know from last week’s post I’ve been on vacation…. And now my partner and I are two of the thousands and thousands of people who are trying desperately to get out of London’s Heathrow airport. We’re not traveling with children, we’re not sick, and though we don’t really have a whole ton of cash (& certainly not so much that we budgeted for this) we’re ok.

Great, right? So what am I all uptight about?

I mean, don’t get me started on the inanity of the fact that we’re grounded (for days or maybe a week) over 4 inches of snow. Or the frustration over the fact that even though we’re in a neat and fancy spot we’re not actually able to enjoy it because we’re with everyone else trying to find a place to pop our bags while we look for Internet and queue for customer service.

All this stress over travel plans is uncanny: the feeling of no control, the slow realization that we’re on our own, the realization that there might be ways to make things work if we’re willing to be flexible* and a little scrappy. Truth be told this stress has reminded me of the stresses I’ve written about on this blog. But this travel stress also has me thinking about the skills we have, hone, or forge as academic women. I fancy myself a semi-worldly and adaptable sort. For example, you’ve read my musing on the pros and cons of moving for the profession (mostly I like it) as well as my thoughts on the DIY Academic career.

Indeed, professing in the profession seems to require a certain kind of worldliness. Or awareness. Or self-reflexivity. Call it what you like, working in the academy means meeting such a wide variety of people with diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and, yes, holiday greetings. In fact, call me Pollyanna because I (usually) love what this requires of me. Mindfulness. Openness. And what I’m coming to understand as a kind of careful compassion. After all, we're all in this hotel/terminal/concourse/classroom/job hunt together, right?

What I mean by this is not that working in the academy means being a push over (hah!) but rather that this kind of compassion is the stuff that travels, that discerns. It is an (unpaid, granted) emotion that is often for students, regularly for colleagues, and sometimes, increasingly, for me.

Compassion is often among the feminized emotions, and certainly would fall under the unpaid emotional work that needs further discussion and radical rethinking. But I think one of my resolutions is to pay it forward, carefully.

So while I’ll be saying happy holidays to the other stranded people I meet and keeping my eyes peeled for vegetarian food in the airports (even if it means another meal of bagels) I’ll be practicing compassion with my fellow travelers and myself…because I’m going to need it in January when a new term, a new year, and a new batch of fantastically and astoundingly diverse students show up in my classrooms.

Warmth to you all and apologies for the bleary prose.

*the willingness to be flexible may forever remind me of the infamous meme… even though I know being flexible doesn’t equal moving to nowheresville Canada/USA/UK I can’t help but hear that automated Dean’s voice…

2 comments:

  1. Oh Erin! Where are you now? Gosh, that's what you get for taking a vacation, huh? I'm so sorry to hear you're trapped. And sorry too for the echoes with the job market. Urgh.

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  2. I've made it to Chicago. Looks like the place to Halifax will go today. And here's a bonus amid chaos: after choosing to leave the chaos of Heathrow my partner and I travelled to Dover and then Calais (escaping a minor riot at the ferry) and made it to Paris where, for the first time ever, I got to visit my dear cousin and her partner.

    So: lucky after all! (Now to finish all my grading in 48 hours... If I accomplish that can I call it a feminist win? ;)

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