sometime in the middle of graduate school someone told me that i should attend my discipline's professional conference every year to present my research. i don't know why i listened to that person except that maybe i just wanted to go to new orleans, which is where it was held that particular year.
that year i remember that i arrived in new orleans just a few hours before i was supposed to present my paper. i checked into a nice hotel (i could afford it because i was sharing a room with three other people) and ran, in the rain, to the conference hotel. i had been anxiety-ridden about my paper, thinking that it wasn't "theoretical" enough for the high brow anthro crowd. when i arrived at the room where my panel would be presenting, however, i realized that i had nothing to worry about. only about seven people had shown up to see the panel; most of them were friends.
i spent the next day watching panels i found pretty predictable and a little bit boring. the following day, a friend and i decided to play hooky and go sightseeing in new orleans. we walked around the french quarter, poked around the shops, ate beignets at cafe du mond, and we went salsa dancing at the end of the night. i was thrilled to bump into ruth behar on the dance floor (she is quite a dancer, by the way). i wondered if someday a grad student would be thrilled to run into me on a dance floor at the anthropology conference.
since that first experience, the anthropology conference has come to mean different things to me. it has meant presenting my research and hearing others present theirs. for a couple of stressful years, it also meant enduring the university job interviews.
this year was different. i felt compelled to go so that i could "network" and maybe get some good advice about how to spend my next few years as a junior professor. i'm not that great at networking, but i did talk to some people who did give me some helpful advice. actually the advice was all the same--"write!" and then one of my friends peer pressured me into talking to some university press editors about my non-existent book manuscript (thanks, ronda!). i admit that i felt a little overwhelmed by the weekend, which is probably why i said yes to a night of mojitos and dancing the last evening of the conference.
now, back in california, i am winding down the quarter and preparing for the holidays. i am processing all of the advice, but tucking away my big academic ambitions for the new year.