The past couple of months have been weird ones. Teaching has felt really crazy; my partner moved away; stray cats were living in my basement. Sadly, that last one is a totally blog-worthy story that I’ll probably never share.
My life has been fairly preoccupied, until I went to the 2015 Conference on College Composition and Communication.
I love 4Cs. It’s such an invigorating experience to catch up with colleagues from grad school, listen to inspiring and sometimes surprising panels, and feel like a scholar again. I always leave 4Cs feeling positively great about myself. This was certainly true of 4C15, but I also left with something else on my mind.
After my panel, I spoke with several people who had attended, and one that really stood out to me is another contingent faculty member from another institution. We both considered our relative luckiness: we have jobs with benefits in departments that support us, even providing moneys for us to attend this national conference. But that doesn’t necessarily outweigh the downsides in terms of course load and the amount of work we put in both in the classroom and outside of it.
What she got me thinking about, though, is my own identity. Recall a few paragraphs up when I said 4Cs makes me “feel like a scholar again.” Why? Where does that identity go during the other 51 weeks of the year? And what exactly could cause that to disappear?
There’s the simple fact, of course, that I’m not doing any scholarship. I have no research requirements in my position (unlike someone on the tenure track), and I have little time for doing research that I might want to do. And I certainly want to: I make rough plans for potential projects and publications, but they don’t really come to fruition because I spend most of my time planning class, responding to students, grading, trying to figure out why certain classroom activities aren’t working, finding time to attempt to “relax” in any way that I can.
Right now, my identity as a professional is purely as a “teacher.” Is that a bad thing? I don’t know. I love being a teacher. I love working with students and helping people learn and grow, even on the days when it is trying and exhausting (because it is certainly, absolutely, trying and exhausting a lot of days). The real question this brings about is what happens when writing teachers identify more as teachers than as writers? Should we not see ourselves as writer-teachers or teacher-writers?
It is strange to talk about one’s identity as a writer because that can mean so many different things. I talk about this frequently with my best friend, Kaylin. What does it mean to be a writer? How much does one have to write to consider themselves a writer? And doesn’t one need to be actively involved in writing in order to consider oneself a writer?
Which brings me to this blog, which should be my venue for writing but so often sits neglected. The theme is cooking and composition: two nouns that both rely on actively doing things. I can’t having cooking without cooking; I can’t have composition without composing.
Currently, I am not doing much of either of these things. Until I talked to someone who is actively thinking about her own identities as a teacher/scholar/writer/person, I did not think much about this. I did not realize how much I need to be actively doing.
It isn’t so much that I feel unproductive–I certainly get all of my work done. I even get in some knitting time and the opportunity to play the highly-addicting city builder Cities: Skylines. But I do so little cooking and so little composing, two things I usually find genuinely relaxing and that inspired me to start this blog to begin with.
Now I must start doing both of those things again.