I have worked as a casual humanities academic, on and off, for the past ten years, and was a humanities student for a significant amount of time prior. In this time I have witnessed a gradual shift in the pedagogy of my own institution from being a strictly offline “real-world” (ha!) institution, towards blended learning, all the while hurtling towards the inevitable endpoint of the MOOC. The benefits/arguments/lamentations about this journey have been well documented by writers more skilled than myself, and I do not intend to explore them in this post. What I do want to explore is my own hesitancy in launching myself into the fray of blogging and online writing.
The link I am making is this. In the last few years I have tutored a number of subjects in which the students have been asked to blog as a part of their assessable work. I have stood at the front of classrooms and spewed the appropriate rhetoric about how in this current job market it is important to put your writing out into the world, that there was no point having a box of essays hidden away somewhere never to be seen again, that YOUR voice is important and should be heard, Henry Jenkins, participatory culture, my goodness, you would be silly not to have one!
and yet I didn’t have one of my own.
I skirted around this in class when asked; I haven’t got the time, writing is a luxury not afforded to the casual academic, I have a child, balance 4 casual contracts, I have marking… and these are all true, and legitimate, and they buy me time to not blog and to instead read the blogs of others and think about what they have written and maybe even respond to them and engage with them and want to be involved. And to WRITE! I miss writing. And yet I didn’t do any of those things. I marked and tweeted and decidedly DID NOT BLOG.
This brings me to now. I was in a meeting today with some colleagues, both of whom mentioned blog posts they had written. I was envious… of their free blogs that they had taken the time, and energy to create, of their own volition. But still I was envious. They put their opinions out into the world! And people responded! It seemed such a grown up thing to do, it was a thing I have been harassing my students to do for the past two years but I somehow didn’t feel worthy of having one.
Rather than it being an issue of time, or energy, or ability, I think it is to mostly to do with how I define myself, and my contribution to the world. Why would anyone want to read the things that I write? Why would they want to consider my opinions on things? As my husband would attest, I do not have a shortage of opinions, he listens patiently every day to the torrent of unfiltered STUFF that pours out of my head and into the world: opinions about the casualisation of academia (adressed here beautifully by Music for Deckchairs), the state of Australian politics, my 4 year old daughter and how despite my best intentions, princess culture has infiltrated our home. I tell him, and being a man of few words he accepts these opinions and they remain unchallenged, unwritten, and safe from scrutiny. No one can ever accuse me of taking myself too seriously (my twitter account is testament to that).
I define myself as the person who deferred their PhD many years ago: or more specifically, the academic failure, the outsider looking in whose career has stalled as a result of their failure to see their dissertation through to its bitter end. Who am I to blog, when I don’t have the credentials to do so? This goes completely against what I tell my students by the way, they should blog, as should you, and everyone else, but I digress. I don’t take myself seriously because I do not have the right to do so. I haven’t earned it as I am missing those letters behind my name. So to protect my fragile ego I hide behind humour. I consider myself to be an excellent tutor. I have got nothing but excellent feedback, and I go above and beyond to assist my students if I can. However the story I tell my students is very different to the one I tell myself.
So here I am, the academic outsider, silencing myself based on my own hubris. As a casual academic I put up with sometimes woeful conditions (of the systemic variety, the individuals I work with/for are almost always lovely) BUT I should be grateful for what work I am given as I do not have a PhD and am not even working my way towards one. In other words, really, who the FUCK do I think I am? And why would I blog if the given endpoint is to promote yourself for future academic employment?
Who am I? I am 33, juggling casual contracts at a university, Mum to a 4 year old, partner in a business, with my own (not unique) apathy and disinterest in any kind of ‘housekeeping’. I have opinions about princess culture, about student engagement, casualisation and exploitation within academia, and an ongoing love for all things David Lynch or even Lynch-esque.
And I intend to blog. It may not be regular, and it hopefully will not always be this long, but I will write into the world. I will likely have a small or non-existent readership. I will write and hold myself accountable for the opinions I spew forth. I will engage in the broader community of academic bloggers, and I will acknowledge, without shame, the fact I am the PhD dropout. Rather than being mired in self-loathing about the place I hold in the academic world (which I plan to address in a future blog post), I will write. I will work on the skill of writing. I will engage with others, and be swayed by them, and not squirrel myself away as I have been. I will walk the journey of blogging with my students, and for once, I may even take myself a little seriously.