On Thursday last week I sat in my office all day and waited for my first-year students to pick up their graded papers. As they filtered in and then out my door, a few of them paused, smiled, and thanked me for the semester.
Right now, I’m on my sixth conference / presentation / workshop trip of the last nine weeks. Let me just say that if I never get on an airplane again for another year (barring the flight home from here of course) it will still be too soon.
Still, traveling and conferencing and workshopping is great, and one of the reasons is the opportunity to catch up with old friends, with mentors, with former students, and to make new contacts. This latest round of travel for me has felt really strange and wonderful because, for me, it feels a little like a victory lap: I got on my first plane right around the time my tenure was confirmed, and as I had tweeted and facebooked and emailed my friends about it, word spread. Every where I went, people congratulated me, sincerely and joyfully. People I knew well, and people I hardly knew at all. That really made it real for me, and even when Air Canada lost my Congress-bound luggage and I had to present in yesterday’s traveling clothes (hilariously, on a social media panel, wearing a t-shirt that reads “I have tenure and I blog”), I still felt supported and comfortable. Well, as comfortable you can be in a yoga bra in public, without a belt to hold your pants up. (I don’t like to set off the metal detector at the airport …)
What were we talking about? Oh, right. Men and why I’m thanking them particularly, today.
What has really struck me, this spring, is how much of my career and its success I owe to, well, men. Men who have supported me, even when I told them our field was dominated by middle-aged white guys. Men who held a plum gig for me even when I bowed up one year, to give birth, and plenty of others would have been happy to take my spot, and keep it. Men who wrote letters explaining what I contributed to a collaboration. Men who happily agreed to explain how work in my field doesn’t look like regular English professing, and what it’s worth. Men–high-profile, senior, busy men–wrote obviously very supportive reviews of my tenure file.
I knew that the colleagues I had solicited to write support letters for me were awesome. But as I travelled around this spring, tenure assessors came out of the woodwork, eager to know what had happened and very eager to wish me well. Other interested parties made a point of welcoming me to the next stage of my career, expressing genuine support for my work.
We talk a lot here about women moving up the ranks and taking positions of power and influence as chairs or deans or full professors or even vocal members of hiring committees. But for a moment I want to recognize the men who’ve made my climb a little smoother, my ascent a little higher than it might otherwise have been. Starting even with the man who emailed me to solicit my application for the job at which I’ve just been tenured.
Thanks, guys. I’m impressed by your caring, and by your outreach, and humbled by your support. Now, let’s tenure and promote some more women so they can share some of this avuncular glory 😉
What kind of collaborator would I be if I didn’t follow my lovely colleagues’ generous lead and write about my many blessings? This frantic month of October, it’s the small things that count.
- I am thankful for having thick long hair, so that when I trim it on my own with a dull pair of kitchen scissors, because I can either find the time to make an appointment or go to a hair appointment, but not both, my skilllessness doesn’t really show.
- I am grateful for a biggish turnout at Pilates the other day, so that the teacher didn’t really notice I was dogging it.
- I am thankful that I spent all weekend cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my family, 12 in all, not only because we have leftovers to eat this week but also and more importantly because it means my sister will have to take on Christmas. (Sidebar: grateful not to have leftover Brussells sprouts.)
- I am thankful that I live with a wonderful partner who is approximately my age, so that when I start the same story for the third or fourth time, it still sounds new to her.
- I am thankful for the kind of pleasant fall weather that means you can wear long skirts with bare legs, which means a) you can get away without shaving and b) you don’t have to replenish the stocking supply.
- I am supremely thankful that a colleague canceled a meeting yesterday morning. There is no gift sweeter than the gift of an hour on a Tuesday masquerading as a Monday.
- I am thankful for payday, which can come around anytime. Seriously. A-ny-time.
- I am thankful the farmers’ market is over for another year, which also makes me feel guilty because I really really love the downtown Edmonton farmers’ market and I believe in buying locally and supporting your small producers, but I won’t lie to you, I am already daydreaming about lying in bed on Saturday morning reading the newspaper.
- I’m thankful for the invention of the combustion engine, through the wizardry of which I can have locally produced food delivered to my door.
- I am thankful for Dr Phil and Oprah, whose TV guests make me feel better about my life, and in particular help me deal with my white liberal guilt over having local organics delivered to my door by a climate-destroying automobile.
- I am thankful that I live with a wonderful partner who is approximately my age, so that when I — wait, did I say that already?
- I am thankful that we have a working alarm clock, and I swear to god I will remember to set it tonight.
Following Aimée’s lead, I’m giving thanks today.