Wednesday, April 2, 2008

My Seperate Lives

Ebo and I have very different philosophies when it comes to organizing the files on the computer. While he prefers to keep everything in the "My Documents" folder, I like making seperate folders on the Desktop. Call it a irrational pet peeve, but it bothers me to have my personal documents in the vacinity of my course syllabi. When I was in college, when the world was still using floppy disks, I would have a separate disk for each class even though all of my semester documents would have most likely fit onto one. I guess I was afraid my homework for Primate Social Behavior would contaminate my Human Sexuality papers. Call me crazy.

I compartmentalize my life the same way. It makes me uncomfortable when parts of my life "mix." I recently heard from a wife of a graduate school colleague who I haven't spoken with in over a year. She had seen my profile on Facebook and saw a picture of both Destructo Boy and Sassy Girl. She had met my daughter, but she didn't even know we had a son. When we were sending out announcements to celebrate Destructo Boy's arrival, I purposely left them (and a bunch of other graduate school people) off the mailing list. I didn't want to be the subject of department gossip/chatter.

Since Sassy Girl became sick in 2005, my contact with the department has been minimal, partly because I'm ashamed of the progress I haven't made. But I guess the other reason is that I don't want to disturb the perceived equilibrium between my personal and "professional" life. Right before the E. coli incident, I had started to make plans to increase Sassy Girl's day care time. I fixed up my old office at the department and began writing again. I was just about to finish when...boom. Sassy Girl goes into kidney failure and everything else seems so trite and unimportant. Since then, every time I start to try and start up again, I am scared that bad things will happen.

This past weekend, my equilibrium was disturbed. Back in October, I made a promise to Jenna and the rest of her blog readers that I would write a paper for the Society for Applied Anthropology. I originally wanted to do a piece that showcased several stories, but time constraints and family illness prevented me from doing in-depth ethnographic work. Instead, I decided to write a piece that focused on how the internet, particularly through online support groups and blogs, helps shape the "infertile identity" and create a virtual community. It was mainly a reflective piece that highlighted already published research, but I did manage to get some quotes and experiences from my friends at Carolyn's Boards to make the piece more "human." I will post about the actual content of the paper and my interesting experience later, but I will say that my talk was well attended, well received, and generated a lot of discussion afterwords. Someone even suggested that I write a book.

But I think the most interesting part of the whole experience was my illogical behavior throughout the whole thing. Even though I used my university affiliation to get into the conferenece, I told NO ONE that I would be there. I purposely did not stay at the conference hotel and I chose to drive instead of fly in fear of running into people at the airport. The abstract I had written was mysteriously missing from the online preliminary program (an error which was corrected in the final program), so I didn't come up in any online searches. I thought I was home free...until the chair of the department walked in the room the last few minutes of my presentation. He gave me a confused look, snapped a picture, and headed out of the room. After my session was over, I snuck out of the hotel and left the conference.

Why was I being so silly? Well, no matter how kick-ass my paper was, it wasn't really part of my dissertation research. This is something I had to write for myself and my community. The problem is that this means that my personal life is encroaching onto my professional life. My work is being mixed up and my files are merging. What will happen to my universe now?

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