Entry 79: Don’t Forget the All-Important Selfie

April 6, 2018

Editor’s Note: This is the 79th installment in Van Jackson’s daily writing journal, “Nuke Your Darlings,” which tracks his six-month battle to write a new book on North Korea. Will he meet his deadline?

Well, I missed yesterday’s entry. That might’ve been the first time I missed a weekday. I also failed to write anything toward the book. I spent 10 minutes or so doing some superficial editing to my current chapter but that was it. I feel really bad having to admit to that.

I’m terrible at managing my own schedule, and, separate from jet lag, I’ve booked too many human interactions over too short of a time span. I’m an exhausted bag of bones by evening time.

There’s an art to doing academic conferences, and I think I’m still getting my footing. On the personal side, it comes down to managing your time—as in, giving yourself enough breathing space to do basic stuff like respond to emails or decompress. I thought I’d be live-tweeting a lot of this conference, but I don’t have the wherewithal; I even keep forgetting the all-important selfie with friends I reconnect with!

On the professional side, when I would attend the International Studies Association in years past, I would take it uber-seriously and my priority was attending interesting panels (other than my own). It’s the PhD candidate entering the job market who’s inevitably wearing the suit and tie. I’d also try to corner the senior celebrity scholars in my field and try to, I don’t know, absorb their brilliance or something.

My attitude now is much more casual—in dress, demeanor, and priorities. The main benefit of these events now is linking up with friends and colleagues whom I don’t get to see often. Sometimes those catchup meetings turn into research collaborations. But they come at the expense of attending interesting panels. I no longer care about the celebrity sightings, and it’s not a very efficient mechanism for self-promotion, though there is a little bit of that.

Whether I like it or not, ISA and similar events overwhelmingly amount to an extended social activity. For misanthropes like me, that’s addicting and exhausting all at once.


Van Jackson is a senior editor at War on the Rocks and an associate editor of the Texas National Security Review. He is also a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington, and the Defence & Strategy Fellow at the Centre for Strategic Studies.