there are definitely some things about grad school that you will encounter that people do not warn you about in advance. some of those things matter more than others and some of them sneak up on you like a raccoon or some other annoying animal. one of those things, the one with which i’m dealing currently is ego.
what a nasty little word. unfortunately, it is a huge part of the jobs in which we find ourselves. someone once said, “how is anyone going to praise you if you don’t praise yourself?” okay, so i revised that statement a little bit but you get my drift. when we send off abstracts, apply for jobs, etc, we have to promote ourselves. now doing that in person (what i call academic hustling) is one thing. doing it on paper is another. so the question is: how do we talk about ourselves successfully on paper without sounding like complete douches?
this has been a sticking point for me very recently. writing my bio as a performer was easy. believe me, i had no problem writing about every award, scholarship, competition, famous professor that’s ever crossed my path. anyone who’s ever applied for an orchestral audition knows that you can and will be rejected on a bio alone. but for some reason, writing an academic bio (or some conglomeration of the two) doesn’t work out quite the same way. as more things happen to me, the more reluctant i am to add them to my bio. but it’s not like i’m making things up — i did speak at that conference or win that award. maybe at my age it feels like showing off, i don’t quite know. but for some reason, i feel like some outside force is shaming me.
and of course, you can’t just write up a list and be done with it. it has to be interesting and witty…you know, representative of you. good grief, it never ends! now this may sound trite to you but it is a very important thing to ponder. as we continue with our academic careers, hopefully, our accolades will grow. these are great things of which we should be proud. unfortunately, many of us get to a point where they go to our head. my severe lack of modesty as a performer was one thing. severe arrogance as an academic, in my opinion, gets you nowhere.
on a related note, have you ever had the feeling that people were not impressed with you? the flip side of the above argument is getting too wrapped up in your academic awesomeness. after laying out all of my credentials to new associates, i got the feeling that what i had just said was not registering. i wanted them to acknowledge the ridiculous amount of work i’ve put in over the last 10 years. but that can’t be healthy. so there i was, trapped between the super egotistical and the super modest. it’s a place that musicians know all too well. this extra level of academia only made my situation worse.
so what’s a grad student to do? i’ve always believed that it’s a healthy dose of the two. when and where, however, is more easily said than done (or written).