It figures that on the day that I have my biggest mental meltdown to date (on this job, anyway), neither of my mentors are around....and this is something that I don't really feel comfortable talking about to anyone except a "safe" person. I'm hoping blogging about it will make me feel better.
So I'm having a major crisis of confidence right now. It's not the usual "I'm a fraud" crisis---the one area of my professional life that I feel very comfortable about right now is my research. (Ironically, it's also the one area that I have no time to work on right now. I hate this time of year.) No, this crisis is all about my position here, about the repercussions of being the sole female faculty member.
I won't go into all the reasons this particular crisis came about. Suffice it to say it was a series of unrelated incidents, each of which chipped away large pieces of my self-confidence, that's occurred in the past 72 hours or so.
When I went on the market a few years back, I had a list of qualities that I wanted in my new position/new school. One of my top priorities was to go to a place where I was not going to be the first and only female faculty member in my program. I did not want to be the trailblazer. I did not want to deal with all of the crap that being the first brings with it. In fact, I only interviewed at one school with no female faculty in my program....and that's where I ended up.
Why I violated one of my top priorities to take this job is another story for another time, although it very well might out me so maybe I'll keep that story to myself. Suffice it to say that I did have options, but that this position was so compelling for so many reasons that I thought it was a worthwhile risk. Plus, I hoped hiring me would pave the way for hiring other women. I thought I could manage the crap I knew I'd have to face, that somehow it would all be fine.
I love my job and I love my school. But I am now starting to get a sense of the consequences of being the "token female". Getting low enrollments in my classes while those of my colleagues are high, and the stigma that's attached to that. Having to prove to the students, male and female, that I'm just as good as my male colleagues. Feeling like I have to fight twice as hard for everything, especially for "legitimacy". Not fitting in to the established culture and not fitting the "norm" that's been established for professors in this program, and all the negative energy that goes along with that.
I'm finding it really hard to articulate exactly why I'm so upset and so frustrated.....but I'm sick of feeling like every day is a battle---with societal "norms", with preconceived notions, with entrenched culture. Some days I feel like I'm trying to climb Mt. Everest. I am tired of climbing this mountain. I just want to relax, for once. Will I ever get to that point---the point of feeling comfortable, of not needing to watch what I say or do, of trying to simultaneously fit in to the prevailing culture and change it?
Does anyone else ever feel this way? If so, what do you do to get over your crises of confidence?