Monday, May 26, 2008

A Bar-Raiser From Way Back

Me. I'm a bar-raiser from way back. That is, I raise the bar.

When I first started graduate school, it was basically to get health insurance and reasonable work. When I switched to studying philosophy at age 30, I thought, well, whatever; I'd rather have a loser job and a degree in philosophy than a loser job and no degree in philosophy. At that time, I was about 15 pounds heavier than I am now -- quite plump -- and I never exercised. I smoked.

I remember the first time I went to a professional conference on my department's dime. The conference was in the Hilton, or the Hyatt, or something; I hadn't stayed in a place like that ever in my life. "Oh My God," I thought. This is the life. I might even get to do this again!

Sure, well, now I go to our professional conferences three times a year: we have one in the West, one in the East, and one in the middle. I go to all of them. I have a research fund. And I'm all, "What do you mean I gotta pay extra to work out? What? There's no hot tub?!"

I don't have a loser job; in fact I'm a philosophy professor. I live in a fun big city. I've lost some weight; I exercise; I don't smoke. I never dreamed things could turn out so well.

So. Do I spend my days in goggle-eyed amazement and happiness? No.

What I do is compare myself to people who are way ahead of me -- teach at better places, have written more stuff, have other accomplishments like children or speaking five languages -- and I say to myself, "Why am I so behind?"

Poor me! Waah! Time is running out and I'm so behind, boo-hoo!

It's completely ridiculous. But I can't help it: I'm raising the bar. If I've got a good job, I want a better one. If I look pretty good, I want to look great. If I travel to France every year, I want to go to Italy.

It's moronic. All I can say in my own defense is that almost everyone else is just as bad, as far as I can tell.

So there.

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