Not Everything Is Awesome

I'm just back in Vancouver after weeks of travel. I am phobic about airplanes, and a complete homebody, so international travel for me is not the career perk it can be for other academics. That said, I have had some wonderful experiences on this trip. I'll mention a couple of the highlights here. But in a break with tradition, I want to mention some of the things I did wrong and some of the ways I felt terrible, not only how great things were (although they were great).

I am going on far too long in this talk. (Photo by Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa.)

I gave a public lecture on Knowing Our Own Hearts at the University of Stirling under the auspices of the newly-up-and-running Knowledge Beyond Natural Science Project (on which I'm a Co-Investigator). I thought I had things ready and had gotten the timing down pat on this one, whereas in fact, on the night, I lost a half hour somewhere in the middle so ended up running 30 minutes long and not even realizing I had done it. I feel like a total muppet about this. I send my sincere apologies to everyone who found it as frustrating as I would have done if I'd been in that audience, and to everyone had somewhere else they needed to be, or just wanted to get on with the next part of the evening--which, to be clear about the gravity of this situation, was the part of the evening that included the free wine. I am truly sorry.


I am utterly terrified in this panel. (Photo by Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa.)

An author-meets-critics panel session on my book was held at the Canadian Philosophical Society's annual meeting at Ryerson University in Toronto, organized by the wonderful Samantha Brennan. Project Research Assistant Jasper Heaton was one of the commentators, along with Shannon DeaAlice MacLachlan, and Patricia Marino. This was terrifying. I'm not a performer by nature; I get nervous about public appearances and I am by default an introvert who doesn't enjoy attention. I have also been struggling with depression, and with the various other negative effects of the hateful feedback that too often follows in the wake of high-visibility publicly-engaged scholarship. Anyhow, I began my response to the (excellent and generous) commentaries by talking openly about all these things, and making a gag about how meeting your heroes is one thing but you should maybe not get them all together in a room and have them publicly critique your work! But in reality I'm very glad this happened. They, and many members of the panel audience, made me think so deeply, broadly, and intensely about the work I'm doing. I wrote down a few of my thoughts on Twitter; more of them will no doubt be bubbling up all over the place in my future writing. I am immensely grateful to everyone who spent time and energy thinking and talking with me.

And then after writing those tweets, I saw this reply:

There are days when I find it hard to believe I am doing something worthwhile (did I mention depression?) but at moments like this I can and do.

Not everything is awesome, but some things are, and not everything has to be.