December 26, 2010 § Leave a comment
Part 176.2. Or something like that.
I know that I can’t work at universities forever – it’s not a sustainable structure with its dependence on low-wage workers and the student-as-customer idea that is eating education. A friend read my blog and said that the students I advise “must not know what hits them”. Probably this is true. But the job wears at me even though I love it.
“Oh honey” said my Aunt Kathy “they must love you.” Yes but. I don’t always have the emotional resources that my students need me to have. “You should be a psychologist/counselor/therapist” my students tell me. Oh hell no. I love helping people transition, but therapy is a job for someone else.
There are other things I love. I love material things, beautiful things, images, ideas, (I find a great many people beautiful), and in my own private life I love clothes. I love wearing things that make me feel confident and happy. I love knitting the things I wear.
In the new year I’m going to learn to sew. I’m going to learn embroidery. I’m going to continue to learn Hungarian. I’m going to invent my new job.
December 17, 2010 § Leave a comment
When I am in my office and sitting across the desk from my students, and as I have said before they are older and poorer than most university students, I find myself giving the same advice again and again. This is my job of course – to give them advice about starting and continuing and finishing college. But so much of this process is about motivation and desire, and rage and regret. Theirs and mine. Regret is big. Huge.
Regret is the silencer, the dream-killer. Regret and shame are the stop-you-in-you-tracks, the nip-in-the-beautiful-bud. We feel shame and rage because we cannot control our lives, because things we hate or people we are supposed to love control our bodies, our lives, our pasts. Our pasts become our futures. Our pasts convince us we are train-cars running the one direction on the tracks, and we are not the head car. They convince us our fate is on rails. They convince us that very very little control is no control at all.
The students sit in front of me with the horrors they contain. They sit and the past sits with them, having dropped out of college because of a job or a baby or a divorce, some physical/emotional/economic trauma. Some displacement of self. They sit there and tell me “I never should have dropped out Jen, but I was so stupid.” Sometimes they have very poor study skills, and they are angry about this because of pride, and pride is the only thing that has kept them from giving up. There was an incident. The instructor or another student calls them on that lack. And they explode in anger. They cry. They storm out of class. They come to my office and ask me “why did I do that? It was stupid. I was so stupid. I might as well quit now.”
For me it is always the same advice here. “Don’t call yourself stupid” I say, “it is a luxury. You can’t afford it. Don’t talk about who fucked you over. Bottomless rage is a luxury you cannot afford.”
I have a hard time doing and a hard time completing things. It is so hard for me it is a joke. A sickness. A slow rot. I am fixing this, slowly.
I tell them regret, self-flagellation, is a luxury. It doesn’t matter how much they need to blame themselves or others because there is (I know this) a sick pleasure in taking yourself apart and dirtying each individual piece. They don’t have that much time, I tell them. You can’t afford it. It costs too much for you.
There is no one fix for a life, I believe. And even if you do everything right, nothing is guaranteed. What is granted is often unearned. Still, I tell them (I tell myself) without taking control of what you can, without attempting to assert control over your own thinking you are stuck. Don’t call yourself stupid; it stops you. You are stopped when the world is moving. You are stopped. For a time you are lost.
December 4, 2010 § Leave a comment
Have you heard about the removal of Davis Wojnarowicz’s “Fire in My Belly”from the National Portrait Gallery’s Hide/Seek exhibition? Right after World Aids Day? Below is the email I sent to the director of the National Portrait Gallery. His email is SullivanM@si.edu. Please email him and tell him what you think.
Dear Martin E. Sullivan,
I am writing to express my anger and disappointment over your decision to cave to John Bohner and the other reactionaries who insisted that you remove David Wojnarowicz’s “Fire in My Belly” from the exhibition. I understand that once pressured you took less than an hour to remove the video. At best, your action looks like cowardice, but I am concerned that it also reveals a fundamental lack of integrity and a weakness of character. This is the only explanation that I can come up with for your decision to perpetuate such harm to the culture.
David Wojnarowicz’s work is fearless, difficult, and open. This is exactly why Bohner and his like are afraid of it; it utterly “refudiates” their narrow, xenophobic, hate-filled worldview — they are working to force the entire nation into submission to this worldview.
As Director of the National Portrait Gallery (absolutely my favorite part of the Smithsonian) you hold a position of trust to the entire nation. You have an obligation either to reinstate “A Fire in My Belly” to the Hide/Seek exhibition and apologize for your error, or to resign. I am writing this on Saturday, December 4th. Please take one of these actions by December 6th, 2010.
December 3, 2010 § Leave a comment
The most interesting thing I’ve read on Wikileaks and Julian Assange is here. Totally fascinating. I’m conflicted about Assange; part of feminism for me is to believe people when they accuse someone of sexual assault and rape.
I am less conflicted about the Wikileaks project, though, after seeing the way the U.S. government is choosing to deal with the leak of the diplomatic cables.