Brave Year Meme

There's still a little time left before classes start for me; things still feel ever so slightly like winter break here, and so I don't feel quite so bad about taking a moment to reflect on the previous year. And since much of the break thus far has been spent dealing with family and the contradictory strings they pull with me, taking some time to just think about the last year I think is a pretty good idea.

As I mentioned previously, Bittersweet Girl launched her own meme thinking about the bravest things she'd done in the previous year. I wanted to try it because it seems much more useful to me than the typical New Year's Resolution. I like it because it recognizes that change can happen every day - any day, really. And it often happens in really simple ways, without a lot of fanfare.

So here are the bravest things I can think of that I did in the previous year:
  1. Took a Stand: One of the toughest things about the past year for me was watching the student response here to the election. I think I mentioned someplace that I was to speak at one of the events following that. With a number of other faculty, I helped draft a letter to the University (rather than just to the students who it was assumed were the sole perpetrators). The letter spawned a lot of reaction - not enough, I think, but some - from a variety of places on campus. And it became apparent that to do so while untenured was seen as a pretty outrageous, even as part of a group.

  2. Let the Personal inform the Public: One of the moments that came from that letter was a series of dialogues between students and other parts of the university. I was asked to speak at one about why I felt the letter was important. One of the things that I've struggled with during this process was the desire to highlight the personal consequences of unthinking speech (however free we want it to be).

    I didn't know what to say at the even though. Why did I want the letter written? Because something needed to be said. Great - seven minutes, fifty-eight seconds left to fill. What I wound up talking about was a personal moment from my past where I felt put on the outside of things. In spite of having a blog where I spew gripes on a regular basis, I'm a fairly private person. There are things I'll talk about, and a whole host of things that I never mention. I'm good about doing the dance - I can stand in front of a room or a group of people and talk as long as I need and not feel much of the crowd. I can talk around things with the best of 'em. I lived in the South, after all. So to stand in front of a group of unknown students mixed with colleagues and to tell a truly personal story about one of those Never Talked About Subjects was a little terrifying.

  3. Re-learned "No": Really, I don't have a problem with this in a lot of circumstances. But I maybe I'm more driven than I think I am, because in the realm of work, I struggle with it. Maybe it's the control-freak nature I've got, maybe not. In any case, where work comes into it, I have a tendency to take a lot on. That pressure for tenure certainly doesn't help. And that's completely illogical, because I can't imagine a situation at this school where I wouldn't be given tenure. But I still tend to take a lot on. The last term, I spent a lot more time trying to be realistic about what I could and what I couldn't. In part, it was necessity because I was on an overload. And it didn't always leave me happy: I had to refuse some opportunities to try and mentor (both students and, in a couple of cases, younger colleagues). But it was a good lesson.
Those are the big three, really. It was still a year largely focused on work rather than anything personal, but it did feel like a start.

I like this meme, and so even though I won't tag anyone with it, I think it's a worth doing, even just for yourself. Props to Bittersweet Girl. And Happy (Brave) New Year to you all.

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bitternsweet said...

Hooray, Dr. C! I have been reading your account of the post-election trials at your school and I feel confident that your actions on those issues were both necessary and difficult. It would take a lot of courage to speak out in those circumstances, un-tenured or no, so props to you!

January 10, 2009 at 10:08 AM