OK, any of you out there who are teachers know what I'm talking about. It's that time of year again, when someone comes into your classroom to Observe you teaching. Horrendous. I was observed back to back at both places I teach this week.
I felt the teaching went pretty well in both cases but the cosmic dread I felt, amplified in one case by mispronouncing the name of the person observing me (in my defense, we had never met, but still...it's up there in the irretrievable gaffe camp).
After both classes, I nitpicked myself to death and in one case (the mispronunciation case) decided this person would only say dreadful thing about me consequently. Now the irony here is that I just taught a chapter on self-concept and how self-esteem affects self-concept and that those with low self-esteem do not act well while being observed, whereas people with high self-esteem shine.
I think, given that, I have either (a) schizophrenic self-esteem or (b) medium self-esteem or (c) self-esteem in things I know really well but in the basement when teaching something I don't know as well or am taking a risk that may or may not be working.
Before all this observing business, I was also rejected by a writing residency, so my so-called self-esteem was not at its highest level.
I wish, oh I do wish, how I wish that I believed what I say. I say: oh, it doesn't matter. Oh, yeah, being an artist means lots of criticism and rejection. Hey look at van Gogh, Kafka, Emily Dickinson! Oh, yeah, sure, I'm used to that. Oh, yeah, sure, not everyone will like me. No problem.
Lies. All lies.
Reality: one person in a room of 500 doesn't like me. All 499 other people do. Guess who I notice? That one.
Reality: every piece of criticism hurts like hell, especially when it's about my artistic work.
Reality: I can now accept, for real, constructive criticism...which is an improvement But if I don't agree with the criticism, I am not good at fighting back (another sign of positive self-esteem: being able to defend yourself against criticism).
You know how many years it's taken me to admit how worthless I actually feel? This many years. Even though it feels like eating glass, at least it's real. I'm not deluding myself into some kind of piece of shit the world revolves around stance wherein I can diminish all critics in order not to feel the sting of the criticism.
On the other hand, for the record and all that...I do wish I was not so affected by criticism and rejection. I wish I did have a modicum of healthy, actual, real self-respect. I am guessing/hoping that staring at this steaming pile of shit called my self-concept means I'm on my way there in real life rather than in name only.
I can be equally swayed by positive feedback, and perhaps in some ways that can be even more dangerous (oh you think I'm good at this, OK, watch me do it again and again and again...applause please!)...but in any case the point is: it comes from somewhere else and where it needs to come from is me. Not that I be impervious to others' opinions but neither swayed unduly.
On the good side, I am still working on my writing. I have survived the traumatic observations, and now have to wait - impatiently - for the results. I do know I did my best, was prepared and showed up. This is actually all I can do. However, with one of them I was dreading it in a more despairing way because I thought the class (reviewing for a midterm) was going to be about as interesting as watching paint dry and think I may have made my own experience harder by that dread. Thank goodness for meditation and prayer, without which I may have simply imploded.
Another good moment: having students in both classes ask me questions privately about things in their lives that are fairly intimate. I feel good that I can answer some of these questions, hear them out and give good guidance. This reminds me of the most important thing of all: I don't actually know why I am anywhere doing anything. The most seemingly 'random' situation may lead me to a situation where I may be of more profound service than anywhere I could plan or expect. This is not to diminish my artistic work, which I believe/hope is a form of service, but it's not the only kind and it's not really for me to say what is most important.
Back and back and back to the same place (a la Raymond Carver): if you should be dead, but you are alive by grace: "all the rest is gravy."
This ain't my show. Over to You.
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. So blessed for the opportunity and hope to find a more permanent job doing same.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with having written a rough draft of a new book and some other projects.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now.