It’s time. I’m signing off as permanent member of the Duck of Minerva after seven (7!?!) years of blogging. The experience has helped shape me as a professional, writer, and member of the IR and online communities. I began blogging during my first nervous year as an academic and continued through to the current realisation that I’m now a *youthful* mid-career scholar. My posts have covered a very wide range of topics, including ebola, Anthony Weiner’s first set of dick picks, women and combat in the US military, and the parallels between police and military racism and brutal tactics. I’m most proud of my posts on feminism, sexism, and surviving academia as a woman and as a parent. I’m grateful that Charli Carpenter asked me to be part of the Duck team in 2009 and for the many exchanges with fellow bloggers and readers over the years. Through it all, blogging has given me a few things. In no particular order:
- Blogging made me realise I’m not alone: I often blog about aspects of the profession I find bamboozling, including conferences, hiring processes, the casualisation of teaching, and finishing a damn book. The response to several posts- particularly about early career, parenting, and work/life balance- made me realise I wasn’t the only one sitting in on hiring processes thinking ‘oh, mediocre men really do beat out successful women…a lot.’ I wasn’t the only one attending conferences with a baby strapped to me, leaky boobs, and sleep deprivation so wild I would have amputated a leg for three straight hours of sleep. And I wasn’t the only one wondering when I would be taken seriously as an expert in international relations. This sense of community has changed my experience of being an academic entirely for the better.
- Blogging made me a better writer: Oh the agony of writing! The way that I wrote my PhD was so excruciating that it often felt like there were IV lines attached from my body to the computer: each day of writing drained me until I had nothing left, and I submitted. That’s not exactly a sustainable approach, is it? Blogging has taught me to have fun with writing. To be light, to make editing errors (many), and to just get an idea OUT THERE and not agonise over it. What freedom!! My enjoyment of writing has increased exponentially because of blogging. I let go of being perfect, I laugh at old posts that I now disagree with or that I could have written better.
- Blogging has given me thick skin: It goes without saying, but blogging requires think skin. To be fair, my experience has largely been positive and most people reading the Duck leave interesting or positive comments. And, frankly, sometimes I have written things that readers had every right to question or push me on. But, trolling, anonymous jabs, and a boat-load of mansplaining have been a part of blogging. I remember the first couple of times I received negative or trolling comments to a post in the early days. Some comments would literally keep me up at night. I’d think about how best to respond or how I could have done a better job getting my point across. But after seven years of pretty regular critique and trolling, it just doesn’t stick anymore (mostly). This has translated into the rest of my life. I lump negative comments with nasty (unfair) reviewers, twitter trolls, and that guy in the ISA audience who said I just didn’t understand how the military works. These are folks who aren’t trying to provide critical feedback, they are trying to say: ‘hey, it’s not that I disagree with what you are saying, I just don’t like how you are saying it, or the fact that you are saying it with such confidence.’ I do like a good back and forth with trolls once in a while (who doesn’t?), but mostly I’ve learned that online, and in person, the best way to deal with mansplaining, or other efforts to put me in my place is the smile emoji. :) I heard once that Katy Perry signed her divorce papers with the smile emoji and it changed how I felt about her entirely.
- Blogging made me realise the value of being nice: Academia is a small world and, more importantly, life is just to short to get nasty, to gossip, or to deliberately try to undermine someone. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve often loved a good gossip session, and I’ve said and written things I wish I could take back. But over time and through my interactions and writing I’ve realised A) most gossip is toxic for everyone, and it only makes the gossiper look like an ass B) everyone is usually trying their best, and you never know what’s going on in someone’s private life- so go easy at conferences, in the comments section, in the hallways, and on twitter C) keeping my head above petty debates (online and in the office) and producing ideas and work that are interesting and mean something to me is the only sustainable academic strategy I’ve found.
I’m sure I’ll pop in as a guest from time to time. For now, thank you and farewell!