Have you seen this over at Peabody’s Lament? Warning to all public historians: read without a drink in your mouth because you might snort said drink out of your nose…
This is my last night in Indianapolis. The last 3.5 weeks have been some of the happiest and most transformative weeks of my grown-up life. In addition to all of the new friends that I made and the things that I learned, I also really enjoyed being key-free. I’m thinking of this as a metaphor for having no responsibilities to speak of: no cooking, no cleaning, no job stuff, nothing. It’s also a practical situation too, as I haven’t had to carry keys around with me for almost a month. The car that I rented is a keyless Altima – I carry the magic wand and walk right up to it, open the door, and start the car by pressing a button. The hotel room just uses a card key.
Doors just open for me here.
It’s the night before the day before I leave Indianapolis. This means that it’s time to eat all the snacks i have acquired and all of the leftovers that everybody gave me when they left, and to start packing. Last week Was a very busy and happy week for me. I will fill in the details later but it consisted of hanging out with my history friends and our graduation from SHA. The might SHA class of 2013 is unleashed upon the world!
Coming up this week: I will post about my graduation day and give some reflections on Indianapolis as the center of the universe.
Saturday at SHA: this means we get to start class at 9AM instead of 8:30. I spent the extra half hour of sleep available to me hanging out with my new friends and talking about what kind of class tattoo we would get if we weren’t all chicken.
Today I got to see Tim O’Brien give a reading from his book “The Things They Carried.” He was at the Vonnegut Library less than a block from our hotel. You just never know your freshman literature class will collide with your grown-up life, do you?
After starting off yesterday morning with a fire alarm at 5:45AM, followed by a day of cantankerous classmates and heated discussions, today we a lot more fun. We studied audience evaluation and I was able to work out some real-life projects that I want to do at home. Not that I’m ready to go home. Aside from the fire alarm, I have to say this experience is a historian’s paradise. I get to talk about history all day long with people who love it as much as I do, and I’m meeting some great new friends who are my history people (public historians are each other’s favorite sort of people, with apologies to everyone else on the planet). Also, the hotel feeds us breakfast and provides full housekeeping. This means that I haven’t had to lift a finger in two weeks to do ANY kind of housework, yard work, office work, cooking, etc. And a classmate’s mom even sent a care package of cookies for us all. It’s been pretty darn wonderful and I kind of don’t want this to ever end.
Tonight I took some friends to the South Bend Chocolate Company on Monument Circle, which is another one of my Favorite Places. Some of my best and brightest memories of sharing stories and laughter with my best friends happened over chocolate at the SBCC, so it has a dear place in my heart. Tonight my friends and I sat at a table talking about on-purpose vagabondyhomelessness and tried to connect it to the closing of the Western frontier. We also asked Sirri all sorts of random questions, talked about school, and generally had a wonderful time. My face hurt from smiling. The experience reminded me of every happy meeting-of-the-public-history-mind that happened with there when I was in grad school. If dementors ever attack me and I need to cast a patronus charm, I think those will be the powerful happy memories that I summon.
Oh Colorado tapwater how I miss you. I wish that someone would send me a gallon of the beautiful delicious water from my faucet at home. This Indiana water just isn’t working for me at all. I drink and drink it and I just seem to get more thirsty with every sip. I’ve had far worse tasting water in the Texas Panhandle and I am grateful to live in America where
Thus the need for a Trader Joe’s and Target run tonight to buy bottled water and other provisions. We don’t have Trader Joe’s at home and I miss a lot. We had a girls trip to buy snacks for our classmates including the aforementioned fancy water and we ended up coming home with this beauty:
Chalk this day up to a loss. I did too much over our short break from SHA this weekend and didn’t rest at all, so this Monday wasn’t my most shining day. It was a two-nap kind of a day; one during the first totally free extended lunch break that we’ve had since we started and another one when we broke for dinner. I normally nap about once a month, so two in one day means I really don’t feel like myself. Also, it feels like an ice pick is stabbing my head and I had a meltdown thinking about how much I miss my dad. Praying for a better day tomorrow so I can be more sociable and engaged with our subject matter.
Today we talked about the role of the CEO and this evening we had an open discussion with a panel of four CEOs and directors of large history institutions. This forum was one of my favorite parts of SHA so far. I enjoyed hearing everyone talk about the challenges of leadership on a personal and professional level. I especially appreciated that they talked to us as current leaders in our field, giving us very sound advice and insights into all kinds of things. My favorite part of the conversation was hearing from two of the female CEO’s as they talked about what it means to be a woman in a leadership role.
Women in leadership is a topic that I think about all the time. I’ve always been a take-charge kind of gal. “Let’s start a club. I’ll be the President” was kind of my motto from the time of playing in my neighborhood to my grad school days. In my grown-up career I don’t necessarily like the minutia of supervising people (time cards and directing day-to-day tasks are not so exciting to me), but I do love getting everyone on board for a single vision and helping us all get there. From all the history clubs that I organized and ran as a student to my current role as a department head, I’ve always believed that the only limit to my ability to lead are the confines to which God has called me. I believe that talent, vision, proven performance, and skill with people and money should determine who gets a leadership role, and that gender shouldn’t have anything to do with it.
This is not always the way the world works, unfortunately. Over the course of my young career I’ve encountered a number of challenges in being young and female in this field of public history. When I was an intern in grad school I faced sexual harassment at two different institutions. One of the men who harassed me was so vulgar that I got sick to my stomach every morning for two weeks because I could hardly stand the thought of him coming over to my cubicle again that day, saying such awful things to me. [I learned this week that he got fired from his high-up role in the state government a few years ago because he was doing that to most of his female coworkers, and is now working at Walmart].
Mostly, though, the challenges that I have faced as a female leader in this field have been far more subtle and insidious. Right now I work at an institution that is theologically and historically male-domintated. Over the last several years it had loosened its policy on women in leadership to the point that a woman was just named as an associate director. The top two positions are reserved solely for men, however. I understand the theological arguments over the gender issue in a church context, and understand why the institution that I work for has adopted their leadership policy based on a conservative interpretation of this theology.
Theology aside, however, this experience at SHA is leading me to believe that working at an institution where I couldn’t possibly ever aspire to be the CEO because I was born with the wrong chromosome isn’t something that I can tolerate for much longer. As I reflect on my career path thus far and explore what God may have for me in the future, I’m feeling the pull of leadership and rising in the field. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up, but I think perhaps someday the role of CEO of a museum or historical society or the head of a university department is entirely possible. I think I need to be in a place where being a young female leader isn’t an anomaly and where women aren’t barred from the top role.
My current situation and all of the personal and professional catastrophes that have happened in the last two years had crushed my dreams and ambitions, but this experience is reawakening them. Those waking up dreams are big and bright, and shoot all the way to sky. I don’t want issues of gender discrimination barring me from achieving them.