South Park Self


Right, well, thank fuck that's done. I emerge from two weeks with my head down on this bloody paper, having just sent 6000-odd words off to my nice ex-supervisor so that she can confirm my argument isn't actually on crack. I am buggered. I've been putting words onto the damned screen for up to six hours a day for two weeks from the midst of a 15-volume pile of critical tomes, while simultaneously writhing with distaste and hating the universe in general and everything in it in particular, with special reference to African film and all its works. It's been very slow and torturous, and I'm still not convinced I'm safe from being ceremonially lynched by a mob of petulant postcolonialists, but the worst is over. Even if there are giant flaws in my argument I'm now editing rather than writing, and it's the writing which is like drawing blood at the moment. In the unsexy non-vampire way.

I suffer from existential crises when doing this sort of thing. I start disbelieving in my own academic existence, and it makes the writing process really rather hard. At least if there are words on the screen for me to work with I have some evidence in favour of my status as tangible and instrumental. Really, a lot of my life is spent as a sort of a wistful academic ghost.

The particular bugger about this bloody paper has been that I've felt impelled to write it to the exclusion of almost everything else. This means that I have not done interesting things to my nice house (newsflash: I still love living on my own even when I hate the universe because academia), or adequately paid attention to my cat, or done any socialising, really, that hasn't entailed jo&stv battering down my door and either plying me with food or dragging me out. Which means there was really rather enjoyable tango at the Crypt on Tuesday, but otherwise not a lot. It's not that I hate everyone, I promise.

I am also on leave for the next ten days, three of which will include an entirely self-indulgent jaunt to Barholomeus Klip, that luxury farmhouse guest lodge thing with the amazing and practically continuous food. I can't really afford this, I'm pre-emptively spending a chunk of my November bonus, but I decline to feel remorse or guilt. Stuff it. I've earned it. Not to mention the fact that it's the end of the first semester and I'm more than somewhat dead on my feet.

So, how is everyone? Are any other Capetonians cordially freezing to death at the moment, or is it just me? It's been icy, down in the 6-degree range, with snow on them thar hills. The air has teeth.  I have unearthed my Giant Coat of Sweepingness and have been sashaying up to campus every morning imagining I'm Sherlock. It adds a certain useful layer of impatient disdain to the interactions with students. I hope you are all well, and warmer than I.
- (Anonymous)
I work at the same institution as extemp here, but in maths/engineering/academic development. I too suffer from Imposter Syndrome, as I suspect almost everyone here does. It has helped me enormously to think of it all as a game. Most of the rules are tacit, but I've figured some of them out and am getting better at playing the game. Taking it all too seriously is a very bad idea.

Faculty get to take *3 months* leave? I have a permanent position at the university, so I think that makes me "faculty", but any research or writing needs to take place during the student vacation as the terms are too full of teaching to get anything else done. Student vac is actually more intensive working time than the teaching term, and it's like that for all of us except the few who have managed to wangle low teaching loads. I get to take about 3 weeks per year of true leave. Perhaps I'm playing the game badly...
- (Anonymous)
oh, dear, sorry, my 'fluey existence over the last week means I never actually replied to this, despite a strong reaction of "ooh, comrade!" You are clearly a fellow sufferer in the "imitation academic" sphere - mine is also an administrative post, which apart from the limited leave issue is indeed guaranteed to increase the levels of imposter syndrome beyond the technically possible. Seriously, new maths required. Quantum states. And, of course, the wretched grind of a nine to five day job. Having to keep office hours after a decade as a grad student is really not good for the psyche. Then again, having no money for a decade as a grad student is also not good for the psyche. Academia is a mug's game, had you noticed...?