Woe is me. Coming back to teaching and graduate school actually made me anxious in my stomach. I could feel it. My body sensed that although my mind told me things could change, the end of this semester would just be more of the same. It's just so frustrating for me not to exceed expectations. That's what I got used to. But the higher one goes up, the harder one must work to succeed. The problem of being told you have "potential" and not knowing where to put it, then realizing you don't really have "potential." I read a Cary Tennis advice column on the issue: http://salon.com/mwt/col/tenn/2006/03/21/potential/
I was right in my supposition that being successful in academic matters is not unlike being successful with sports or working out. When you work out, you're building the capacity to be stronger in the future. Really strong guys need strong ligaments and tendons first, which takes years of training. And when you read and write for a living, you read and write on and on, building a capacity to talk about your own idea at length -- those thousands of hours build toward the singular goal. The thing is, one has to like the process and not the payoff to get to the goal. No pain, no gain, so goes the saying. I like the process of working out; the end result is not what motivates me. I simply dislike the process of "being a literary critic"; the end result is what motivates me -- this is getting a job. My wife says there're no other jobs for me, but I don't trust that logic. Perhaps the lesson is to not mix business with pleasure. Writing and thinking bring me a lot of pleasure, and that's what grad school is supposed to be about, yet I hate graduate school, because I can't excel unless I do something I'm not compelled to do -- the thousands of hours of literary criticism work. The prospect strikes me as hopelessly boring, as if I actually hate reading and writing -- but actually the opposite is true, those are things that I love. Thus I have a new idea to take a grad-level creative writing course in fiction, and I've discussed my other quixotic ideas in this space.
I love Tucson, tho', and like working on a college campus, but perhaps need to do so in another capacity (there's that word again). Anything is better than a perceived failure. I sound like a broken record. I bet my blog musings from spring 2005 sound very similar. --adam