Day 18: Immediate Opportunity then
Ha! Of course...as soon as I put befriending failure amidst a history of performative perfectionism, I receive an immediate opportunity to practice it. AM publication instead of PM. A blog-post too early for what I had planned. Shaking my head... SO like the Universe--immediate, responsive, bemused. I was wondering what tomorrow's post might be about.
I remember a quip my father offered me several years back, when I was lamenting the shift in my life from classroom teaching into online stewardship of teaching-learning. Not one of my colleagues nor I were trained in online teaching or in savvy digital andra/pedagogy in our doctoral work. The movement into online formation groups that I shepherded--under duress, with no real option to refuse--was trying. I realized that in order to do this work really well--by which I mean with a similarly-deep connection to students that I was accustomed to from extensive formal and informal times in shared physical presencing--it would require well over 80 hours of work a week. Responding to posts, making connections across distance with phone, email, and Google-hangouts (at the time)...all while developing the next module of whatever coursework required that week. "It's absolutely impossible, Dad," I bemoaned over coffee. "Well," he said with a rather impish grin, "You need to develop a better relationship to incompetence then!" We laughed.
And so I proceeded... It has been a rather predictable journey of costs and benefits, discerned along the way, but I relish my incompetence, in some things today.
My work is vastly different than I ever imagined it would be. It took a lot of grieving and then imagination & courage to craft a way to be a seminary professor online AND to allow my primarily relational gifts to sing. Women Writing for (a) Change was instrumental in that, for one. Holding contemplative spaces for women writers twice a week for nearly 8 years allowed me to be in a community as it formed, was birthed. But I also developed a new relationship with 'perceived incompetence' that has allowed me to flourish in what I actually LOVE to do.
I'm not sure how competent of an online instructor I actually am, but I am good enough. The learning objectives on the syllabus get met, and my life is rich in other activities I love, even am gifted in.
The organs of perception within my profession--scholarship, publications, speaking events, etc.--would see a tenured seminary professor who is not making contributions to her discipline, perhaps not even to her institution. I don't worry about academic publishing anymore, nor do i spin my wheels about institutional politics--particularly UMC ones right now. These are my chosen incompetences, for the sake of competencies and contributions I can make with the gifts I do have.
In a weird twist of fate, I've grown exquisitely proud of what a poor academic I've become. Befriending failure here feels ironic and faithful. Dancing with incompetence is a free-form artistry I'd never have learned, but for my little (big) seminary. Maybe befriending failure will be more interesting and delightful than I once thought.