Thursday, November 6, 2014

Talk about diametric positions: I'm a bit ashamed to say...but here goes.

Well I had a moment this evening. I've been at a great workshop at AIATSIS this week, and I have to start by reflecting that none of this came from that (in fact nobody there even fits this description, so I hope that's understood!!!).

So... here goes.

Over the last two weeks I've started counting.

Over the last two weeks I've started counting my (professional and personal) blessings too.

There are two stories - try and get through the first more difficult story before we get to what is hopefully a more positive perspective.


The One Thing

So. I do a fair bit of social networking, often to relax and sometimes for work. I know an amazing amount of people on there (here) who come from different backgrounds and do different jobs.

I know a lot of academics on social networking (and most of them in real life). And often these amazing folks announce important academic moments on it (I do it all the time! It's lovely).

Over the last two weeks a lot of people have announced a particular kind of success: recognition from peers within your home institution or around the country. 14 people. I know how many people. Because I counted them. And that's where my shame kicks in.

I got a little bit jealous. I've never won anything in my entire life, true story. I mean I've gotten an OLT Fellowship, an ARC Fellowship and I've had a lot of grants and arts and academic fellowships in my life. I've got a PhD and a few other qualifications and so on. But they were all either about work, or about putting in an application for funding for a project, none of them were about excellence.

Big deal... nearly nobody wins awards. Nearly nobody is excellent, that's why they call it excellence. I've never been exceptional at anything, and I'm an expert in my field, but I'm not great at stuff, and in the end that's what gets you recognised in that way.

But I could be more excellent at something, and I could strive for that. And maybe I would have if I had ever thought that I wanted it. If you'd asked me last week I would have said, no, I kind of don't like it.

The real shock about this had nothing to do with awards. It was that instead of just being proud of my friends and colleagues (and believe me I was), I felt something that I actually think is deeply unfair to them... I felt jealous of them. Instead of unproblematically being proud of them, I had a feeling in the back of my mind that I wondered why I couldn't ever do anything excellent enough to get an award.

Oh and just as an aside, I don't want one now. Going through this stuff made me realise how awful I was, because - in the end - the next story is far more fundamentally how I feel, think and operate. Thank gawd.

I realised on reflection what it was. I can work 16 hours a day and do as much as is humanly possible, but I will never be the person that really achieves those kind of soaring heights. I will, though, get to do the work I want to do, and get to do it with people I want to work with.

And again I say, the next story contains the most shocking revelation of the fortnight.

That waking dream

The night before last I woke up at 5am in a fugue state. I had been up late in my hotel room in Canberra doing some urgent work, so I had only had about 3 hours sleep.

This waking dream involved me trying to remember if something had happened. Or not.

You've had this, right? I bet you have if you've ever lost a loved one and woken up only to remember that they've died. Or if you've had some wonderful event, maybe you've been on holiday and instead thought you had to get ready for work.

It's a surprise. Good or bad.

And then you remember.

I woke up here and I had to convince myself that I had gone to Uni and had gotten an education. That sounds a bit like a blog entry a few ago (maybe my unconscious state was remembering it).

I woke up and thought - for the first time in nearly a decade since I got my PhD and more than 25 years before I started uni - that I was, in fact, educated beyond Grade 8.

Then the next feeling I had was the exact opposite of the first revelation.

I felt grateful.

And not to myself. But to all these people who were getting awards and being excellent. To them. Really, and impossibly, grateful. Without people like that, I never would have achieved anything, ever.

I'm also grateful to the wonderful people I work with at the Institute and in my community of practice. And of course I'm grateful to my family and friends who help me make sense of the world and always make my life better.

Consider that a concession speech.

Here's a photo of me not being excellent. Bron is though! And to be fair, it's an excellent use of handcuffs!

No comments:

Post a Comment