It’s been a crazy month! I wrote my papers. I ended my classes. I finished my own coursework. And in terms of professionalism, I did another good thing. I made my professional philosophical debut! I drove into the Boston blizzard and attended the Eastern APA conference (that’s short for the American Philosophical Association).
This conference is kind of a big deal–candidates on the job market have interviews, people try to be as impressive as possible, hundreds of people attend to outshine one another, and, of course, philosophers present their latest work. I was able to present by a fluke. Accidents and naive self-nomination granted me the opportunity to comment on two papers (one paper by one of my besties, Jim Martell, and another by John Corvino, a philosopher whose work I read with Jim in an independent study which opened onto our friendship in 2006). I also presented my own paper on Irigaray. And amazingly, both sessions went really well.
It was encouraging to partake in panels where the conversations were lively and collaborative, where the audience was engaged and provided really helpful suggestions, and mostly, where the spirit of philosophy (as I think of it) was cultivated. I was so pleased to get great support and encouragement from people who attended my sessions and to get positive feedback from my panel members. I am grateful that my friends were there to offer their enthusiastic eyes and patient ears. And I am really excited about the people who I met throughout the three days there.
I didn’t anticipate such a positive experience, but that’s because all I ever hear about the Eastern APA is how intense and intimidating it is. For instance, the “smokers” are receptions with a bad reputation. When people used to smoke indoors, a thick cloud of smoke would hang in a ballroom while job candidates hover around tables where their interviews sit. Though the smoke is gone these days, all of the awkward, insecurity, and nerves remain while candidates linger until the perfect opportunity presents itself to elbow in and get another chance to talk to the people at the tables who greatly dictate their futures. Despite the tense tummies of almost everyone else in the room, I was having a great time floating around, meeting new people, talking with previous acquaintances, and feeding off the energy in the room. Maybe it was the awkwardness of it all that actually worked in my favor. Rather than feeling weird about approaching people and just introducing yourself, I had an excuse to talk to whomever. It also probably helped that I am not looking for jobs right now.
Anyway, I just had to report that my experience at the APA was really, really a positive one. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was very pleased with the overall sense of encouragement and support that I got from everyone. I left feeling even more enthusiastic, motivated, and, yep, a bit more confident. That’s a great thing.
And that is really the best part about this past month, and this past semester. If I could describe a very important change in me, my attitude, and my work, it is that I am feeling more comfortable with myself, with my voice, and with my goals in philosophy. Confidence is hard to come by in fields like this without coming off as an ego-maniac or a jerk, but I have hoped that sheer passion, honesty, integrity, and a real love for philosophy will come through with the confidence more than anything else. Or, perhaps more likely it is my commitment to all of those things- the real stuff that grounds me in my work and keeps me excited about it- that actually lends towards a greater sense of confidence.
Believe me, I am happy and relieved to feel more confident with my work, and I am also happy to sense that this confidence is realized by being honest, humble, open, and straight-forward with my thinking. It gives me hope for my future with philosophy. And it makes everything a hell of a lot easier and way more enjoyable to just let what comes most naturally guide me.
So, here’s to the new year!