Sunday, March 6, 2011

Finally learning

This is the fourth year I've served as the secretary-treasurer of my scholarly organization's regional group.  And this is the first year where I really felt like I've learned the job.  A lot of these volunteer coordinating, record-keeping, planning, and checkbook-balancing positions take a few iterations before you get all the ins and outs figured out.

By the time you have it under your belt, your time in the position is almost up.  I'm fortunate to have two years left to practice what I've learned in putting on the regional meeting, and I'm finally ready to go beyond what was done when I took over.  Now it's time to experiment, spend some of our carefully-husbanded resources, and see what new traditions I can pass on to whoever comes after me.

One thing I know I have to be careful of, now that I'm on the downward slope of my service, is keeping my professional identity separate from this position.  Being at the center of things brings huge psychological rewards along with huge responsibility.  When you move to the periphery, you get back your time and your ability to exercise a smaller sphere of control.  But you lose the gratitude and regard of your colleagues.  If you have invested too much of your self-image in those compliments and that centrality, it can be difficult to pull back.

In many ways, I'm at a point in my career when I have to figure out where my identity as a scholar and professional lies.  Is it as an administrator?  A researcher?  A teacher?  A servant to my field?  I know that I can't be all of these equally for the next twenty years.  But I am not ready to give up on any of them for good right now.  Where is the balance now, and where will it be when this job ends?

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