TITLE: Thinking Hard to Understand AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: March 07, 2007 11:04 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Heard on my drive to SIGCSE today:
These experiences have caused him to think very hard about what he is doing and where he is going. And the result of all this thinking is that he now understands he doesn't know what he is doing or where he is going.
This quote is about Ray Porter, a character in Steve Martin's novella Shopgirl, which I listened on my drive to SIGCSE today. While I am in most ways nothing at all like the divorced, 50-something Porter, I can certainly appreciate his sudden need to think very hard and his sudden realization that he is essentially clueless. Over the course of my career, I had grown to feel comfortable in my roles as an academic, as teacher and scholar. Which I switched into the Big Office Downstairs, I just assumed that things would proceed as usual. But after a year and a half as department head, I experience occasional moments of "midterm crisis", in which I think that I don't really know what I'm doing or where I'm going. I often have a pretty good 50,000-foot view of what I want, but down in the trenches I usually feel a little disoriented. With experience, things have gotten better, but a year filled with academic program review, two time-consuming searches, and a curriculum revision have sapped my reservoirs of creativity and energy. At least now I think I understand that I don't know what I am doing or where I am going. You know what they say about acceptance being the first step toward recovery! By the way, I do recommend Shopgirl. I have read the book and then listened to it several times on tape while driving to PLoPs, SIGCSEs, and ICFPs. For some reason, Martin's writing holds my attention, and the story is sweet enough that I can get over constantly wondering, "Why does she put up with this?" Martin is a surprisingly good writer; though he is never going to win a Nobel Prize, he can spin a decent short yarn. My first exposure to his literary work was Picasso at the Lapin Agile, a stage play about a fantasy meeting between Picasso and Einstein at a Paris bar around the turn of the century. Oh, and as for Shopgirl -- I haven't seen the movie yet! I'm glad that I read the book first, and then heard it read before seeing the film version. Just knowing that Martin and the glorious Clair Danes play the leading roles has changed my experience of the book... -----