Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tuesday bullets and a question

Yeah, today's a good day, a day deserving of some bullets...even though it is freezing...

- Before he left on Sunday, M. burned me a whole bunch of music, including some things that I'm finding to be pretty jaw-droppingly fabulous and am having to fight with myself not to play over and over and over again. I so needed new music!

- You know, this whole book project? It is coming together! I think. I have been working around one of two major pieces of the theoretical framework for a few months (in focused reading, I mean, as well as writing one conference paper). I have just moved into thinking about the other major theoretical pole (which I will try to wade into for my upcoming conference paper). Even though I haven't yet figured out exactly how to articulate the connection between these two poles perfectly (or at all), I can sense it brewing. I can sense it coming. And when I sit down to write the first chapter this July and August (for I have decided to start with writing my theoretical first chapter, because otherwise nothing will cohere, I fear), I think there's going to be some good stuff happening. I think.

- However. My upcoming conference? Terrifying. Notwithstanding its amazing tropical locale. Terrifying. Looking over the program gives me cold sweats. It feels really big-league. There are some major, major players scheduled. The only other time I remember feeling this nerved out about a conference was when I presented at a small one at an Ivy League school, and there were no concurrent sessions so everyone attended everyone else's paper, including Seriously-Major-Bigwig. I thought I'd pass out. But then, I try and remember how that conference resulted in a publication for me (as well as support from the Bigwig in applying to do a postdoc with hir) so perhaps it will be good to wade into the big leagues again. Maybe good things will come of it. And anyway, I should stretch myself, yes?

- Yes. I should stretch myself. The distance covered by this particular stretch is a little much for my liking, though - since I am essentially an impostor in the territory of this conference. An impostor trying to remake herself in its image. Yeah, I know that's cryptic...

- Okay, now for some solicitation of advice: I am having a meeting with my Dean soon. I have historically had (what I deem to be) some bad encounters with my Dean (ranging from major awkwardness to outright hostility), which is just silly considering how short a time I've been in this job. The last one was just recently, at Convocation - as always, it felt like a massively failed encounter. Part of what happens in these interactions is that I always always always am being chastised. I always seem to be admonished for something; it's remarkable. Given the fact that I am not doing anything wrong - trust me on this. But the tone, the tone: he approaches every interaction as if he must punish me. And the tone with which I react is just as bad: My reaction, always startled and caught off guard, is to passively take it. It's fucking ridiculous.

So, I want to change that. What should be my mantra? What should be the keywords I repeat to myself as I go into his office a few days from now, just wanting to have a conversation about the future of my program, some strategic direction, and one other little issue having to do with my eventual tenure bid (which hopefully won't happen, but you never know)? I'd love to know your thoughts on how to turn this relationship around. This is a powerful figure in my life. More powerful - because more micro-managerial - than any Dean I've known of. If I do end up being here for the long haul, it's essential that I don't feel so awful about this relationship.


JustMe said...

no good dean advice, sorry. maybe maggie may can help with that as she rocks her dean crush!

and yay re: book coming together!

Susan said...

Your strength in dealing with the Dean comes from your analysis. He is a micromanager, and he comes off as hostile/punitive to you. So go in prepared for that, as a totally rational person. Feed his micromanaging side (give him lots of details on the program), but just keep saying to yourself, "I am a calm and rational person".

It also might be worth asking some older colleagues who are program chair/directors how THEY deal with him. You will have to be a bit discreet, but you can certainly say, "When I meet Dean Mean, he always does this. I'm trying to figure out how to respond in a way that will support my program. Have you got any advice?"

adjunct whore said...

i was thinking a source of strength could be repeating to yourself (silently, of course):

you are a fuckwit, you are an awful fuckit

or something like that. chastise? punish? sadistic? yuk.

i'm sticking with fuckwit.

and congrats on your other fabulous comings together.

Hilaire said...

This was helpful. Both Susan and AW. :)

Susan, I did go in there as calm as can be. And it worked. I even had a moment during our 25-minute meeting when it was as if I was looking down on myself, and I said, "Wow. That is one impressive performance of calm." And we had a perfectly lovely meeting in which he even thanked me for things like building the program, etc.

But AW, I so hear you. I think I was a combo between "I am calm" and "You are a fuckwit." :)

dbm/gaa said...

Congrats on a positive meeting. Just don't turn yourself into a calm fuckwit by taking that mantra in the wrong direction!

Belle said...

Good for you! I recently turned a relationship around by simply (hah) changing the way I thought about it. And it's been wonderful, getting that load of anxiety, intimidation and fear off of my weary soul.

My mantra is basically a take on the 'calm, rational' advice of Susan. It also makes me smile, which confuses the hell out of the fuckwits.

medieval woman said...

Oh, god, Hilaire - I just realized that for some reason my Bloglines hasn't been updating from your site! I was thinking, "It's been a while since she posted..." and then come to find out, you have! I'm sorry because I do want to comment - so please excuse how late they are. If you've already had your meeting, I hope it went well - if not, definitely chanting calming thoughts to yourself would be good. But also, (and this might be a little too Pollyanna) could you broach the topic of his seeming dissatisfaction with you (which is, of course, not warranted)? Or just his demeanor? Or would he take that as an attack?

I'm happy about your new book thoughts and I hope you have an awesome time at tropical Bigwig conference!!!

lil'rumpus said...

I'm with AW. oh, and CONGRATS on the too cool for school conferencing.