I quickly slurp down my cay, anticipating the Writeamatrix to crack me up any moment now.As you may recall, she is the academic dominatrix in my head who wants me to, in no uncertain terms, GET BACK TO WORK. Before I know what has hit me, I feel the sting of her whip. “Not in your head, slackerific, right here in your face!”
I expect (hope, wish?) that Karagöz will hop up with a “talk to the hand” or some such in-your-face-back remark, but all I can hear is some muffled sniveling in the corner of the closet. The writeamatrix has trapped him there, underneath the floor-washing bucket, and he is at risk of smelling oh-so-pine fresh if he is in there for much longer.
“Get up and get going!” she says, her whip making the tone change unnecessary. I hop up, and before long am hustling an even-sleepy dog (which is unusual when the beach is nearby) out the door and down the stairs in the middle of a windstorm. Clearly, it is time to walk the dog!
The wind is fierce and sand is getting in my eyes and nose as the writeamatrix walks me across the Provincetown Beach, bootcamp-style. “Productive academics MUST get exercise and you are so slackerific you hardly do that anymore – this explains the reduction in your PRODUCTIVITY.”
With this last word of proclamation, she cracked her whip harder and harder, my self-esteem crumbling, thoughts of anxiety medicine and antacids racing through my head at breakneck pace. I didn’t know what to say to her. She, however, knew JUST what to say to ME.
“Last year this time, you had 7 manuscripts under review – and what do you have now? One piddly, pathetic one that you think will get rejected anyway. What about what matters? What about all of those suicidal foster kids that nobody has talked about before, YOU have to rise UP! YOU have to write about them! YOU need to draw attention to their plight! Walk, yes, you may walk now, but you need to do this so that you are ready to SIT DOWN and WRITE. Do you remember the AIS phenomenon that your mentor told you about?”
“Um, the AIN phenomenon? I’m sorry, writeamatrix, I have forgotten” I say, cowering a bit. “ASS-IN-SEAT as the famous Dr. JC used to say. That is what gets the job done. You use to be really good at that – but not anymore. You think that now, because you have tenure, you can slack off? Not so!” In addition to cracking the whip, she pushed me forward with her boot – or was it hte wind? “Yes, of course, writeamatrix, how silly – I mean – how STUPID – of me to forget about that.”
“Stupid? Stupid is a KIND word. You American academics, you have it easy. In Turkey…(“Oh,” I thought, “I didn’t realize the writeamatrix was Turkish?”)…don’t interrupt me! In Turkey, you slave through the doctoral process, and you have MANY more stages to go through with MANY more requirements than you have here in this inferior nation. Turkish academics are the BEST in the world.” I am beginning to realize that the writeamatrix is not only Turkish, but she is like the set of characters I meet who are over-the-top pro-Turkish, you know, the Turks make the best (fill in the blank from food to rockets) and the Turks invented the first (fill in the blank) and the Turks do (fill in the blank) better than anyone – it is a definite type.
All of a sudden, here on this sandy Cape Cod beach where I am picking up poop in turkuaz-colored bags, I realize that the writeamatrix is not only Turkish but is also channeling the voice of my sister-in-law, who is famous (to me) for asking “when will you become a REAL professor?” I always felt hurt when she said this, answering, “um, I already am one?” to which she would inevitably reply “you have only just received your doctorate, you don’t even know what you are getting into – mwah hah-hah-hah (think evil witch-ish laugh)!”
Of course, is my sister-in-law (or the writeamatrix, for that matter) an academic? Well, I know my sister-in-law isn’t, but that doesn’t stop her from repeatedly explaining to me that in Turkey, first you are an asistant doçent, then a yardimci doçent, then a doçent and finally a profesor – all of which involves six or so years of work to achieve each status, exams, papers to be defended and the mastery of one language other than Turkish before reaching the final level…clearly a tremendous amount of work. In my world, tenure brings me to the “associate professor” level, akin to doçent (if Wikipedia’s commentary on the topic is to be believed) and I have only been at it for 12 years…and only partial conversational language capabilities in Spanish, my best aside from English. What I have, though, is the freedom from the allegedly nepotistic-extraordenaire Turkish academic system, where you are sunk without major as in MAJ-AH contacts…of course, we have elements of this phenomenon in the U.S., but as I have chosen a teaching university, I am somewhat protected from all that as my life is not driven by the gerbil-wheel of grant dollar seeking. But still, I want to be good enough, to good enough work, respectable enough work – and not slack.
So, when my sister-in-law launches into this, or when the Writeamatrix appears, it is easy to feel not-good-enough, something I always wrestle with anyway (see Peggy McIntosh’s work on the academic imposter syndrome that women experience). It’s a constant battle and I am trying to get a foothold on just being satisfied enough. Not that I am trying to live up to my parents’ academic and research careers or anything…but I am putting it on myself, not them on me. The Writeamatrix is mine all mine, a creation of me, I suppose. Whether I like it or not, I have to deal with her. Hopefully, the relentless Hacıyatmaz will help me to balance her out.
So this was how my morning walk went, the Writeamatrix hassling me as I ran after my dog who was having a poop-a-thon on the beach. Meanwhile, Hacıyatmaz was rolling and rocking his way along, insistent on helping me fight fire with fire, not giving up on me as he seeks to find a different kind of balance between my academic and my personal writing. But for now, the Writeamatrix is winning out, as is the poop.
- Back to life, back to reality: On Rumi, writing and tripe (yes, tripe) (slowly-by-slowly.com)
- Karagöz: Consider this a formal introduction to himself (slowly-by-slowly.com)
- The Twelve Days of Christmas: Karagöz puppet-style (slowly-by-slowly.com)