Friday, September 4, 2015

Where am I going, whose going with me?

Sam Keen's "Fire in the Belly" was a book that had a great deal of meaning to me many years ago. While I have moved beyond a good deal of the author's ideas about masculinity and men (although some are still great), I still very much appreciate many of the evocative narratives, and his lessons about life.

In one of the teaching stories, about the author's tendency to place the seeking of intimate relationships above his exploring his own direction and place in the world, he was given what he viewed as sage advice by a friend and mentor.

"A man (and woman, please) must answer two questions in his/her life, and especially during times of transition: 1) Where am I going?; 2) Whose going with me?"  If you reverse the order of these two questions, your in deep trouble." (I paraphrase)

So, you are probably asking yourself (especially if you have not read my blog often and have yet to come to appreciate my seemingly tangential ruminations) what does this have to do with writing, publishing, or the academic life?

There are so many external expectations that are placed upon us; at times we can easily feel like we are constantly responding to others. The needs, dictates, and desires of others can subtly and almost unconsciously shape what we study and what we write, if we are not careful. It is important to take time to step back from it all and carefully reflect upon what we are doing, and where we are going. This is what a sabbatical is for.

During my sabbatical, I really got in touch with how my longing for the stability of tenure, many moons ago, started to powerfully shape the work I was doing. I began to empathize the areas of my work which were more congruent with the "status quo" of my discipline (social work), and moved away from my work in expressive research.

During a six week trip to the Philippines and after a great deal of self reflection, I decided it was time to put aside writing and publishing in two areas, and focus on my love and passion for autoethnography and expressive/creative methods of qualitative research.

On some level, having tenure, being in my forever faculty position, and having been promoted to full professor allow me the luxury of this type of calculus. Yet, I wonder if I would not be in a further along in my scholarship had I remained more true to myself. Am I now the "best" version of Rich the scholar, the person, or would I be move "evolved" had I stayed more true to my own vision?

No glib answers or suggestions, but something for you upon which to reflect.

1 comment:

  1. I think that having a clear idea of where you are heading to is very important, not just in terms of motivation but also as a way of managing your priorities. If I have a clear idea of where I need to be, it is easier for me to see which tasks I need to do to get there (no matter how boring / difficult they are), and which ones I are a distraction (no matter how enticing they are, or how convincing the person asking you to do x might be).

    Your post reminded me of this very interesting blog post / list, which I refer to time and time again:

    I think that knowing where you are going is the very first point in that list. whereas the knowing who is going with yo could the point about choosing your co-authors and even your mentor.