It’s taken me a few years to deal with academic burnout, but I feel like I’m back in the game. How do I know? I’m over-committed to conferences this year, wheeee!
2017 has been, um, interesting thus far. I just realized that my increased engagement with conferences is part of that, so I’ll be discussing what it means here.
This year has brought a lot of changes into my life. I knew this going in – that my divorce would be finalized, that I would be teaching at Berkeley – but knowing it and living it are two different things. Mourning my mentor while teaching his folklore class has been excruciatingly difficult. I miss my Indiana dance community, though exploring dance here has been therapeutic. I’ve had a lot of sadness and ambivalence to work through, but that’s just life, right?
So why, if I’ve been busy and distracted and distraught with processing life changes, am I committed to attending five conferences this year?!
I think part of it has to do with feeling invigorated by being part of the Berkeley folklore community. I haven’t been surrounded by folklorists 24/7 since grad school, and it’s wonderful! Being on this campus has come with another advantage too: the possibility of funding to attend conferences, which certainly helps. My family has also committed to helping me make it to conferences that are important to my career, at a time when, well, my ability to get health care and a living wage is more crucial than ever.
Does attending conferences directly contribute to my ability to get paying work, inside or outside academia? I have no idea! In grad school I was told “good people get jobs” and my level of scholarship exceeds good but here I am, part-timing it 5 years after finishing my PhD. Yet intellectual engagement and spending time with my various communities are vital forms of self-care, so I’m in. I also really feel a need to be writing about gender and sexuality, queer and feminist theory, and fairy tales and fantasy right now. This stuff sustains me. I can’t not do it.
Thus far, I’ve done two of the five conferences I’m planning for this year. The first was ICFA (a fantasy conference), which was an AWESOME time as usual. The second was WSFS, a regional folklore conference that was also utterly delightful.
The third will be AASECT in June (abstract here); the fourth will be a one-time fairy-tale studies conference in August; and the fifth will be AFS (the American Folklore Society) in October. I might also be part of a team panel submission for a scholarly communication conference in November but shhh let’s not think about that yet.
The last time I did 5 conferences in a year was 2012, and that was also a tumultuous year for me, between finishing my dissertation while living in Estonia, graduating, moving back to the U.S., getting married, and struggling with the “oh shit I don’t have a job” stage of post-graduation life. I cobbled together some adjunct work, but still had to grapple with all the feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty. That process led me to identify as alt-ac, meaning I’m not sure if I want a full-time academic job (should one even present itself, which is unlikely). It was difficult to justify going to a bunch of conferences as an alt-ac scholar, and I had student loans to pay off, and other obligations, so… my attendance kinda dropped off.
But as I wrote at Conditionally Accepted this January, I think I spent the last few years mourning my academic career without really realizing it. And now that I’ve worked my way through some of the sadness inside, and the ongoing ambivalence, I’m feeling recharged and ready to go.
Welcome to a big part of my 2017, and my scholarly identity. I’ll try to make sure to post here with conference hashtags in case people want to read along at home!