I am a pessimist, unless I try very hard. Mostly I assume that my pessimism is just realism but every now and then I am reminded, usually by frustrated loved ones, that I am not in the habit of seeing the good side of things. Recently I was reminded of this by my spontaneous reaction to a post of Dr Virago’s at Quod She that ended with the question, “So what were your most gratifying moments of 2009?” To which, before I even thought about it, my reaction was “huh, well there weren’t any really were there?” Which can’t be true, not even semantically. So I thought it was probably worth a struggle to recall them.
An obvious one: receiving the book contract in the post. Not signing it, so much, just having it, and therefore the option to sign, or not if I didn’t want, was a source of gratification for some time, and probably delayed my actual signing and sending it back. It was of course hard immediately to recall that because it’s been about four months since I heard anything about the book and I now don’t think it can come out by Leeds, but nonetheless, that moment was there.
Being asked to teach at Queen Mary, after a while of teaching drought, was also a good one. Subsequently I found out that I’d been recommended to them at third hand (and I still owe people beers for that, sorry) but being able to ask what the course was and then say, “yes, I can do that” was a shot in the arm; apparently I could be a paid medievalist after all!
Similarly, being asked, able and willing to participate in the conference for Rosamond McKitterick, a chance to say thanks for a great many favours and to remind my peers (and indeed supervisor) I was still scholarly active. I enjoyed the whole thing and the idea that it was probably helping me and that it meant a sort of recognition was part of that.
Being in a department had the access from the minute they were released to the publicity documents about the Staffordshire Hoard was pretty cool, reminding me that though my current post is not front-line academia it is still connected to it and by a fairly live wire. (We didn’t have any access that the public didn’t have, but once the news was officially out many people made sure we had it straight away.)
Of course, teaching, though I didn’t enjoy it very much this year it must be said, paid back a bit during essay tutorials and seeing close-up who has really clicked with the stuff, and also people coming good against the odds; this is always heartening, though I am used to getting more of it than I have this semester just gone. Working on that. But the enthusiasm of the interested, or the moment of revelation when you give them the detail that makes it all click into place, that’s still good and I hope always will be. Had a few of those.
And also, I’ve met some good people this year and been to some good places, caught up with almost all my old contacts and drunk many a drink with the learned and never had cause not to feel like one of them. It’s just that I was hoping at least to publish something in 2009, any of the four papers I’d made final revisions on in 2008 for example, the book, anything (though there was of course this booklet, which still doesn’t really feel like me). I was hoping to be able to stop promising future achievements to my referees and report some present ones. I was hoping to get to Catalonia again and sort some stuff out, but I only managed the former. I was hoping one of the projects I was on at work would produce something people could see inside the year, but they haven’t. And I was probably hoping somewhere to get one of the jobs I’d applied for, and that hasn’t (yet) worked either. My pessimism, you see, works on this basis: if it doesn’t lead anywhere, it wasn’t really that great. I need to work on that: some of this stuff was fairly great in and of itself.