Armitage assessment, or: Fandom, life, and stuff

the_hobbit_the_battle_of_the_five_armies_trl_2-1080-mov_000081706Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield in the most recent trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Another one of those caps that makes me want to locate Armitage in the nineteenth century. Source: Heirs of Durin

***

(Reflections. As they apply to my experiences only. I’m not saying what I’ve learned about myself applies to you. Ymmv.)

Another week in the new job lies behind me — another week without significant negative stress and completely lacking in anger, guilt, helplessness or rage. One mess from the past to clean up, giving rise to frustration from a situation that I did not create, but it dissipated quickly. Two or three encounters that I thought were really successful. We’ll see if they bear any fruit. But I can finally educate for the long game and not just with sixteen weeks as my probable final event horizon.

I thought when I took this job that I would be competent to good at it, that I wouldn’t constantly feel I was doing it wrong, a reaction that plagued most of my years as a professor, but I had flashes this week where I thought, Maybe you could be great at this, if you wanted to invest in it and you could learn to keep your emotional shields in place, to let compassion out but not not let negativity back through. As a side note, though — it’s amazing how a person blooms when someone just pays attention to him/her. Just listens and affirms: What you feel and what you want are important. I have known this since I taught piano as a teenager, but I need the reminder from time to time — and it’s so much a part of the contemporary ills of higher education, that we can’t listen and affirm in a situation where students come to us already never having had enough of that. At this point, we’re supposed to be moving them toward less dependence on us, not more. But ignored needs of children don’t go away; as well I know, they often become bigger when neglected. It’s a shame we can’t address that problem. Teaching is above all a personal endeavor; it concerns the ongoing search we undertake as individuals about how to be and act in the world; it’s more about skills and methods and attitudes than information transfer; and those states of affairs explain why so much online education misses the point entirely.

I woke up this morning in the kind of hazy euphoria, physical and emotional, that I have only dreamt of for years. Like I used to feel in the mid-90s, waking on Shabbat morning from a night of particularly good sex with The Physicist and knowing that three hours of prayer were awaiting me, though with less of a physical edge and more of a general feeling of contentment. This feeling is what I hoped for earlier this year, if I could have had a month “off” from everything — something I’d hoped I could make happen this summer and didn’t (or couldn’t — see below about becoming preoccupied with my father’s needs) — but it hit me, this morning, what I have “off” from now is significant worry about the daily crisis and the middle-term future and — admittedly, only because I am “away” — immediate (parental) disintegration happening right under my nose every day. And I didn’t need time off in the formal sense, the great mistake of my assessment of what last summer should have meant and didn’t. Rather, I just needed to hold my face determinedly in a different direction. My only regret at the moment is that it took me so long to let go of that professorial identity, that it took me so long to get to this place, dragged kicking and screaming by own growing incapacity and paralysis. I would like to have decided, to have chosen rather than being forced.

When I think about how I feel my Richard Armitage fandom, now, it’s a world away from the various assorted heights of Armitagemania I’ve experienced heretofore. Fandom is coming to mean something different to me, something that I got a glimpse of this summer in London, and something that someone I met indeed intimated to me while I was there, but that is only manifesting itself to me now, that there is a different mode of being a superfan than the one I’d been living through. Encountering Richard Armitage in North & South saved me, and my conviction about that has grown stronger rather than weaker as the dozens of months have passed. I plan to write about that later this week.

But I always used to be on pins and needles, to enjoy being on pins and needles! I tried to stay there, to develop my capacity to live in that space, and I was largely successful. That I felt that way, wanted to feel that way, for over four years points, I think, to the centrality that Armitagemania has played in keeping me not just sane and moving but also the kind of happy that I have been since it struck. DopArmitage, as Calexora used to say. I always wanted to know the next thing, and I wanted to know it quickly, which meant that I was constantly looking for it, and then sharing it. That was more true this summer, as I got involved in tracking web ephemera around The Crucible, than it ever was before. What had been occasional spates of live blogging that lasted 24-48 hours around particular events turned into a months-long involvement. The more I did that, the more I wanted to do it, and the more I wanted to do it, the more I wanted there to be other people around doing it with me. Still, the fact that other people were around also heightened the aggravation factor for me, at times unbearably (and, no doubt, vice versa) or destructively.

I’m not in that space anymore. I still do all the same things — I still look for news (especially when I know it’s coming), and I still watch things repeatedly, obsessively perhaps, but the adrenalinized quality of my reaction, and my need to seek the reaction immediately, has fallen away in the last six weeks. And I don’t really feel the need to share, which has been the standard since the fall of 2012, when news-blogging drew even with meta-blogging in this space. I went from wanting to hang around Armitageworld constantly in order to produce that reaction to my current feeling, which involves wanting to look in when I can, but savoring the moments when I am processing what I know on my own. I went from largely tolerating aggravation to wondering why I was exposing myself to it in the first place. For whatever reason, at this moment, I don’t need the pins and needles feeling.

So what happened this week? I knew the Battle of the Five Armies trailer was coming; I scheduled lunch on that day (our supervisor requires us to take lunch, incidentally —  isn’t that quaint? Takes me back to when I was sixteen, working at Dairy Queen, and state labor law said that minors had to have a break every four hours) so I could be on-line when it broke; I posted, and put up two sloppy caps for the sake of marking my reaction. And then I turned the laptop off and turned back to my work machine and Outlook, which was making that persistent bell noise. Readers who have conventional white collar work may pooh pooh all this, but try to remember the closest I ever came to a regular white collar job in my life was 1998. I was either at the screen answering questions about degree requirements, or meeting with students, or planning things with colleagues, the whole afternoon. My reaction was churning pleasurably in the back of my head, and my grin to students may have been a little wider than usual as I replayed the trailer in my head. I simply had no time for any of the aggravation in the mediasphere that (a) I knew would occur and (b) I did see in the evening when I had a little time to read around. By that time, though, my pleasurable reaction had established itself firmly enough in my mind that other things did not break through the way they would have if I had seen them in real time. The beer I drank that evening I swallowed less of than I would have last year, and with genuine pleasure, not as escape.

No question that some of this reaction has something to do with the way that stepping off the social media treadmill for eight hours that I might otherwise have spent partially (or last summer, wholly) attuned to it changes habits and concerns. As the linked author asks about a different topic: “Is it worth the feeling of running and getting nowhere?” — well, it was for the last few years, because I needed it to survive. So another piece of it is that the emotional level of my job is now something that intrigues and occupies rather than troubles, disturbs, or upsets me — such that dopArmitage and the need to be around the fansphere and the consequences are being replaced by something else that are no less Armitagey in substance, but of which I still can’t quite see the contours. In any case, I don’t need the constant adrenaline hit, because my pleasure curve is developing differently and fed by different things at the moment.

***

the_hobbit_the_battle_of_the_five_armies_trl_2-1080-mov_000024024Same as above, both subject matter and source. Looking suspicious, which is how I feel.

***

I’m not sure how to take this. I love liking my job, as my mood attests — if nothing else, it’s a relief. I’m grateful that I have some marketable skills because not all people who leave the professoriate find niches. I’m sure it’s good to have a renewed interest in the task that earns my bread. I will be able to learn a lot in this job, too, and I look forward to developing skills. I’m equally sure it’s a better state of affairs this summer, when I was preoccupied with my father’s problems and often unable to pursue my own goals because I was drowning in my feelings for much of every day.

Probably bystanders would say it’s “healthier” to be interested in work than in Richard Armitage, although I’ve never felt that was true for me. I worry that if I get too involved in my job again, I’m simply repeating the problem I had before, the problem to which North & South forcefully alerted me — that I was fatally, if nonetheless ethically, (over)invested in work. If that’s what’s happening — if whatever I have to do for work becomes the focus of excessive energy and a related inability ever to be good enough or get enough done in my own mind or those of others — then I am just repeating history. Being a professor was an external preoccupation, my father’s needs were an external preoccupation, and now, my new job — is it the new external preoccupation? The new thing that is going to make it legitimate for me to forget my own needs and get involved in fulfilling someone else’s?

Coming back to the beginning of this post about education: An important component of Armitagemania is that it feels intrinsic to me. It is pure pleasure, on my own terms. It has that in common with the first decade or so of my fascination with the topic of my scholarly research, before professional concerns overtook it all and killed it for me. In that role — it has provided a self-affirmation, me saying “yes” to what I want. Moreover, Armitagemania in that form made it possible to loose myself from and ultimately lose Professor Servetus. What I have done for and with it has been solely related to that pleasure, to self-discovery, to figuring out where to go next. Armitagemania has no absolute or justifiable telos other than joy and self-knowledge (even if those things were and are sometimes obscured in fandom storms). It is something I feel purely from me and for me and that is what I want to reproduce in my writing. That’s how I want to get to the place to write — by affirming my own view of the world.

Will this job change that?

So. I don’t know. I love the good feelings right now. I am suspicious whether this path is the right one. I guess I’ll find out as the days go along.

~ by Servetus on November 9, 2014.

17 Responses to “Armitage assessment, or: Fandom, life, and stuff”

  1. I am very happy that you have good feelings now. I enjoyed reading your thoughts 🙂

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  2. How wonderful you are happy. May it become a habit that is increasingly hard to break. 🙂

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  3. Having been a student in higher education for over eight years, I can tell you it’s a major blessing to have an advisor who is invested and cares. I’m so happy this is the case. And it sounds like fandom-wise, you are in a healthy place- able to savor what is satisfying to savor, and take a step back from the aggravation factor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • it’s hard for me at the moment to get why one would have this job and not care, although I know that is the case because I’ve seen it. Maybe I will get hardened as the time goes on.

      Like

  4. Sounds like you are in a good place at this time in your life and I am happy for you.

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  5. You know what ;)..I’m happy for you,Serv.

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  6. Hi Serv very happy to hear you are in a relatively good place. I have had a rest from reading blogs and commenting . A state of numbness after witnessing the Crucible I think. One comment I think
    that you made was where Richard
    rests his hands when meeting females he doesn’t know well resting on shoulders is a wise move I think given some of the court cases that have been ongoing in the UK can’t be too trusting these days.

    Keep well and positive.

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  7. So pleased the new job is looking so promising and that it is making you content! 🙂

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  8. I am so glad things work out for you at the moment and I hope the happiness will stay a while!!!

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  9. I know the feeling of being good at a job, of investing yourself in it to a high degree and then have it become something that eats a little piece of you everyday. I can’t adequately express how happy I am for you that the new job is working out, that it is affirming…even if it is a “for now” step in a path to something different. It gives me hope 🙂

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    • yeah, that is exactly it. I have a lot of fear that eventually this will turn out the same way. But if that’s the case, it’s me and not the job and I am the one who has to change.

      I was telling a young woman this week who wants to do something that requires about eight credits of coursework as an investment and where she isn’t sure that she wants to do it, or that it’s plausible career-wise, that one can’t plan one’s whole life now as if one knows how one will feel about things later. One can only make reasonable moves in the present based on what one knows or can reasonably envision and decide on that basis. I think I need to say that to myself. If this turns sour in three or five years, well, then it will be time to make another decision.

      There is definitely big hope for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for all the kind wishes, everyone!

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    • Just want to chip in – although I’m late to this.
      This post has resonated with me to a degree you wouldn’t believe. I’m so thrilled you shared it with us, and I am happy for you that you are in a good place right now.
      Put some emphasis on that ‘now’, because we all live with the uncertainties of the future. Somehow I believe we must train ourselves in savouring the moment-feeling. Also finding the places in which we are happy and discovering what makes us happy are so very, very crucial.

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      • I agree. And although I was raised to be planning for the infinite event horizon I am trying now to say, it’s okay if this is the solution for two, three or five years. It won’t have been in vain, that I felt this way.

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  11. Despite a nervous breakdown (x 2 – my other half also had one) disabled child, only being able to do few hours work a week (therefore poor) and in a job for which I do not need my qualifications, I am so much happier now. Being a high flying professional is not always what it is cracked up to be.

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    • Thanks for saying that. I had this weird encounter with my boss last night as I was leaving work — she said something about something I’d done, and then that I was so overqualified for this but that there ‘s no reason I shouldn’t move to a different office and move up, and as I was listening, I was thinking, gosh, can I just not think about my future as if it is a chess game for a year or so? I don’t know what’s ahead but if I can die having said I understood what it was to feel truly happy it will feel like it was a huge victory.

      Like

    • oh and: glad you’ve survived the breakdown (x2).

      Like

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