Day: November 4, 2021

Why Meetings and Advice to Old Self

pyrope asked:

You’ve probably done this post before, but what advice would you give yourself of 5, 10, 15+ years ago?
Another question – why do I have so many f*ing meetings and how do I get out of them (I’m considering faking my own death)?

Second question first: Why so many meetings?

I wish I knew, honestly. Most stuff could be done via email. On the one hand, I understand the importance of shared governance; on the other hand, I wish some smaller operational issues were simply handled somehow, I don’t really care how and by whom, without everyone having to give input on everything. I am very grateful for Zoom meetings, so I can join and basically do something else while sort of listening. I get the needed info without having to sit for way too long listening to people who talk way too slowly. 

It’s interesting, the committees where a lot of real work actually gets done outside of meetings (for example, award nomination committees, where people really have to write letters and assemble nomination packages, or search committees, where we have to carefully look at candidate records before voting) also have efficient and substantive meetings that don’t bother me much. So my advice is try to get on the committees you find meaningful (sometimes they are a lot of work, but at least you don’t feel like pulling your hair out) and to avoid/shirk the rest as much as you can. I admit to sometimes skipping stuff when I am low on energy or time; I don’t offer excuses, but, if asked, I cite research conflict or personal reasons. In other words, I totally understand the impetus to fake one’s own death to avoid meetings, but sometimes playing hooky does the trick!

First question second: What advice would I have given myself 5, 10, 15+ years ago? 

This is a hard one, and I might need to revisit.

As my friend says, beautiful people are not more important than other people. I would tell have told myself to make fewer decisions because of guys I was attracted to and/or relationships with. I should have generally made less of an effort to impress people. I would have told myself to stick to my guns more, to listen to my gut more, and that I had more intrinsic value than I believed at the time. So much of young women’s worth is tied to external forces — dudes, parents, bosses. I wish I’d had more people to tell me I was perfectly fine and perfectly enough as I was. I can honestly say that my kids were the first people who really just took me for who I was and loved me for exactly that; I was/am enough. With everyone else (yes, parents and friends and romantic partners), I’ve always felt they wanted me to be something else, better, worse, more, less, quieter, louder, just not myself. There was always something to fix. Having kids has been, in this way and many other ways, transformative. To be just accepted, no ands, ifs, or buts. So, in talking to my younger self, 20, 30 years ago, I’d have tried to convince myself that I was already enough. 

Maybe this advice would also have saved me from burnout in my job. I should have made the time to stop and smell the roses sooner. I should have gone toward joy more often. I need to do that now. 

Five years ago, I would have told myself that it was time to start writing fiction, and to get on with it, because it would be wonderful and healing and fulfilling. That I would meet some great friends through this endeavor, and that these artists would enrich my life in untold ways. 

I would have told myself to go back to all the stuff I liked as a kid — drawing and writing — because those loves didn’t die, they were just buried under years of hyperfocus on science. 

I would have told myself that I would get the life that I wanted and that it was OK to just chill a bit, not be so tightly wound all the time. That the colleagues in my department were really good people and that I should relax and assume the best (rather then the worst, as is my wont) intentions. 

I would have told myself, “Good job! You’re kicking ass,” which was never forthcoming from the sources where I desperately sought it from. 

Speaking of grownup self healing younger self, my middle kid recently read this short story: “The Utterly Perfect Murder” by Ray Bradbury. I think it’s fitting. 

What wisdom do you have for pyrope, blogosphere?