Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Character Study

 There are times such as when you are asked to provide a short bio or mini-CV where you need a few moments to consider the source of the request.  By the very use of "short bio," you feel yourself limited to a paragraph of two, perhaps three sentences.  The very abbreviation of biography into "short bio" is the major clue.

Same holds for "mini CV," by which is meant a curriculum vitae, one that can of necessity go on for pages.  "You're in academia now,"  the distinguished historian, Dwight Smith, told you as you'd progressed over a few plateaus in scholarly publishing.  "You could and should add even your short book reviews to your CV.  Mention the word length."

You wanted to know if that perhaps was going too far, but Smith nudged you.  "Keeps the door open for the reader thinking you can write abstracts of scholarly journals."

Once out of scholarly publishing, you believed you were back to the more traditional resume, but as your fortunes would have it, there were increasing needs for CVs, some of them so lofty in their direction that you began once again to despair of ever being what you'd hoped to be, wanted to be, considered yourself to be.

Whether CV, resume, or short bio, you need to look at the three most significant resting places in your career, writing, editing, and teaching.  Depending on who is asking, you have a pretty good idea of what to start with, arranging the other two to appear as though they were accidental happenstance.  

There is yet another aspect of your life, from about the age of twenty-five through present times ,you would like to use, but can find no way to do so.This is the frequency with which you are mistaken for someone else.

To be sure, you have no trouble being recognized, either, a fact that often clouds your memory of the times when you were recognized as someone you were not.  You are not, and have not been for some time, the sort who blends into the background, nor do you have any reason not to enjoy being recognized.  

You are, in fact, so fond of being recognized that you've developed over the years a form of response to not being recognized.  This is all long and deliberate prologue to being told by someone who is in a position to hire you to do things related to your editorial and teaching skills, quite possibly your writing skills as well.

"You are fast on your feet, aren't you?"  this individual asked recently, not really expecting an acknowledgment because you'd just given him one.  For a promotional video to be placed on the web site of an institution that pays you to teach courses, you were sat before a live camera operated by an earnest looking man in his early fifties who seemed to you the most uncomfortable gum chewer you'd ever seen.  

You were asked to identify yourself, name the courses you taught, throw in a short bio, then tell whoever should watch this video of you something they would remember whether they took courses from you or not.

"I'll be darned," the person who set up the video taping said when you were finished.  "You gave them two things."

"Three," you said, which was true, but in another sense demonstrated the effects of your work experience on you, and which may in some significant degree explain how it is that not only do people you know recognize you, persons who do not know you are tempted to conflate you with someone they do know. 

Within recent weeks you were approached by a man who detached himself from a group to address you.  When he said "McHenry,"  you supposed he was digging out a name of a rare and venerable single malt Scotch whisky, whereupon your communication problems began in earnest.  "Laphroaig,"  you said, already enjoying the exchange.  It has been some time since your admiration and drinking of single-malt Scotch whisky, but you were beginning to remember the smoky, hint of malt taste.

"Same old McHenry,"  the man said.  "I knew it was you, the moment I saw you.  Haven't changed a bit."

"The hair,"  you said, running a hand through a thatch of finger-width gray.

"Always were a kidder."

At which point, you regard this individual and realize he is so convinced that you are who he thinks you to be that you now have the opportunity to add yet another occupation to your CV, impostor.  You also know he will be embarrassed if you insist you are the you better known to you.  "Still see any of the old gang?" you ask.  "Miss those guys."

"Wait,"  he says.  "Wait till I tell them.  Same old McHenry."

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