Medievalists: pre-registration deadline is the 28th, after which a late fee will be applied.
Register now, save that late fee to buy me a beer. (lol)
I was recently reminded that although I have told this story to friends, in three weeks I’m going to encounter a lot of people (at the Congress) who haven’t heard it, and there will be those who ask about the tattoo on my wrist.
And after reflection I decided to post the story here, too, since I’ve used this platform for other parenting discussions. And also since I don’t want to repeat this, all or in part, multiple times.
Twenty years ago last month (on 3/16) I attended a Jesus and Mary Chain concert in Detroit; opening for them was Nine Inch Nails – I came in mid-set. I was 19 and burning out in art school and it was a fucked-up evening fucked-up by interpersonal fuckwittery—suffice to day, one I would have been happy to forget (and looking back, it was probably the opening death knell of an engagement that was through less than a year later). Except not quite… I came in, slunk against the wall and cold and pissed and looking like something the cat dragged in (with freckles) …and I was transfixed.
It seemed like a good date to get this, my first tattoo.
16 March 2010, immediately after tattoo was finished. (Pardon the lousy cellphone photo.)
The line is taken from a NIN song, but this isn’t about NIN nor about Trent Reznor (not really):
Lights in the Sky
She’s mostly gone
some other place.
I’m getting by
in other ways.
Everything they whispered in our ears
is coming true.
Try to justify the things
I used to do.
Believe in you.
Watching you drown.
I follow you down.
I am here,
right beside you.
The lights in the sky
I am staying,
right beside you.
I tried to stay away,
just in case.
I’ve come to realize
we all have our place.
Time, time has a way you know,
to make it clear.
I have my role in this.
I can’t disappear,
or leave you here.
Watching you drown,
I’ll follow you down.
And I am here right beside you.
The lights in the sky
are waving goodbye.
I am staying right beside you.
Listen… it’s a quiet one, just piano:
There are a lot of NIN songs, through the years, that have resonated with me for one reason or another. Some still do, and others simply remind me of the time they did (and which I am happy not to be living, anymore).
When I first heard this one I sobbed. Still do, actually.
To understand why I need to tell you a story.
You see, I was a first-gen university student. There was the weight of expectations and the weight of culture-shock and the weight of a total lack of understanding by my parents of this different planet, this academia. I had Responsibility to Do The Right Thing and Make Them Proud (even in the face of being, personally, a pretty odd damn duck). I started in art but switched to humanities double majors/ double minors, got my BA, I stayed for an interdisciplinary MA… I had plans, potential… I gave conference papers, I worked hard (I worked through both degrees, at one point simultaneously half-time university staff, student, and teaching as a grad assistant). I applied for Ph.D. programs; I was accepted into my top choice. But. But it was without the funding needed to move a family out of state. I had money… enough to move just me. But. But I had two children, one of whose impairments we were just beginning to plumb the depths of. And I had a clear choice, one I had to make that I considered one that I could not un-make and I’d better fucking get it right the first time.
Work to reach my full potential, or sacrifice my dreams so Em could have any chance at reaching hers.
Let everyone down—my family, advisers, friends still in the field… even and especially myself—or let her down. All or one.
Watching you drown. I follow you down.
I am here, right beside you.
My choice was for the one.
Time, time has a way you know, to make it clear.
I have my role in this. I can’t disappear, or leave you here.
And as we’ve learned more and she’s worsened in so many ways and the way before us is clearer (but with information comes a lack of room for hope, sometimes) I remind myself that I made a decision. A choice. What happened to her chromosome might have been random, but nothing I could—can—do can be. I was not tricked, I was not trapped, I do not sit around feeling sorry for myself (although I deeply wish she didn’t have these challenges and limitations, and I certainly have days that make me wonder if I have the strength and emotional wherewithal to do this), I made a choice.
I chose her.
And now in addition to that imprint on my heart and mind, it’s on my skin as well.
Certainly there are other layers of meaning for this line I now have on my wrist… in my marriage there has been some very bad, very trying times—times that are past and that we are stronger for having survived. I have another child who struggles for a sense of normalcy in the face of instability, a shortage of ‘normal’. We all have our place.
And yeah, there is this band (this guy who is this band), whose music lent me sanity when I needed it, was the screaming I couldn’t vocalize, was hope (yes, I said hope) that is only possible after recognizing Things Are Very Wrong and, once recognized, opens a way. Who makes me cry, in whose instrumentals I find peace (in the inner landscapes they invoke), whose own journey was so clearly and painfully mapped from album to album (not the same road I was on, but the two sure ran parallel a lot of the time)… and so when I needed out of the bad places I had built inside myself to convince me of my own lack of worth there was a song, a line, a chord to lead the way, shine a light, kick me in the ass. I am loyal, long-term, to very, very few things… so when I realized that very nearly all of my adult life has had this one—one—constant I had to honor that.
And that is my tattoo.
Maybe for my birthday (40!) I’ll do the other wrist – for balance.
The International Congress on Medieval Studies has a Twitter account:
If you’re a Twitter-using medievalist, please follow!
There’s also a designated a hashtag #Kzoo2010 for use before, on-site, and after Congress for Congress-related tweeting and micro-blogging for searching ease.
Let the tweets begin!
(Yes, it’s me tweeting in my significantly more boring official capacity.)
Interesting posts with subsequent discussion re: tenure, graduate school, and expectations over at Blogenspiel.
The Program for the International Congress on Medieval Studies—online for a month–is printed and has been winging its way through (priority) US and international mail for a week. US bulk is going out in waves (so many thousands of books to process!) and should be complete this week.
Don’t forget to register. See you all in May.
Today I ended up in conversation with a couple of the grad students about when I first started attending the Congress, as an undergrad (1990).
They called me an old fart. o_O
I regaled them with Back In The Day tales that included that of a thrice-dammed full-sized traction trebuchet I was conscripted to help assemble and demonstrate, and the infamous dance, as it had been (held in a cafeteria, open bar, Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Ball).
And I told them of the first time I had attended the dance… it was 1992, a few months before Nine Inch Nails’ Broken came out.
This is important.
You see, I walked into that dimly-lit cafeteria (but the academics inside were already well-lit, I assure you) to see two nuns (Remember, these are medievalists—there are members of many of the orders present every year… in fact, there are staff members who persist in the idea that we’re a Renaissance Festival because they see monks walking around. Rly. Srsly.) on the outskirts of the dance floor (such as it was) dancing—you know, the classic stand-and-sway while moving the arms in a vaguely robot-fashion kind of dancing—to NIN’s Sin.
I turned around and walked out of that cafeteria.
Despite how very much I needed that open bar at that moment (you can imagine how my brain and soul cried for blessed oblivion), I just couldn’t take one more step forward.
I was so very happy when Broken was released—I hadn’t been able to listen to PHM (since that moment in May when my brain broke) without going into blink-blink-shudder-AAAaaaagh every time that song came on.
So I leave you with the cognitively dissonant image of nuns doing the white-people-boogie to the voice of Trent Reznor.
There is a discussion in a community on Facebook that medievalists/attendees of the International Congress on Medieval Studies might find interesting. Or not – in which case there’s always scrabble.
Session Organizer paperwork for the International Congress on Medieval Studies is due Oct. 1.
Get on it!
Whoah, I’ve never liveblogged — this will be interesting (and not just the papers – I *know* those will be interesting!!)
Weblogs and the Academy: The Scope of the Professional and Boundaries of the Personal in Open, Pseudo-Anonymous, and Anonymous Blogging (organized by Shana Worthen and myself)
Personalizing the Profession: The Value of “Academic Life” Blogs, Christina M. Fitzgerald:academic life blogs v. narrowly discipline-focused blogs. The former works to humanize academics, showing demands of personal and professional and blurred lines between academic life and personal life. Blogs can be read for insight into other types of institutions, situations, or positions to gain broader knowledge of the workings of academia. Academic life blogs can shed light on the process to graduate students beginning the process, demystifying it in the process. Reminds readers that medievalists are not only what they publish, gives voice to their work, but also to the way their work impacts their personal lives and shapes their professional experience.
Balancing the Personal and the Professional in Academic Blogging, Kristen M. Burkholder: reasons for choice to pseudononymously blog and the ramifications of that decision. blogging under own name involves a certain circumspect treatment of blog contents, given the potential negative ramifications of name googling by an institution during a tenure process or job search. activities or opinions outside of academic life communicated in connection to a blogger’s real identity can still shadow that individual and color the opinions of readers. Medievalists, as a fairly ‘rare bird’ in academia, are easy to possibly ferret out based on clues to identity, so a pseudonym alone can’t be considered protection of identity. Blogging under a real name, however, allows the blogger to take credit for the blogging (ex: showing engagement with discipline). Can be a way to establish professional relationships and engage in discipline-based discourse. Blogs used as teaching tools can, obviously, not function pseudonymously if that blog is revealed to students in the course of utilizing it in pedagogy. Closed course blogs can’t be used as an ongoing tool, nor can they engage the scholarly community as a whole. The size of potential audience requires care to balance casual discussion of academic topics (like deconstructing conference sessions) with making actionable statements, and the positive visibility of a scholar as a representative of a discipline or university has another side of the coin if discretion is not applied to the blog topically or in the treatment of the topic.
“A Blogger by Any Other Name”: Pseudonymous Blogging and the Creation of a Legitimate Academic Voice, Julie A. Hofmann: academic blogging has changed significantly since 2002. Initially bloggers were discipline-focused and written primarily by males, whereas blogging by medievalists has exploded in the range of voices and the increase in academic life blogs. In general, the more personal the blog, the more likely the author is female, the blog pseudononymous, and the voice collegial/casual — but increasingly junior faculty are joined by senior faculty and graduate students and independent scholars in bloggingl. Despite the Ivan Tribble series, this expansion in types of bloggers shows that blogging and bloggers aren’t the scary things naysayers feared. Professional voice appears side by side with this casual, personal voice, thus presenting blogger as scholar and serving the discipline and community via information exchange and a space for discourse. Many (although not all) blogging with an academic voice post under their real identity, whether individual or group-constructed. The professional voice is carefully constructed, but the collegial voice is equally as carefully constructed and the pseudononymous blogger that uses it is not, as often accused, trying to hide something nor necessarily over-personal or under-professional. They are not *less* academic – they are *differently* academic. Most academics do not find jobs at research universities, so to stress the purely-professionally-voiced academic blog presents an image of the discipline that doesn’t match reality. And medievalists are often isolated on campuses — collegiality creates community. Questions: why are most academic life blogs written by females? why do males feel more comfortable blogging under their own names? and, if blogs are clearly academic and legitimate, why do so many academic life bloggers still feel compelled to blog pseudononymously?
My Blog Is Not Myself: Negotiating Identity in the Academic Blogosphere, Janice Liedel: Psychologists working on blogs have shown that the elaborate creation of online identity is actually rare – in reality, personal identity is grafted onto avatars and communication. In fact, the internet pulls some to reveal more of the personal than they would otherwise, and that has in part helped form the list of negatives leveled at bloggers: recklessness, senior colleagues can adversely impact careers, posts can create animosity in departments, popularity can create a form of professional jealousy. Even so, the internet identity is a construction (whether publicly blogging or no) however much it’s informed by the personality of the blogger. And the blogger must be cognizant of that identity constructed — a vitriol-fueled personal, for example, it surely not a good choice nor positive contribution to professional goals when bridges are burned with senior faculty and graduate students, alike. Although nothing disappears on the internet, choices can be reconsidered and personas remade to better serve the personal and professional goals of the blogger.