How do we reflect upon ourselves? ...to see ourselves as others see us... How strange to be in a position to interview others, to set them under my own microscope, to judge them, to see their lives and careers (to some degree at least) in my hands.
How do they see me? How do they think that I see them? To receive their follow up emails: eager, nervous. I remember sending one after a flawed interview. The question I fumbled was how I had dealt with a difficult situation. It wasn't really a fumble. It was me, raw, unprotected, human.
My father had just died, perhaps a couple weeks before. I answered that the toughest situation I had dealt with was watching him slowly but irremediably pass from the living to the dying. At least one among them couldn't appreciate the humanity in that.
I wrote to the committee, desperately hoping to redress my interview, recounting having taught on the day of the Columbine shootings, just a few miles down the road... and during the weeks that followed. How some of my students were shell-shocked, a couple even suicidal. That was real. They didn't call me back for a campus interview. Their loss.
And now I sit in judgement of others, the arbiter of whether they recieve an offer for employment. Will they take the offer? What do they think of me? I asked them each as much on the phone last week? What do you expect of the position? What do you expect working for me? What did they know about me?
Some of them had done their homework. Web stats can be pretty revealing. Sure, I guard my anonymity here, but there's a lot I've revealed about myself on the web, that I don't guard jealously. I've nothing to hide. I'm impressed by their diligence. I'm ... pleased that they still want to work for me, having put me to the test. But then, I'm the one with the purse-strings at the moment.
Why am I here? What special potion has allowed me to rise like cream in a churn? I think of all the smart people in the world, all the industrious, all the hard workers, all the clever and committed. I am lucky.
Lately, I've been surrounded by people who find me remarkable. I've heard a few of them use the word genius in reference to me. How funny: a couple years ago, they might have viewed me in some soft-focus stereotype of a Berkeley perpetual student. My wife thinks I'm special, that my mind works differently from most people. Sure, I'll accept that. But different is not necessarily better.
Just now I've lucked upon a way to make that difference meaningful. Only time will tell whether that translates to being useful as well. R&D suits me. But perhaps in the way that potential has long been my raiment. Will I realize that potential? Will I deliver the D to my R?
That chance I've been given. Let me not squander it.