…living in a culture which is concerned to preserve itself in a static way and/or revive an older version of itself; which repeats more than it evolves; which is participatory but in the sense of working to present itself as an object of consumption. (“I feel like a walking ethnographic exhibit,” someone said.)
…”I do not feel I can be who I am, or that the place allows me to become who I am,” someone said. She is walking on eggshells at all times because she knows from experience that simply acting as her direct, assertive self is to invite disaster.
…everyone knows one is not to care what others think but we must do, here, because what they think determines how they act upon one. If they are not constantly and correctly reassured, they can do a great deal of harm. This is a real double bind, since the reassurance, and the dependence upon others feeling reassured, is not healthy but is a necessity for survival.
…the women are gender policing each other and undermining or sabotaging each other in hopes of gaining the favor of the patriarch. One must watch one’s back at all times if one is interested in self preservation or needs to understand what has happened to one.
…important: the gender configuration of this culture is very oppressive and we are major threats to it; we are the enemy, although we do not realize it, and we are constantly under fire.
…we are emotionally exhausted all the time from trying to fit in well enough not to have difficulties or be the difficult ones, from trying to understand the people we are working with well enough to work, from trying to gain access to the kinds of sustenance we need, and from recovering from the odd conflicts we do not understand.
…even people who are from here feel isolated if they are women not seeking to become a stone in the patriarchal mosaic.
…in theory there are many resources and things of interest here but they all take much work to gain access to. You must travel, you must have equipment, you must know people or meet them. You cannot simply walk out onto the street and find pleasure, or walk into your workplace and find the tools you need to work. Work and leisure are both tantalizingly available, but just out of reach.
…we are not happy because of the need to stifle and shrink ourselves to fit in, and to find space to grow the parts of ourselves we have amputated. We are constantly checking ourselves, dividing ourselves, quieting ourselves … and then wondering why the amputated parts of ourselves are not working as they should.
…the reason I do not like standard academic advice is that its rote repetition is condescending and dismissive. It is what is given to people who are not being taken seriously, who are not considered interlocutors. It is an obstacle thrown in our way, even as it is presented as a way in.
…the reason I need to be in a large department, at a university with advanced programs in my related departments, is not arrogance, elitism, or the desire for prestige (as I have always been told), or even my research orientation and preference for large venues. It is that I do not fit into the national literature paradigm. I am not only not a language teacher first, I am also not interested in promoting or reproducing national literatures. I am “more like someone in English,” it was said, but what was meant was that I am someone in literature tout court. Operating within a large “Hispanic Studies” net is one thing, but fitting into a small Spanish box is another.
…how to use my talents and profundizar in my specialties, how to find space for this, has been the problem here: not just because one is asked to be a generalist Hispanist, as opposed to a comparatist or Latin Americanist with specialties, but also because the air in which one is working is so toxic, and because the ground keeps caving in.
These problems keep raising their heads although most immediately, that is only because I made overly ambitious teaching plans this semester and also because I have been sleeping poorly. Could be that all I need is to be a little more definite about everything, a little less intimidated about everything, a little more confident, less in doubt about my own perceptions, less tentative, as fearless as I feel elsewhere?
Would this solve the problem despite what my friend who is from here said, that it is so difficult for her to be herself here, think like herself here, maintain her sense of reality here? Perhaps not, but it is still a good thing to do.
…my friend said my problem is not that I am unhappy but that I am unhappy here, and that I am really unhappy here, despite having things I appreciate about the place and despite not being unhappy en mí. (The idea that it is always you, that it is what you bring, is false, she said; circumstances are real things.)
I would so like to spend a day or a week not having to heavily strategize about how to gain, for an hour during the next week perhaps, a moment in which I am not having to put most of my physical and mental energy toward some form of self mutilation, something to help me fit in. A moment when I can be myself. I tend to think it is when I can be out of town but wait: perhaps it is that 30 minutes of research. Perhaps my intermittent research schedule this semester, and intermittent sleep and exercise schedules, have had worse effects than I know.
But it is also the emotional exhaustion, the effort to be acceptable here, and the paradoxical fact that those efforts are destructive toward the person who works.
My whole, entire professional problem involves knowing exactly what I want and need to do, yet having directions to do something entirely different. Having instructions not to be who I am, instructions to become someone else. I have been frantic with this for a long time.
Somehow though I must at least end complicity in that sabotage of the person I always was and wanted to be.
The endless self-criticism. Very practically, though, what I need is this: clear instructions on the basic language program. Then: teach my survey and the introductions to literature and culture in my standard ways. Then: teach the other surveys, whichever ones I get, on themes and topics I can manage. Then: have my advanced course on one of two topics, work these up, do no others. These things would limit teaching, and if I could limit service, refuse what is unweildy, that would help very much as well.
And it is still so much to do. And there is so much I want, there are so many interesting things I would like to teach, if I am to teach. But the first thing is to move a step away from intimidation, a step away from fear, a step away from self-doubt, and many steps away from the sadness over all that happened and all that I lost because of having been so pushed in these directions.
I could die of nostalgia now. I have been having visions all day of my first grade classroom, the sun on the oaks, the thick sparkling air, the feeling of eternity. I would so like not to have to struggle so hard, would so like to have backing rather than be undermined, would so like to begin again.