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Wake-up calls and the seduction of the snooze button

Last week, while attending a professional / academic conference in Toronto, Vancouver-based academic and “social media power userRaul Pacheco-Vega posted a blog entry called The future of my personal blog. He noted:

I am in awe of the depth of knowledge and caliber of colleagues I am sitting with, and I am honored to be sharing the floor with so many passionate and great specialists in water. It’s also a very strong wake-up call for me, as an academic whose career is, despite my relative success, still in development. I am well-established in some topics I’ve done work on, but in others I am still learning. (source)

Raul was wondering about the future of his personal blog: it’s where he focuses much more on “social” and far less on “academic,” and increasingly it’s also the public profile he’s most closely associated with. Does he have to choose between the two (social “vs” academic) – and if yes, what does that choice look like for a multi-faceted/multi-talented person? If no, how does he avoid letting some part of him atrophy?

I’m at another point in the spectrum – I don’t want to say “at another end,” since that implies a binary structure: it strikes me that it’s precisely the absence of simple binaries that makes these choices (or traps) difficult if not seemingly impossible to resolve. But I can relate to what Raul struggled with in that entry. Read optimistically, I suppose that in some ways, he could well be at the forefront of forging a new type of career – a hybrid “creative” trajectory that defies traditional placement.

I’m quite a bit older and have a very different personal history than Raul. Married with children (who are now both at university), I torpedoed my academic career in 2000 when I chose to homeschool my kids (which meant giving up the luxury – pardon the sarcasm – of the adjunct professor career: I did not have tenure and wasn’t in a tenure-track position, and I also wasn’t in a position to move around the country, chasing a series of 2- to 3-year appointments). In that process (of placing the perceived needs of my children over my own for a career) I also hitched my economic well-being to my spouse’s success. In hindsight, I can’t say I would recommend this to anyone. Now it’s 2010 and two years have passed since we stopped homeschooling, and I’m still trying to find terra firma – without success, to date. That the economy melted down in the interim hasn’t helped, but that’s a whole ‘nother story…

A while back I had a meeting with Elisa Yon, a talented young architect I met here in Victoria, but who is now in Vancouver continuing her graduate studies in design at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Elisa talked about how invigorating it was to be back amongst high-caliber people who are working hard in a field she believes in. It was more than slightly depressing for me, because it made me realize that I have none of that in my life here. I no longer have “the children” to homeschool, but living on an island in a provincial capital often enough seems like living in the suburbs – or in Lake Wobegon. Victoria tends to hype self-congratulation to the point where it emulates (unironically, alas!) Garrison Keillor’s mordant portrait of a self-satisfied place “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” (source) As they might say on Star Wars, “It’s a trap!”

I hope Raul figures out how to square his particular circle. Every time I feel like I’m getting close, something happens to make the solution slip away again: I currently have no idea how to inject my serious side (my “academic” interests, my desire to study patterns – and to recognize them – or my wish to have meaningful conversations with people who care about the same things I do) into what I do here. Perhaps it is a question of making a new type of career, that hybrid “creative” thing outside traditional expectations.


  1. Dear Yule,

    This is a really inspiring post. One of the great things about social media is that it has connected me with high-caliber people, exactly like YOU. I’m still in the process of figuring how to square my circle, and I hope it could potentially help you square yours!

    Much love and I hope to see you next time I am in Victoria! (just came back from Social Media Camp 2010)

    Comment by Raul — October 4, 2010 #

  2. “I feel your pain,” to quote a former president… As one whose career (make that a couple of careers) has not only been torpedoed but by now also sunk (sank?) in the dark depths and covered in barnacles, I am at even further remove from glimpsing the light of possibility of an exciting career. Add to this the economic stew around us, and I am truly pickled — which (these mixed metaphors) goes to show that I have a lot of ground to cover if I want to catch up. 🙂

    Comment by maria — October 4, 2010 #

  3. Sorry I missed you at Social Media Camp, Raul – economics precluded me from attending, alas. (The fee wasn’t that high, but enough of a deterrent for cash-strapped me.)
    Maria, let’s get us some pain-killers… I’m at the point where I don’t even see where my core competencies lie anymore. Living in Lake Wobegon doesn’t help because, with self-congratulatory people (there was a Twitter hashtag going ’round during the summer along the lines of #weliveinluckybastardsville – excuse me while I gag), you’re made to feel like a freak if you can’t fit in.

    Comment by Yule — October 4, 2010 #

  4. Ah! the seduction of the snooze button! I have just come home from a conversation with a person who is a sort of mentor about where I go next. I’m pretty fed up with my current position, but how to break out of that and find a new direction is the Big Question.

    Comment by melanie — October 5, 2010 #

  5. And here I thought someone in a more secure position would be immune from what I described. Well, just goes to show that immunity to being human (and being beset by doubts and indecision) isn’t possible, I guess. Good luck figuring out your next move(s), Melanie! 😉

    Comment by Yule — October 5, 2010 #

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