Monday, January 22, 2007

Hidden Reserves

In preparation for classes and meetings on Monday, I prepped on Sunday--no big surprise. The surprise was that I worked all day on Sunday. I was up and on the computer by 9, took a break for lunch, and then was at it until 4, dinner break, and then reading until bed. What shouldn't have surprised me but did: how great it feels to be totally prepared for the day. Today I taught two classes, went to a normally-heinous-but less-painful-than-usual department meeting, and then--gasp!--went to the gym.

The real question that stems from this series of surprises: where is all of this energy coming from?

When I look back on the marathon of last semester, the dominant images are of exhaustion, resentment, frustration--all reactions to and formed through the consistent feeling of having too much to do and being late getting all of it done. In objective terms, I have just as much, if not more, to do this semester: I'm giving a paper (gulp!) at a conference in April, I'm teaching a new class for the majors in addition to a major overhaul of an old class, there are some significant projects for my ACUN that I need to get off the ground this semester, I'm overseeing 3 internships and 2 independent studies, and serving on two departmental committees and 3 institutional ones. It's just a ridiculous list. And yet somehow, I'm managing to hold it together by working steadily. Admittedly, it's the first week, and pretty soon all hell is going to break loose, I have no doubt. But I can't shake the feeling that something has qualitatively changed in my feelings toward the overwhelming nature of my job.

A week ago, as we were brainstorming ideas for a potential project, Yogini and I were getting a bit carried away by our own enthusiasm.
"You realize," she told me, "that we're just feeling this hopeful and buoyant because we haven't had a meeting yet." She was right, as she so often is. But it got me to thinking about the ways in which the major personnel changes at my institution that were implemented this fall had a significant effect on how I was able to cope with the tasks allotted to me. Both of the people who left had served as the bastions of safety and sanity from the beginning of my time here. The idea that both would leave, and that the vacuum opened up by their absences would create such havoc, was more than I could respond to with any modicum of reason and measure. In retrospect, I think I significantly underestimated how I felt abandoned by those who left, and saddled with unwanted responsibility at the same time. Note to self: I don't function well when I'm resentful. I spent a lot of time telling myself that it was okay to procrastinate like I'd never procrastinated before, handing back papers 3 weeks late, missing internal deadlines by a month, playing hooky. The consequences of these actions were minimal, but made me feel like a loser, which only compounded resentment. Exhibiting more traditional symptoms of depression would have been much more efficient, I think.

I should spend some time figuring out what exactly resolved these issues; if it was simply time, or the discovery of new ways of shaping my work life without the constant mentoring of those who have moved on to new positions. Either way, it may be the case that my newfound energy is the symptom of moving into a new place: the place where I figure out how to be without the reassurance of mentors, but also without the boundaries of their expectations.

2 Comments:

Blogger Flavia said...

Damn you, KFluff, DAMN YOU!!

It's 1 a.m. the night before my first day of the semester, and, while I won't be entirely winging it (I've got skeletal lesson plans, I've got handouts), my head isn't in the game, at all.

But this isn't about me, and if I can't be organized, at least someone else can--and I'm glad that you seem to have it so together this semester after such a crazy one last fall. Here's to some of your magic rubbing off on all of us!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007 1:04:00 AM  
Blogger kfluff said...

Oh, Flavia, no need for damning. I'm hardly going to keep up this positive attitude. Soon, I will be back to watching "Charmed" marathons instead of grading student papers...

I have no doubt that your enthusiasm is just waiting for you!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007 9:33:00 PM  

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