Sunday, March 7, 2010

Recharging my batteries

Because I'm trying to keep semi-anonymous on this blog, I can't tell you exactly where I am or where I've been, but I can tell you that on Thursday I left my little Southern college town and headed for a big city to attend a conference of folks working in my field. And on Saturday I left this big city for a small college town to attend a different conference of folks working in my field (Spring is conference season for those of you not in academia, or at least it seems to be chock full'o symposiums and colloquiums and conferences in the areas I work in).

And I have to say that after the really weird talk I went to (which I described in THE UGLY section of this post) I feel really invigorated. Regardless of what your field of discipline is, most of us are experts in a very narrow way and usually there's only a handful of people at our universities (if we're lucky) who are also in our field/area of study. So the fact that I got to spend 3 days among people who talked the same language that I did. And I don't mean academic jargon (although there was a fair amount of that going on) I mean in terms of caring about the same issues I cared about--in this case, racial and ethnic and class and gender and sexual issues. It was exciting to hear about people's research--to ask questions both during the large Q&A sessions and in private moments over meals and coffee. And it was invigorating for my own research to present my work and get feedback and to be asked smart questions from smart people (which include a fair number of students, both grad and undergrad). And my favorite part is meeting new colleagues--getting to share our work together and have vibrant discussions.

I felt like I was recharging my batteries. And quite frankly, my batteries had been feeling pretty low. It can be isolating being the only one at your university. And in my case, I'm the only one who works in my field--which means while I have sympathetic and intelligent colleagues whom I speak with cross-discipline, I don't have a colleague who works in my exact area who understands the specific issues that I am working on.

All of this has got me thinking about the ways that we all need to recharge our batteries. For me, because I am so invested in issues of race and working on anti-racist theories and practices, it means being with others who are like minded. And again, don't get me wrong--there are plenty of folks at Southern U. who are. But given the nature of our busy lives, it's hard to get together to share intellectual work or talk about our own scholarship and how we are trying to be scholar-activists in our own small ways. But at conferences you get this concentrated body of people who are all in the same space for a period of time who are all there for the same reason and it's really a wonderful way to remember why I do what I do.

And in non-academic settings, it's important that I recharge other batteries that I have--for my sense of emotional well being, physical well being, spiritual well being.

How do you recharge your batteries--and especially if you are interested in issues of race and anti-racism, where do you go to find that sense of camaraderie?


david said...

Recharging my batteries to me means to talk with intelligent people who share things in common. Or listening to good music. I try to find camaraderie with people I meet instead of drifting back to people that share my major. It helps me to get outside of my box, so I'm not in a social bubble.

Jennifer Imazeki said...

I think most academics feel the same way you do. I know that I absolutely do. Not only do I feel somewhat isolated in my field at my university, my school tends to prioritize teaching over research. This is not generally a bad thing, since I love teaching, but it's easy to let myself get SO involved in teaching that my research gets a bit lost. But every time I go to a conference, I come back re-energized, with all sort of ideas I can't wait to start working on. It's one reason why I tell my junior colleagues that even if they don't feel they have anything prepared enough to present, it's good to go and just talk to people.

Anonymous said...

I recharge in one of two ways: either by completely going away from the issue(s), or by immersing myself in them with like-minded individuals. Going away from them is usually the quicker option, since I can escape into an episode of Iron Chef America way faster than, say, I can attend a conference that's still TWO WEEKS AWAY, but ultimately immersing myself in the issues with like-minded folks is how I really recharge. There's just something about being in a space with other people who care about the same things you care about, with whom you can work toward mutual goals without having to explain or justify yourself ... it's beautiful.

I also talk to my mom a lot. She and I have developed a camraderie over the years that allows me to find a sort of peace in discussing these issues with her - and she's a hell of a listener. :)