Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Status Anxiety

A fun time at the SWPACA meeting in Albuquerque.

There are two general classes of academics: professors and students. I was in sort of an inscrutable third class: independent scholar. By virtue of the Ph.D. degree, and also by teaching the freshman astronomy class last semester, I barely cleared the bar into professorial academic status, but still I felt a status anxiety about it.

I explained my anxiety to a professor who was born in Vacaville and was a UCD graduate, but who now teaches Zombie culture in English to Germans in Germany. She explained that if you teach, you're an academic. Still, I fretted. I'm not even teaching this semester.

Nevertheless, I was old enough to appear to fit the professor class. And when I arrived for the round table, I acted with bravado, greeting the panelists enthusiastically. Plus, I already knew all but one of the participants, so I appeared to be an insider despite my sketchy credentials. Others took note.

I was really worried by the technology. How reliable was it? I saw one presenter go down in flames when his laptop froze up. Later on, I saw another. Mine was a borrowed laptop. Anything could happen.

So, when I showed up early to set up my presentation, and maybe avoid the tech demons, the nervous first presenter, a student with a nice smile, approached and asked "Are you the chair? This is my first time doing this. I'm so nervous!" She had noticed my bluff and bluster when I arrived at the panel on Wednesday, and how I knew most everybody on the panel (she didn't know it was mostly by Facebook), and concluded I was a mentor. She didn't know I felt almost like a Saul-Goodman-like fraud, barely-qualified to be there. But I did offer some advice - speak loudly, because the space is large - which helped her make a very nice presentation to the assembly once Nick arrived to take charge.

No comments:

Post a Comment