Post-Traumatic SAA Syndrome
|Like my co-bloggers, I really enjoyed this SAA. I did no blogging (didn't bring my laptop), but I did see old friends, make (I think) some new ones, drink, eat delicious food of all kinds, hear some good talks, hear some crappy talks (but: see above), sit in on some seminars (always a somewhat discombobulated experience), have some more drinks, see some fabulous and strange (non-academic) animals, have a few more drinks, ... And you see how it goes. Despite their ridiculousness, I enjoyed the weirdly nautical bar and the weirdly Yacht-club-like Special Breakfast Place. Since coming back, though, I've had the chance to reflect on the whole experience in a way that has plunged me into social anxiety. During the conference, I was on the receiving end of a few instances of Academic Social Disorder. I won't go into details, but these were the kinds of small awkwardnesses that I've come to expect from conferences, situations in which what would seem to be pretty straightforward guidelines for social interaction somehow go out the window, or fail to rescue us all from standing there embarrassed with our feelings a little too nakedly exposed. Nothing really dramatic, and nothing I thought too much about at the time. But now I'm reviewing the whole weekend with that kind of close reading that only anxiety can really inspire, racking up various instances in which, without knowing how or at all intending to, I may have irritated or offended various people.|
So, first of all, I want to issue a blanket apology to the entire SAA. True, it's an anonymous, or pseudonymous, apology. Or I hope it is. But it's a sincere one. In other words: if you had a bad interaction with someone at SAA, and you suspect that that someone might be the kind of person to live a secret online life (sometimes) as Inkhorn, then, ... I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. My foot just somehow slipped off the floor and into my mouth.
I think every post-conference blog points this out, but ... academic conferences are really strange social events. Take a group of people who are prone to social anxiety and/or dysfunction at the best of times; take into consideration that many of these people come to events like this looking for a kind of recognition or affirmation that probably just isn't available, to anyone at any time, in the world; add a huge amount of professional anxiety, or performance anxiety; swirl it all in pretty significant quantities of alcohol and sleep deprivation; and -- well, it's a strong cocktail.
Then, maybe most significantly of all -- and this is the real thing that's been troubling me, I think, as I head into year X of my professional life -- there's what seems to me the fact that most of our professional activities slowly, but thoroughly unfit us for human contact. Sitting alone in a room writing expository prose, and teaching: two terrible, terrible models for how to relate to others. Terrible models. Maybe we should remold our professional and social selves around blogging instead...