Friday, January 06, 2006


I admit it. I'm quite moody. I wonder if there is a higher percentage of bipolar disorder among graduate students and faculty? I've not been diagnosed with it. Nor do I have clinical depression. I guess I'm a border case. But I have highs and lows. Boy do I!

And when I'm down, I tend to overreact. Being a parent of young children that can be a problem. A big one. See, a child learns so much from our behaviors. First they learn to imitate us, which can be quite amusing, and certainly revealing, when we see these little reflections of ourselves walking and talking. But they also learn that when they do something and daddy overreacts, well, there's power. There's control. "I can control daddy's mood, and daddy's behavior by doing X or Y."

I tend to overreact in other ways too. I hate waiting. This job search, as I have written seems interminable. So, the more I dwell on the wait, the longer it seems, and the worse my mood becomes. That's dangerous too, because who knows when a search committee may call. Just my luck then to be in a foul mood. So, I can't let that happen.

I turn 38 in just a few days. Not too old, I suppose. But no spring chicken either. It's a great irony that is not lost on me that I started my college career as a high school refugee at the ripe age of 15. Wasn't I hot? Barely into puberty, and I was taking honors classes at a top state university. It was a commuter campus in a major city, so I still lived at home. Another irony, 22 years later I received a terminal degree, ostensibly never to be a student again, at least not officially. About half my life dedicated to institutions of higher learning (discounting the four years I took off 1985-1989, and the three years from 1997-2000). Now I'd like to spend the rest of my working days, on the other side of the table.

Sure there are other options. And it's not just the thought that I've already committed so much to it, that retreat is unimaginable. (I'll leave that sort of flawed logic to politicians who calculate the loss of life in thousands.) No, I long ago came to the realization that needing things was often my worst enemy. When I was 21, I leased a brand-new Ford F-150 (I had a landscaping business which made a pickup necessary). It was a great truck. But frankly, more expensive than I could afford. I had gone to the dealership with a top figure in mind for monthly costs, that I had budgetted for. They said sure. Then they handed me the contract.

Taxes or fees of about $36/month took me over the top. The problem was I was not prepared to say "no". I wanted the truck so badly that I convinced myself I needed it. So after that I established a rule, or a motto: "Always know the difference between what I need, and what I want; never begin to want something so much that it becomes a need." When I live by that, my life is much better. I have often heard the advice (especially when I was a performer) that one should only take a chosen path if it is "the only thing you could do." Well, no. That's bad advice. It leads to false expectations, and great disappointment most of the time.

Rather, you should do what you love, what you most enjoying doing at the moment. But you should never shut off your mind to other possibilities. You should never close up your life so that all your life was lived before you made that ultimate decision of "the only path I could take." There are many paths in life, and many tributaries off of each one. Living life means taking paths, not sitting on them.

So, yes, there are other things I could do besides being a professor. It's just, that's what I'm focussed on being at the moment. That, and being a husband and father and son and brother. Sometimes I forget these latter titles I admit. Partly because I tend to focus on the areas of my life that are not satisfying rather than the ones that are. I have often been drawn toward difficulties, shunning the easy routes. But family is important, and community (that's in part what you my reader's, imagined or real, are). I need to remember that, and keep the frustrations of my professional life in perspective.

And I need to get over this cold! Yech!

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