When we’re young, I think we all imagined that one day, we’ll be famous. At least, I know I did.
I remember watching The Disney Channel as a kid, especially The Mickey Mouse Club (the early 1990s revival, starring future superstars like Christina Aguilera and Tony Lucca and Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake and Ryan Gosling and holy cow, so many more people!). They were just ordinary kids then, and I imagined they were all my best friends.
I watched The Boy Who Could Fly and Not Quite Human approximately seven dozen times each, and I had dreams (like, literal dreams) about becoming Jay Underwood‘s girlfriend. (Btw he apparently went a different direction.)
I didn’t know what my life would become, but I knew it would be amazing. (On this count, and only this count, young Liz was right.)
As I’ve matured and come to see my life more realistically, I still yearn to have an impact, but that desire is definitely tempered with how much of a disaster it can be for women to achieve even minor fame. The relentless pressure to present a perfect body for mass consumption and judgment? The weight of expectations from all directions? The trolling online? That’s all just a great big NO THANKS from me. I’ll live my quiet little life uninterrupted by the worst of humanity, kbye.
It’s a fine line. Impact without harsh scrutiny. It’s a line I’ve not really had to think THAT much about, though, because nothing I do really subjects me to the possibility of any of this.
That is, until I tweeted two weeks ago.
As I write this, that tweet has been viewed about 80,000 times (!!). I don’t even begin to know what to do with that.
I tweeted that on a Thursday, and by that night, I was drowning in a sea of notifications and direct messages and web traffic. All good — I mean, there weren’t very many rude or hateful responses. There were some funny ones that clearly were meant to poke fun (but not in a troll-y way). My favorites:
Ok, one more:
But now that we’ve got the laughs out of the way, this whole experience has been quite surreal. On the one one hand, it’s nice to get positive feedback and encouragement from #AcademicTwitter. It’s opened some doors to play bigger — which is, by the way, my singular goal for 2023. (Apparently, I hit that goal 12 days into the year, so… *blows on fingernails* …) On the other hand, this is challenging my inherent sense of humility and shying away from being the center of attention. I want to be acknowledged, but I don’t want to LOOK LIKE I want to be acknowledged. Or that this is somehow inflating my ego.
‘Cause it’s not. I mean, I know that I am a good teacher. Maybe even a really good teacher. But I’m not the best … even though, sometimes, I can feel myself slipping into self-righteous territory when I start talking about the moral injury higher education does to SO MANY people, or when I think about the way the system itself reproduces systemic inequities, or how much I hate grades and remote proctoring services and anything else that sounds like “cop shit.”
But that doesn’t mean that I live in the land of self-righteousness all the time, and I’m actively, DAILY working on dialing up the curiosity and inquiry and dialing back the judgment. I’m human. But I’m trying.
So … I circle back to my main point: I want to have an impact, but I don’t need to to be ABOUT ME. I want it to be ABOUT IDEAS. I hope that I’ll have two or three good ones that might leave a net positive impact on others.
As I step into this whole playing bigger thing, with all its potential to wreak havoc on my calm life, I’m going to make some missteps. I’ll get out over my skis. I’ll retreat in self-conscious fear. I’ll use my words inelegantly, or misunderstand someone’s meaning, or not read the subtext well, or mischaracterize someone else’s (or my own) thoughts in a way that doesn’t serve.
I guess I’m writing this because I’ve been a stew of pride-AND-anxiety for the last two weeks, and I’m hoping that anyone who reads this will extend some grace. Cheer me on, but, like, nicely? Let’s be better together. Challenge my ideas, but try to do so in a way that doesn’t feel like a personal attack. (Even though every challenge will probably, at least at first, feel like a personal attack, because of this sensitive gal known as my freaking ego. Gah!)
I should stop writing now. I feel like I lost the thread. See? I’m human.