Returning to the scholar

I’ve been going back over letters, journal entries, and emails that I wrote in the early 90s, when I first started teaching full time, my one and only full time, tenure track job, at SUNY Brockport. There is so much hope in them, so many high expectations, so many naive perceptions about my position there. How little I knew about the forces arrayed against me, how my penchant for speaking my mind would come back to haunt me later. And then, of course, there are the early signs of the illness that would ultimately take it all away.

There are also musings about my dissertation, a great deal of which never made it into the actual work, but still have substance and value. Of course I had to take on such a heavy-duty subject: theories of agency, and how they undergird approaches to studying journalism history. One note records my having been told that one of the papers I presented at AEJMC was all the buzz in the history division, and it was being used in graduate courses. The paper was a chapter from my dissertation, which was still in progress at the time.

And yet, I’ve never published that dissertation. Except online on my own, now deleted website. I figured I’d never go back to it. I just couldn’t wrap my brain around all the work that would be required for that. I felt I’d lost the scholar in me and would never be able to get her back.

But working with others on their dissertations has reminded me of how much I loved this work before, and sent me back to reviewing my own. I’ve also been planning to write about some of my experiences in hopes of helping others — material, at least, for blog posts, and that’s what sent me back to the old notes and letters. I wrote some pretty lively and detailed letters back then, so I have an engaging record of that time. And the brain cells are popping again.

I am beginning to see possibilities again. Maybe I can publish that dissertation.

Memories in the attic

Let us go forth, the tellers of tales, and seize whatever prey the heart long for, and have no fear. Everything exists, everything is true, and the earth is only a little dust under our feet.

William Butler Yeats

Wherever we go, there seems to be only one business at hand — that of finding workable compromises between the sublimity of our ideas and the absurdity of the fact of us.

— Annie Dillard 

June 18, 2006

Originally posted on my old blog, Random Acts of Love, which is no longer available due to technological changes.

I’ve been cleaning out old stuff — old papers, old clothes, and old files. Managed to network my old PowerMac to my now not-so-new iMac so I could transfer files from the hard drive and from old floppies to make sure I didn’t miss anything. And then, finally, I could clear my desk of that big ol’ thang!

One big deal — I realized that when I transferred files from my old Kaypro 4 (my very first computer, which I bought in 1984 and still have) to DOS and then to the Mac, the footnotes in the old files got stripped out.

Now, there are many things one can reconstruct without TOO much problem. But footnotes, no. Not after all this time. Fortunately, being the pack rat that I am, I have paper copies. Found them in one of the file cabinets in my attic. In drawers I’m not sure I’ve even opened in the six and a half years I’ve been living in this apartment. So while I may never get around to actually re-creating them (hey, I can scan them using an OCR so I don’t have to type them all!), it is helpful to know that I could do it if I wanted to.

It’s true — my attic is absolutely chock full of things I do not need and should have been thrown out a long time ago. But I am so glad I kept these papers, even though I thought that, with all my health issues, I would never return to them.

There are good reasons for not throwing things out. It has been a wonderful experience going through this stuff, reminding myself of where I have been and how far I have come. These are my “history books,” the stories that remind me of who I am and what I have accomplished, as well as the terrible, lonely, awful places I have been.

It’s important to hold onto the memory of those places even as we leave them behind. Because that memory keeps us grounded. We can’t possibly assume that we arrived at a wonderful new place somehow by fiat, and therefore expect other people around us — those who do cannot feel that same joy for themselves — to somehow just wake up to the blooming, buzzing, wonderful world that surrounds them.