Thursday, August 24, 2017

Professional Milestones and Unexplored Territories: A Past-Due Update

I was a little shocked to realize that it has been this long since I updated Posthuman Being. I do have a couple of things in the pipeline now that I'll be able to discuss when each moves out of the revision stage. I'm optimistic about one of the projects. The other is a piece liked by the editors, but the project itself is in editorial limbo. I've been lucky on other pieces and their speedy turnarounds. I was due for a slow one. These projects will be the symbolic end of a chapter, and the last before I anticipate a "turn" in my work within the field of posthumanism. There have been glimmers of where I'm headed in my previous Posthuman Being entries. But now it's time for me to actively begin the next chapter. There will be much reading to do.

Concurrently, I've hit a professional milestone which needed its own moment of reflection: my promotion from the rank of 'associate professor' to 'professor.' For those not familiar with academic rank and promotion: after achieving tenure and promotion from 'assistant' to 'associate' professor, this is basically the final step. While I can't speak for everyone, there is a kind of  academic "mid-life crisis" that one can experience during this transition. I've had some decent accomplishments for someone at a teaching university with a 4/4 load (as opposed to a research university where the full-time load is fewer classes with a higher expectation/weight placed on research and publishing). I spent eight years as an adjunct teaching a 5/5 load or greater. The rest have been in the tenure-track and as a tenured faculty member. In total, I have logged 20 years teaching full-time. So, in both my professional and personal life, I am in one of those contemplative phases.

So I'm in that space between what I have accomplished and what I still want to accomplish. And for me, many of my personal and professional goals intertwine. So there's a bit of an added dimension to this introspection.

There are topics that I've wanted to cover in my research that, prior to tenure and promotion, I thought were too "out there" to explore. But now I have the privilege (and it IS a privilege in all connotations of the word) of choice. I can choose my direction, both in terms of research and in terms of institutional service goals. In the latter, I can choose my battles and pursue the issues which I think are important. To a certain extent, those battles tend to find me, but now I can face them directly without having to hold back. That feels good.

That being said, I also know that this privilege can disintegrate with one fell swoop of a budgetary ax, or under the whim of administrative politics. This is not a situation unique to myself, but to any academic serving in academia. Tenure and promotion is not a shield from reality.  It is however, a chance to respond to issues with confidence and a clear voice. It is an opportunity to take risks, knowing full well that the opportunity can vanish at any time.

That confidence and clarity comes around full-circle. I have learned a lot. I still have much to learn. I have been shaped by academia, which -- contrary to popular opinion of those outside of it -- can be  harsh and unforgiving environment. I have witnessed people broken by it. I have watched ambition smothered by institutional folly and inescapable economic realities. Yet I have endured, and thrived, and the passion for what I do remains intact and has grown even more intense. There are unexplored territories that remain.

I think Seinabo Sey put it best in the beautiful "Hard Time"

"This time I will be
Louder than my words
Walk with lessons that
Oh, that I have learned
Show the scars I've earned
In the light of day
Shadows will be found
I will hunt them down"

Although I'm not sure it I'll be hunting shadows or dancing with them. Then again, it is my choice.