being undone · coming out · family · feminism · politics

Identity Trouble

Have y’all read this? It’s long, but oh-so-good: Jordana Rosenberg’s captivating essay-cum-personal memoir on making sense of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble as a young lesbian whose conservative mother cannot accept her sexuality. It’s a tale of abandonment, grief, confusion, and self-doubt, and anything I say about it here cannot really do it justice. Beyond the sheer pathos and engagability of her story, I think it admirable that Rosenberg deploys the notoriously jargony pages of Butler’s prose as an element in her life-narrative and struggle, thus challenging the artificial divide between critical and personal we as scholars tend to maintain. Further, she opens a space for “unknowing” as a crucial political and academic act, urging her students and her readers to embrace texts and situations that we don’t understand, which would allow us to internalize the value of risk, of humility, of un-understanding the world. Only once we learn to extend ourselves into unfamiliar situations will we learn to truly become ourselves and enact political transformation. The idea of empowerment as rooted in our own epistemological undoing is, I think, highly radical.

Rosenberg got me thinking about the issue of how open we should be to our parents, family, nonacademic relations, people we love: not just regarding our sexuality, but also regarding such potentially objectionable things as feminism, atheism, leftism, advocacy for reproductive rights, whatever. In making this kind of comparison between Rosenberg’s coming out and other kinds of coming out, I in no way mean to imply that the different forms are equal: sexual politics hold a particular transgressive valence for most conservative folk, and emerging LGBTQ people often meet with more violence than emerging feminists. Personally, I will never be disowned for my political beliefs, though I might still be faced with the pain of wounding people I love and possible subsequent alienation. Outing oneself is something we tend to applaud and support at all costs, and I am often ashamed to admit that I have not expressed to eveeyone the extent of how much my beliefs and convictions have evolved in the last few years. Interestingly, however, Rosenberg expresses an at least initial sense of regret after having come out to her mother: she claims that she “decided the whole project of coming out had been bankrupt – that [she] had been misled by identity politics into a contraction of the political field to the microuniverse of the bourgeois family.” She never mentions whether the clashing of these two very different worlds in the name of identity politics is something she ultimately supports, but her lifelong struggle with communicating with and forgiving her mother may give us some indication of how she felt. We are not left with a sense of redemption and self-discovery here; her story seems to answer the question of “Does it get better?” with a resounding “….not really.”

Perhaps, then, honesty is not always the best policy–especially involving cases that might incur irreparable damage upon your relationships and your future, and lead family members into believing you may be a lost cause, or into fearing for your soul. For me, it is an ongoing challenge to negotiate my identity as scholar and daughter, and deciding when it might be appropriate for my various selves to be made available to my various worlds at various times. So to the broader question: how do we ethically maintain our pursuit of feminist politics within the academy while minimizing emotional damage and trauma incurred upon people we love (who actually may believe we’re going to hell if they knew the extent of it! Can you imagine believing that about someone??)? How do we cultivate our identities as ethical scholars and loving daughters? What selves and what bodies should we exhibit to the different communities of which we are a part?

These questions do not have easy answers, just as Gender Trouble commits itself to refusing (or troubling) easy answers as well. As Rosenberg observes, Gender Trouble “has to be hard” because you

have to subject yourself to the difficulty of its language in order to begin to unstitch the only-seemingly coherent logic of gender, order, and discourse that you have grown accustomed to, that has been made natural to you – no, through which you, your gender, has been made to seem natural. 

And so we are back to an issue I’ve blogged about before: the issue of committing ourselves to difficult language and struggling through our complicated networks of desires, relationships, and responsibilities. Reading Gender Trouble for the first time has to be hard–and so does composing our intersecting identities as scholars, daughters, wives, partners, mothers, teachers, and feminists. I’m trying, and good lord I might be failing in all sorts of ways, but that is all part of the impossible quest to discover the evasive and forever deferred “I.”

And I wonder if other readers have similar struggles.

bad academics · balance · being undone · day in the life · free time · mental health · productivity

In praise of blank spaces

My phone battery died just as I was about to take the dog out for his walk last night. This infuriated me. I use my dog walking time to call my parents every day, and sometimes my sister, and if I can’t get anyone on the phone I listen to work-related podcasts. What on earth was I going to do for half an hour while walking the dog, with no phone?

[Pause while some of us try to remember a time before iPhones, and how we used to walk dogs then too, somehow …]

What I did was this: I listened to my own boots squash through the snow. I looked at how all the neighbourhood condo construction projects are progressing. I noted the progress of the sunset through bare trees. I felt the tip of my nose get cold. I felt the in and out of my own breath, and then, finally, the un-crunching of my shoulders away from my ears.

Like white space in visual design, just doing nothing during my walk gave everything else a bit of room. I needed it.

Last week I was on the verge of tears. Then I took the holiday weekend to drive Way the Hell Up North and back, with my daughter. Now the washing machine is busted and I have insomnia from reading too many books at bedtime. When I woke up yesterday, I felt like hell. 7am felt like 2am and the day got worse from there. I had one phone meeting about a workshop I’m running in the spring, and wrote one email. That was it. I didn’t even load the dishwasher, or read one page of research, or grade one participation activity. I had two naps, and went out for lunch. I berated myself on Facebook for wasting my own time, but then continued to waste it, all day. I skipped yoga. I watched two episodes of 30 Rock with my husband and called it a night. Ugh.

I’m a big advocate of making efficient use of my time (see the quite popular post on the 30 minute miracle to that effect). But in the same way that a one page research summary of 400 words can sometimes convey more and better information than a margin-fiddled, font-optimized one page research summary of 900 words, sometimes, the 30 minute miracle I need is more white space.

So today I’m asking myself:

  • What if I walked across campus to class without using that time to eat my lunch?
  • What if I could wait at the bus stop without reading all the top stories in the New York Times?
  • What if I could walk the dog without having to stop to scribble notes from the podcast I’m listening to?
  • What if I could just watch Magic Schoolbus with my daughter instead of also trying to answer student emails at the same time?

There’s a point at which, I find, efficiency ceases to increase returns, and starts to become counterproductive. Certainly, it’s difficult to adopt a position of mindfulness when you’re trying to walk to class and eat at the same time, or puzzle out the balance between security and freedom on the internet while on the nature trail. Somewhere beyond the point where I could see that 15 minutes of time in my office between meetings could be well used, I forgot that sometimes it’s enough to do one thing at a time, even if that one thing is to lie down on the floor with the cat on my chest, feeling her purring.

So here’s to the blank spaces and what they do for us.

being undone · change · enter the confessional

I am David Gilmour: a cry for help

I keep telling everyone I know, in every forum that I can find, that David Gilmour is not a literature professor. Or any kind of professor. There’s a variety of reasons why that matters, but the point that has struck me, and right in the solar plexus, is this:

I’m hardly a literary scholar at this point either, and I find I’m turning into David Gilmour.

I was hired here as a rhetoric professor specializing in new media studies and digital humanities, but of course I was trained as a literary scholar and am often called upon to teach or profess literature at the undergraduate and graduate levels. So my research in digital life writing is explicitly feminist, in dealing with writings by mommy bloggers, and my overall project interrogates the loaded distinctions between public and private, emotional and rational, domestic stories versus Men of Note. I read widely across male and female writers and critics online, am at the forefront of pushing for gender equity and inclusivity in new media studies and digital humanities organizations.

But. Literature?

It’s been 15 years since I’ve been a student of literature. I am so busy reading the entire Internet that I hardly ever read novels anymore, and what I do pick up are book I already read, books I bought during my time as a literature student. It’s kinda not my field.

Now, I’m developing an online version of our foundational literary criticism class. And all the example texts that keep suggesting themselves to me … are written by men.

Oh. Shit.

Shakespeare, e. e. cummings, the Six Romantic Poets everyone studies, T. S. Eliot, Philip Larkin. Sweet merciful Leavis, I am the problem.

I love the texts I’m using already, because they really do the work I want. But I need a lot more texts. By people of color, by women, by anglophone writers outside of Britain and the US. The textbook I’m using, Ways of Reading, actually does a pretty good job of showing the variety of literatures and Englishes. But I keep falling back on the stuff I can readily call to mind, from a literary education that hit its peak in 1996-97, the end of my BA, before I turned more into a digital scholar.

Unlike David Gilmour, who as a pet writer at U of T can teach whatever he likes off the top of his head, I am a literary professional. The standards of inclusion and being in tune with the discipline are higher for me, as they should be. I am not on top of emerging inclusive canons of short story writers, poets, or novellists. It’s not my field, and I can assure I’m working my damnedest to be 100% at the front of the line for a more equitable sub-discipline where I actually do most of my work.

So I’m asking for help.

I’ve got more than enough living and dead British and American white guys on the roster. Can you suggest to me any poems, stories, novels by other kinds of writers that you love, or love to teach? I want to be as wide-ranging as I can be. Whatever you suggest, I can assure you I’ve got the critical tools at my disposal to do them justice in my teaching. It’s just that the imaginative cupboard is awfully bare, and I just can’t conquer all of literature on my own right now. So maybe your suggestions can be my bedtime reading as well.

I throw myself on your mercy, Internet. I’m not as widely read as this course requires me to be. If you suggest it, I will read it.

Halp!

being undone

Homeward bound …

There is something really satisfying about packing up my belongings to return home. I like the challenge and the possibilities entailed in laying out different outfits and such when I’m getting ready to go to a conference–it’s an act of creativity to account for possible social scenarios, weather, style, maybe getting to go to yoga … But coming home is simpler: everything that belongs to me that is not in the bag must now go in the bag.

Collect everything. Put it away. Leave a perfectly clean room behind.

This satisfies my perfectionist and absolutist tendencies, and gives me a great sense of control over my life, such as this life is represented by a suitcase, some blazers, a travel yoga mat, and a bunch of computer cables. Done or not done. I’m all the way here, or I’m all the way there. Knowable, verifiable, rectilinear, mobile!

Of course, this experience is the opposite of what usually happens to my inner life when I travel.

I head out of town with nice pens and blank paper and the batteries of my MacBook and my brain fully charged. I am open to possibility, ready for anything. I experience, in this case, three very full days of Congress (Canadian Society for Digital Humanities) followed by five even fuller days of DHSI (I taught a course on knowledge mobilization), and my mind and my subjective state and my body all go directly to hell.

I always start with an empty mental suitcase I wish to pack carefully full of ideas and interactions and experiences. I very often end up with a metaphorical blown zipper, lost wheel, “heavy baggage” sticker, or, like today, feeling the equivalent of dragging all my stuff home in an off-brand black garbage bag that will not survive the flight.

When the zombie apocalypse arrives, I will be dead within days. It turns out I’m perhaps not so resilient as I wish to be: disturb my routine and a couple of days later I’m a gibbering mess under all but the most felicitous circumstances. It turns out I’m really touchy about when and what I eat and how much sleep I need and how much alone time and under what circumstances and what freaks me out. Oh dear. I’m a delicate snowflake, I find to my dismay.

The exact details of my current state of total inner chaos don’t matter. I’m trying to meditate on this condition, breathe through it, ask how it is that I let this kind of work undo me totally.

Well, at least some of it I did right. I met Margrit, whom I’d otherwise never clapped eyes on! We had a drink at a great cocktail bar, with Erin! Then I had a nice lunch with Erin and got all caught up! I walked down to the ocean with Melissa, grabbed a coffee and contemplated the surf with her and Erin! I took a picture!

And! Yesterday I met Pantagruelle, a regular commenter who happens to be attending DHSI, too! Thanks so much, Pantagruelle, for introducing yourself!

Still. My bags look perfect. Everything is folded, everything is tucked away nicely. Inside my head, though, it’s a real mess. What are some of your strategies for maintaining equilibrium on research trips or conferences or workshops? Do you suffer the long dark midnight of the soul from being mentally overstimulated? I sometimes wonder if I’m just a big baby about these things: maybe other people can sit amongst 6000 or 500 academics sharing work and ideas at top speed and somehow keep up. I wonder if I’m doing it wrong?

being undone · community

When the Well Runs Dry…

I wasn’t able to post over the last month: the tank was empty. The well ran dry. I was feeling pretty burnt out with end-of-semester fatigue.
I’ve felt this way before.
So, what does one do? You fill the well back up again, but not with work. You fill it with as much play as your schedule will allow.
These instruments fill my well.
I love playing old-time Appalachian-style stringband music. I started playing the fiddle as an adult, while I was writing my dissertation. I’ve been at it for about five years. I think it’s one of the things that helped me finish my PhD. For one thing, learning the fiddle broadened my social circle beyond other graduate students; while having a supportive group of grad student friends was also really important in helping me finish, interacting with folks outside of academia (or meeting musicians who were also academics) gave me some healthy perspective on what I was doing in graduate school. I met people who showed me that it’s possible to have a life and be an academic, although not always all the time… it gets harder to maintain that balance at end-of-semester crunch time, and I’m not sure “balance” is even a reasonable goal to have at the end of term. At the end of a semester, survival is the only goal.
While I love the tunes themselves, I also love how this music is played. The fiddles all play the melody more-or-less in unison over and over again. It’s meditative. There’s a basic melody line, but there’s some room for colouring outside the lines, as well. It can be a very forgiving genre. This can make the music a little boring to listen to, but very fun to play. I was once on the Montreal-Toronto train listening to a Bob Carlin CD (old-time fiddle and banjo music). Strangely, the sound didn’t seem to be coming through my headphones, so I had to crank up the volume on my laptop. After about 20 minutes, I heard a voice a couple of rows back say, “Excuse me, but could you please turn your music down?” I had that sinking, “Is this about me?” feeling and took the headphones out of my ears. My CD was blaring away for the entire train to hear. I turned down the volume and said, “Sorry. I didn’t realize” and the lady across the aisle said, “Yeah. It was just the same thing over and over and over again.”
The bumper sticker that I once saw at a music festival is true: “Old-time music. It’s better than it sounds.”
I also really love that I learned the fiddle as an adult. It reminds me that I can still learn new things. It also means that I will never be a virtuoso. I love having that off the table as an expectation for myself. It just makes this activity an ongoing project done for pleasure and love of the music.
Playing old-time music is “real time” activity, as a friend of mine calls it; when you’re doing it, you’re fully immersed. I can’t do anything else. I’m not thinking about deadlines or the many list of things I “should” do.
So, readers, what fills your tank back up when it’s feeling empty? What are your “real time” activities?

being undone · good attitudes about crappy possibilities · good things · saving my sanity · video

Academic Spring

When the weather turned nice, briefly, this week, I dragged a colleague out to grab a cup of tea on campus, and instead of taking the tunnels and our coats, we walked outside. I breathed in the smell of melting snow and wet earth and dry sand and warm sun.

“Spring is my least favourite season,” I blurted out. “It just makes me so anxious!”

I surprised myself saying it, but it’s true! Since high school, I’ve associated this time of year with fast approaching deadlines for materials I’d been wildly procrastinating on for month. Spring is not new beginning for scholars: it’s a time of reckoning. I did my BA at York, which has eight-month courses, so spring was the culmination of everything, and that usually meant desperation, panic, and last-minute calculation of possible grade outcomes. Ugh. Of course, every April also meant packing up all my worldly belongings and moving back to Kirkland Lake for the summer: not really an awesome prospect. Deadlines and impending uprooting! Spring! What’s not to love! Similar angst accompanied my MA and PhD coursework years: constant apartment moving, and lots of deadlines, and waiting for results from SSHRC!

My colleague has worked as a sessional instructor for a long time: her spring, she notes, is marked usually by enormous piles of grading and total uncertainty as to employment status two weeks hence. Contingent labour in the academy, I imagine, must feel as mixed up about spring as I vestigially do.

We’ve written here before about the marvellous opportunities, the spring-like rebirth that September offers us. Well, I guess April can sometimes be the reverse.

I’ve got no reason to dread spring any more. I own my own home, so I’m not moving anywhere. I have a steady job. I do have a lot of conference paper deadlines, but I get to travel and that always excites me. I just reflexively panic, still, when the snow melts and the trees bud.

You too?

As an antidote to the spring heebie-jeebies, I offer you a video–a lip dub I made with my yoga studio friends and teachers at Queen Street Yoga. It’s full of sunshine and smiles and happy music, and it might make you smile as you grade / write / move / job hunt.

being undone · best laid plans · day in the life · enter the confessional · kid stuff · time crunch

Leave

It’s very early Wednesday morning. My husband and daughter and I just came home yesterday evening from a funeral in North Bay. We found out on Friday that my husband’s aunt had died, and hurriedly made arrangements to get there for the funeral. Parts of Friday were spent in making these arrangements: my husband secured permission from his boss to be out of the office on Monday and Tuesday, reset his voicemail and email away message, called family, organized a cat sitter. I called our daughter’s school to let them know she wouldn’t be there, got some luggage out of the attic, arranged for us to stay with my parents, arranged for the the dog to stay with my sister in Mississauga and how he and he crate were going to get there. I was going to miss my graduate class–I contacted them to let them know what to do in my absence. I emailed my chair and the graduate chair, to let them know I would be absent, and when I would be back. I tried to get out in front of my email. I booked extra office hours for my return.

Did I mention we were already committed to go to an out-of-town baby shower on Saturday? In Oshawa?

Beyond stress and grief, the last four days have been marked by a 14 to 17 hours in the car, packing and unpacking, scheduling and rescheduling, gassing up, packing snacks, charging the iPad, phoning people and being phoned and getting directions and ironing shirts and trying to remember names and sleeping in someone else’s bed.

But it’s today, Wednesday, in my bathrobe with my cup of coffee and my computer in front of me, that I’m going to burst into tears.

Compassionate leave and bereavement leave are wonderful. They are humane. But when you’re gone, the work does not get done in your absence. When I am gone, my grad class meets without me, and when I come back to check my calendar, I see I can’t hold all the office hours I want because I’m booked in a lot of meetings. And I can’t catch up on my grading because those meetings have briefing notes, or I’m going to be leading them and need to prepare the meeting notes. And we have no food in the house, and my daughter’s homework is not done, and I’m running out of underwear, and I have carrying $800 worth of insurance and honorarium cheques in the back pocket of my jeans for long enough that they’re both stained blue because I can’t get to the bank, and now the toilet seems to be leaking. And who is going to write this blog post? Grading! Prep! My new passport is at the postal outlet and I can’t get there! What the hell are we going to have for supper tonight?

There’s nothing particularly remarkable about my situation. There’s nothing, really, that’s even a little remarkable about it. We all have births and deaths in our families. We all have households (even if they just consist of ourselves) to maintain and to care for. We all have work to do, work that gets interrupted by everything else. And my husband and I are so lucky to have access to paid leave, lucky that my parents live where we were unexpectedly having to travel to, that they could do a lot of childcare this weekend and make our daughter feel like she was on a special vacation. We are not just completely ordinary, but luckier than most in our ordinariness. But the particular person who is me, right now, in my family and in my work, is overwhelmed. Even if this situation is perfectly ordinary, it feels perfectly unmanageable from my particular place in the universe, today.

We all feel like this, more or less, at the end of term, or in the middle of an unexpected life event. I don’t know what to do about it, other than take some deep breaths, and try to tackle what needs doing with a little bit of patience and grace, as I write out yet more apologetic emails, as I race from meeting to meeting across the four corners of campus, as I lock the dog up in his crate again, rush my girl to the bus stop, dump half my coffee down the sink undrunk. I’ll catch up, eventually, right?

How do you handle the unforeseen?

being undone · day in the life · mental health · you're awesome

Unplugging: A Reading Week Retrospective

It is the first Monday back after reading week here on the East Coast, and this year something feels a bit different. This year — for the first time since I was an undergraduate student — I took a bit of a vacation. Moreover, not only did I get out of the country, out of my quotidian routines and stresses, and out of what has thus far proven to be an emotionally stressful and immensely busy winter term, I also got out of my technology habits. And the best part? I was travelling with my dear, dear girlfriend M. So on this grey Monday, the first Monday of the madness of March, and the Monday of International Women’s Week, let me offer some reflections on unplugging and getting away with my best friend.

Step 1: Realizing I too deserve a break.

The first difficulty for me is always giving myself permissions to step away from work. We know that academic work is a treadmill, that it is on-going, that the profession rewards relentless labour. Indeed, I have written about how difficult I find it to even admit my own exhaustion given that I am in a limited term contract position, on the job market, and feeling the constant need to Do All The Things Perfectly! With A Smile! Or At Least A Sassy And Witty Retort! Never mind that I know balance is necessary. Never mind that I will preach the importance of taking time for yourself, or at least finding fifteen minutes a day to do something special that is just for you (even if it is eating a pretty sandwich). Nope. I know all these things are necessary and yet I have the most difficult time allowing myself to do them. So when a colleague mentioned to me that she was planning to take a vacation for reading week my first reaction was to congratulate her and then cringe, thinking of all the grading I was going to have to accomplish whilst huddling in cold, grey Halifax.

But then a little voice said “you could do that. You could go away too, you know.” And so, I telephoned my bestie M., asked her if she would be willing to go with me, and lo, a few weeks later we had booked flights that would take us from Halifax to a beach in Cuba.

Step 2: Realizing that Cuba means no Internet. Realizing that the world goes on without needing the Internet.

When we decided to go to Cuba we did so for three simple reasons. 1) It was affordable 2) It was going to be hot 3) There are direct flights from Halifax. I immediately imagined reading for classes and research on the beach, doing all the yoga, and grading papers by the pool in the evening before dinner. I would spend time corresponding and researching when it was rainy. It was going to be great.

And then I realized that was foolish, because there is not easy or swift access to the Internet.

Now, though I am loath to admit it, I panicked. Just a bit. I mean, I feel I am super efficient because I am plugged in all the time. I have almost three hundred students this semester. I am coordinating a programme. I am on the job market (ie. am seeking job ads). I try to keep an active and informative online presence. HOW WOULD I SURVIVE WITHOUT THE INTERNET?!

Surely I would wither and die.

Or worse! Surely I would vanish. If I wasn’t emailing and posting and tweeting and corresponding, then surely I would fall out of orbit.

I was wrong. So wrong. While I certainly went through a period of email and — harder! — texting withdrawal, ultimately I settled into myself with a sense of contentment and presence that was eroding before I left. I posted a vacation message, bought some writing paper, and wrote several letters. All of my conversations were either epistolary or embodied. And friends, I read an immense amount. Heck, I even graded papers. Eighty!

Step 3: Spend time with your women friends.

Cuba was hot. I wrote many letters. I accomplished many things. However, the best past of the entire trip was stealing a week of quality time to spend with my pal M.

We had such a fine time simply enjoying one another’s company. We spent quiet time together. We took turns making space for the other to have alone time. We spent an inordinate amount of time cackling with glee — and mostly we were gleeful at the fact of hanging out! We had serious conversations. We had ridiculous conversations. Once, when I was feeling extraordinarily sad (it has been a challenging winter for me) I stepped out onto our porch to have a quite and — I thought — secret weep. Wrong. After about ten minutes of sniffling alone M. came onto the porch, held my hand, and commenced reading to me about the history of asparagus cultivation. Then she painted my nails gold, gave me a hug, and asked “good to go?” And I was.

The most important things I realized over this vacation were these: I am worth taking care of, and I shall do it more often. And, my friendships are absolutely precious. My work defines a large part of who I am, but at the end of the day it is the people in my life who are the most important. I am grateful to M., and I am grateful to all of you, and I am so grateful to say that I have the good fortune of having many many many inspiring and wonderful and brilliant women in my life.

Now: bring it on, Monday.

being undone · professors

The Value of Becoming Undone

I cannot tell you what I wore on the first day on my undergrad, but I can guarantee that it was brand, spankin’ new.
I promise that I had a backpack that was sans a sales tag less than 24 hours and I had 5 different binders with crisp dividers and an arsenal of unused writing pens and tightly capped high lighters.
I sat nervously in seminars over the first year, raising my hand at needless intervals (participation marks!) and reiterating information from the text that I had poured over the night before. In short, I was the cliché of the eager, ungifted first year student.

As I continued through my under grad experience, I cast aside the habit of back to school shopping and began ferreting used pens from the junk drawer before heading to my classes. I focused on the relationships and the connection between what was happening in the text and the world around me. I didn’t do all my reading, but I thought a lot more about what I did read with fresh, critical thinking. I relaxed. I became more open to letting my studies flow into every aspect of my life, rather than compartmentalizing it into a structured, efficient environment.

In short, I became undone.

I was recently talking to a friend who was lamenting a new professor in her faculty. She is nice, professionally dressed, crisp and efficient. She has structured lectures that are everything a lecture should be, but she’s missing a vital ingredient – being undone. She is openly nervous when conversation veers off of the lesson plan and is uncomfortable with unplanned questions or comments arise.
Again, nothing wrong per say, but the absolute best professors I have ever had were the ones that had a personality that shone though their lectures. Who swore when it was necessary. Who openly wept when they lectured on the inequality of women, both past and present. Who made jokes about their hips, pierced their eyebrows, sat on their desks to lecture, talked about their families and listened to their class.

Those were the professors that were undone. Who were willing to let their personality, interests and professionalism collide and to help shape their students beyond the classroom. Many of the readers on this site are professors just like this and I send a giant cheer your way.

Thank you, for being undone.

What steps did you take as a professor or student to relax and let your personality and your work meld into one? Did it come naturally for you?