Minding the Gap

After I finished my dissertation in February, I needed to stop making words for a while. Not that I was tired of writing, but I spent so long writing this unbelievably huge, extremely vetted piece of research that I was averse to saying things in public that weren't fully baked. Since then, even though I've been working my butt off on several projects, I haven't written anything much longer than a chain of tweets. Maybe a few haiku here, or on Yelp.

Then I decided to try and get a new job. In April, I quietly told a few people that I wanted to be a candidate for the next Director of the School of Visual Art and Design at the University of South Carolina. My current boss was stepping down at the end of his term, and there was going to be an internal search. I thought I'd be good at the job, even though I was a bit of a long shot.

Five months later as the search heated up, I started getting very stressed about the whole ordeal. The more I thought about what I could do in the new job, the more I wanted it. To deal with it I decided to use Twitter to talk about it publicly, discuss my philosophies, my candidacy, the whole process (as much as would be appropriate and not identify anyone or throw anyone under the bus). Twitter had been sucking more and more with each month, becoming just a political cesspool instead of the joyous place I knew years ago. I thought the worst that could happen was maybe I could bring back some of the magic. Or at least use it as therapy. Within days, I felt calmer. Not just about the process, but about the anxiety of not really knowing where my career was going to go next, if anywhere.

Then it came time to write a statement to declare the foundations of my candidacy to the faculty of the school, my colleagues of 11 years. All the candidates received dozens of submitted questions on a Friday, and we had 36 hours to respond. I knew the candidates well and calculated that I had a low chance of winning the faculty vote and therefore swaying the Dean to choose me. So I thought "ah, what the hell," and wrote like a maniac, to get across my view of the landscape as plainly as possible. If I had nothing to lose, why not lay all my cards on the table? It was thousands of words, just coherent enough to not sound insane. Barely copy-edited. Classically I suppose it should have been a cover letter/statement of intent. But I basically wrote a blog post that was the length of a New Yorker article.

I don't know if I'll get the job. It's complicated, I won't bore you with the details of the process nitty gritty (that's what Twitter is for!). But people have been responding to me in private in ways that I never would have guessed. Friends and allies lending support, sure, but also people who have rarely seen eye-to-eye with me. All from writing with a kind of "what-the-hell" reckless abandon, putting it out there, risking looking like a fool. I've felt more connected to my colleagues than I have in years. New non-academic opportunities have appeared out of nowhere. New ideas are filling my notes every day. Things are different and better.

Take this blog post as a new reopening. I don't know what I'll be doing next. But I know it will come from connecting with people because I've put myself and my work out into the world honestly and consistently. People I admire write something every day (and maybe even publish it every day), and I always enjoy it but think "that's fine for them, but I don't have that in me." But it seems I might have it in me. And that I need to have it in me. We all do.