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Archive for the ‘Elation’ Category

I don’t turn 40 for a couple of weeks.  But classes start the Monday after my birthday, so my “birthday weekend” needs to be fairly quiet.  So I decided, as one does, to get the party started a bit early.

Note: I’m not freaked out at all about the Big 4-0.  Indeed, I’m excited to be in my “early 40s” as opposed to my “late 30s.”  And nearly all of my friends are 40+ so 40 seems like a GREAT age to be!  And I don’t feel like this birthday is that big of a deal, but a lot of other people seem to think that it is.  I have a theory that part of the reason so many people (my mother, some family and friends, etc.) are putting so much emphasis on this birthday is because I’ve never had a wedding and I’ve never had a baby.  They, I think, feel like this is my Last Chance for a Big Party.  Do these people even KNOW me?  Ha!

So. I went on a journey to Grad School City (on Frequent Flier Miles!  It was FREE!) to visit with Grad School Best Friend (Dr. Medusa, for old time-y readers), Naomi (a high school best friend who got her PhD and is now on the tenure-track in the Greater Grad School City Area), and J (another friend who recently moved to the Greater Grad School City Area for her job).  The last time Naomi and J. had seen one another (the first time they saw one another) was my 30th birthday.  Nobody had ever met Medusa.  Whatever!  My friends are grand!  It would be grand!

It WAS grand!  The main celebration was Friday. Wine! Me outside of Medusa’s house texting her, “Why am I alone outside?” which really is an existential question for the ages, but mainly we were going to our ride that was there and all of my friends are slowpokes. Tapas at the most festive restaurant! A return to a Grad School Haunt, which really is the Land that Time Forgot, in that all of the people are different and yet all of the same scenarios are being played out!  Home to Medusas for drinks and dancing and fun!

And then the other days.  Thursday with Medusa drinking wine and looking at old pictures – taken on CAMERAS!  With FILM!  That you needed to have developed before you knew what the pics looked like!  Our constant refrain: “This is when we were young and beautiful.”  And singing along to a record from that time! Saturday hung over and eating Mexican food! Sunday with Naomi watching Drunk History On Demand!  Today – breakfast with Naomi and lunch with Medusa!

I did no work, and I did not think about work.  I bonded with my ladies and I appreciated the fact that I have such amazing and fabulous friends.

Up next: dates with two new suitors this week, a party for my friend S.’s birthday that I’m hosting next weekend, and then my actual birthday!

40 is FABULOUS!  Even if I’m not quite 40 yet :)

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  • It’s week 3, and I remain in love with this schedule.  Why? Because All of a sudden I am never exhausted!  And I go to bed at the same time every night!  And I am energetic in every class that I teach!  And, motherfucker, people shouldn’t be ALLOWED to teach courses back to back to back the way I’ve been doing!  Because teachers SHOULD have energy for all the courses that they teach!  They SHOULD be excited about every last one of them!
  • Now, it is true that I had planned to get back to my scholarship stuff this week, and I haven’t quite accomplished that.  But I *did* 1) do my taxes, 2) get my 6-month dental appointment out of the way, 3) take care of Major Service Obligation, 4) figure out what the fuck to do about my theory class that has already been cancelled twice because of weather, which as much as I love a class cancellation, this is the one class I wish would never be cancelled, particularly at the beginning of the semester, 5) do an MLA abstract, which was a revision but a substantial one, for a panel that’s being resubmitted this year, so kinda that’s scholarship?

But so I’m loving my schedule and I’m feeling very good about this semester, in spite of starting at a deficit because of the MLA and then because of the Miami trip.  And I know more of my students’ names now than I’ve known at this point in the semester for like the past five years, and I am excited about my students in a way that I’ve not been excited about them in ages.  To be fair, it might be true that I have an exceptional bunch of students this semester.  But I also think I am seeing their exceptionalness precisely because I’m not motherfucking exhausted because of my schedule.

What’s also kind of nice about the 5-day schedule is that I am no longer the person who can’t meet on a certain day.  Indeed, I can meet on every day, within time constraints.  And that is a much easier role to inhabit (it’s hard protecting full days, as opposed to protecting time within days) than the role of being the dick who refuses to come in on a particular day.

So, I have energy, and I don’t have to spend energy on “protecting” myself so much.  This is all good.

I’m pissy about a variety of things right now, but the other benefit of consistent sleep time and feeling so energized by teaching is that as pissy as I am, I’m not letting the pissiness rule my life.

So that’s the news for the moment.  I think I’m going to go watch some television, because, you know, I’m all caught up with everything, AND I CAN.

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A Vacation from My “Vacation”

Winter Break isn’t much of a “vacation” for most academics, and it’s even less of one for those of us who attend/present at/conduct interviews/etc. the major meetings of our disciplines during the winter break.  Indeed, My December/January has been exceptionally busy, between turning in final grades, traveling to visit family, getting sick, working on research and writing, attending the MLA, and starting my Spring semester.

This year, however, unlike… EVER… I treated myself with a little get-away, an actual vacation, over the MLK long weekend – in Miami to celebrate Naomi’s 40th birthday!  (Naomi, for those of you who don’t recall me talking about her, has been one of my best friends since I was 14, and she, too, is now a tenure-track college professor – though in the social sciences.)  Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I took a trip that was a full-on vacation.  Maybe 2011?  And that was visiting friends, so kind of doesn’t count, even if it was Napa Valley.  This weekend was AWESOME and RELAXING.  The highlights:

  • I arrived and immediately had a lovely massage!
  • Lunch with cocktails!
  • Shopping!
  • More cocktails!
  • Amazing dinner at a Moroccan restaurant!
  • Breakfast!
  • The beach!  With cocktails (some of which are seen pictured below, and also: I love a Pina Colada) and french fries!
  • Free champagne and birthday cake!
  • Dinner (which was sort of lame, but everything can’t be amazing)
  • More cocktails!
  • Brunch!
  • The Pool!
  • An AMAZING dinner at this restaurant!  (Seriously: one of the best meals I’ve had not only in recent memory but ever.)
  • A final cocktail!

Also, Naomi and I think we should do a creative project this semester in which we make a mock grad school application packet for James Brown that we can distribute to students applying to graduate and professional programs to use as a model.  Because FUN (and also useful).  And, needless to say, it was amazing to see my friend (and to meet and hang out with her other BFF who joined us!) and to really and truly RELAX for the first time since… honestly?  Like, March. AND, while I did get a tiny bit of sun, I totally wore sunblock 50 so I am not fried like a lobster, because apparently I have gained wisdom with age.

So I leave you with a photograph of Naomi’s and my drinks on the beach.  I shall be looking at this photograph regularly to remember that life is not all cold temperatures and work, especially as it snows tonight and the next polar vortex moves in this week.

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So I know I’ve been falling down on the blogging.  Frankly, things have just been so nutso in real life since the end of last semester that I haven’t had the time or the energy or the writing mojo to post.  Indeed, in meeting up with some bloggy peeps at the MLA Convention, I even said that I wondered whether I was even feeling like blogging at all anymore.  But never fear!  I’m not hanging up my blogging hat just yet.  I do think, however, I might be transitioning into a new phase of some sort.  No, I’m not sure what that will mean, but I do think that maybe I’ve outgrown what the blog has been since my sabbatical in 2010.  (It might be true that every 4 or 5 years I feel like I need to adjust the blog.  My 10-year blogiversary is coming up in July, and since blog years are like dog years, it maybe makes sense that I can’t just keep going without changing it up periodically.)

But so it’s 2014!  And I couldn’t be more pleased!  I’m ready for the fresh start that the new year brings.  I’ve made my resolutions – recommit to fitness goals, have fun with dating, finish my book manuscript, accumulate new experiences and have adventures, and knit beautiful things for the people I love – and I’m feeling very positive.

And in spite of a somewhat chaotic start to January what with a broken pipe which left me without water and which got in the way of me writing my MLA paper before I actually went to the conference, things are going very well.

First of all, I had a great MLA.  It was awesome to hang with BES, who attended the MLA for the first time, and to see it freshly through her eyes.  It was awesome to meet up for coffee with another former student who is now in her first year of an MA program in the Chicago area. It was awesome because I saw some of my favorite people from my grad school cohort, and everybody is doing so well! One friend is a publishing machine and he and his partner have ended up with tenured jobs at the same excellent public R1 (in different departments).  Another friend is up for tenure at an amazing public R1, and he’s got his second book contract.  Another friend, while still seeking the elusive tenure-track gig, has managed to carve out contingent positions that aren’t terribly exploitative and he’s got a toddler and a new baby and personally he seems to be happy in his life. I saw old friends from various conferences over the ages, and I realized that I’m at the point where I actually have “old friends” (like, people I’ve known for 10+years) who are also colleagues – and we are all active and engaged in the profession in various ways, and that is grand.  I didn’t get more than 5 hours of sleep any night, and I was losing my voice by Friday because of all of the talking, and it was superb and also made me realize that perhaps I’m going to need to stop hitting the MLA quite so hard, because DAMN.  And my paper went well and was well attended in spite of the fact that it was late in the conference and many, many people had already headed off to the airport.  It was a professionally and personally energizing weekend, in spite of the delay on my flight home and in spite of the fact that I had to teach the very next morning.  (Though I will note: with these motherfucking dates, I will in the future plan to have somebody fill in for me and pass out my syllabi for me on the first day of classes if I go to the MLA – especially if the location is not in the Eastern time zone and I have to or want to stay until the bitter end.  It is totally unreasonable to try to turn around from the convention and teach immediately.  As much as the old dates sucked, they didn’t conflict with my ability to teach effectively.  These new dates actually get in the way of me doing my job well.)

But even with my frustration over the MLA happening the 4 days before my semester starts, I’m really excited for the Spring semester, in which I’m teaching courses about which I’m really excited and in which I have students who seem enthusiastic (at this early juncture – for I don’t know most of them, though the ones I do know are universally delightful and hard-working and smart, especially in the critical theory course, which is crucial since I need some delightful, hard-working, and smart students to set the tone in there).

And what makes this even better is this: I am so fucking happy with my schedule for this semester!  I know, it’s only two days in.  Let’s see how I feel around week 4 of the semester.  But seriously: I really think that this is a GREAT SCHEDULE.

You might be shocked to hear that my “great schedule” has me on campus 5 days a week.  So let me tell you the story of how I ended up with this schedule, and how I ended up overjoyed at finally getting the Scheduling Gods to agree to it.

So when I started with my tenure-track job, lo, those many years ago, my schedule tended to be 5 days a week.  I would teach two classes (usually comp) on M/W/F and then two classes (usually lit) on T/R.  This meant that I was done teaching on M/W/F by 1, and done on T/R by 3 (if not earlier).  Now, because I was new-ish, I didn’t have the service burden that emerged later, but it’s also true that it was with this schedule that I revised my dissertation into a book and managed to get my book contract and to revise my book manuscript for publication, all the while developing the 672 courses that I’ve taught in my time here, and all while teaching a 4/4 load.  Going to teach every day actually made me MORE productive, not less, in terms of research.

Things with my schedule changed (by my own request) right around the time that I was going up for tenure, for a couple of reasons that seemed great at the time.  The first issue that as my service load ramped up, I felt like the 5-day schedule would keep me on campus in ways that would obstruct any research agenda I might have, and which would make my workload “unfair” in comparison with the workloads of other people in my department.  (Regarding the “unfair” thing: one of my mom’s favorite aphorisms is “don’t measure with a yardstick,” by which she means, don’t make decisions for yourself or evaluate yourself according to what other people do.  This is really good advice, but it can be hard advice to take in a context in which it seems like you’re getting “the short end of the stick” and doing more work than other people.  It seemed to me at the time that changing my schedule would put me on more equal footing with colleagues who weren’t obligated to be on campus as much as I was, but I now realize that changing to a 2 or 3 day a week schedule didn’t actually make my workload “equal” to theirs.)  The second thing that made me change my schedule is that when we got our grad program, teaching in it required night teaching.  Since I teach every other year in the grad program, it seemed “sensible” to move to a schedule that left me two free days in a week, during which I could work on scholarship.

EXCEPT.  What I hadn’t really thought through was the exhaustion that would result from teaching three courses in one day on both Tuesday and Thursday.  Nor did I realize that after teaching a night course, from which I wouldn’t get home until 9:30 or 10 at night, I would be so keyed up that I wouldn’t be able to relax and get to bed at a reasonable time.  Nor did I account for the fact that I’d get home at 9:30 or 10 at night and then need to be back on campus no later than 9 AM, and what that would be like.  And finally, I didn’t account for the fact that since my Tuesdays and Thursdays were so jam packed with classroom time that I would always need to be on campus 4-5 days a week anyway, in order for there to be time for meetings, both for committee-work and to meet with students, and that teaching work (prep and grading) would necessarily bleed over into my non-teaching days.

So what I discovered was that on my non-teaching days either I was too tired to do active research, or I was busy with meetings so couldn’t keep a consistent schedule for research.  And further, I realized that I was actually on campus for more total time than I was on campus when I was there every single day, thus nullifying my whole “I’m going to make my workload equal to the workload of shirkers and slackers” theory.

So for some time now, I’ve been longing for the “good old days” in which I had a 5-day schedule.  And now, I have finally returned to it!

Again, I know it’s only been two days, two days in which I’ve basically distributed syllabi.  And I may retract all of this in just a few weeks’ time.  But I already notice positive differences:

1) In spite of starting the semester with a work deficit because of the MLA Convention, I am, pretty much, on track after two days of work – and by “two days” I mean about 5 hours of work outside of class time over that two days, but 5 hours in which I was energized and not totally exhausted.  And I did productive work both on my courses and on my Major Service Responsibility.  AND I’ve had time to chat with colleagues, too, and to be pleasant and responsive, which I feel like hasn’t happened in this way since before tenure, frankly.

2) Also, in spite of starting the semester with a TOTAL sleep deficit, and also possibly still hung over (because DUDE, the MLA over-indulgence), I felt GOOD at the end of teaching today.  Hell, I feel good now.  Getting a full eight hours of relaxed and solid sleep makes so much fucking difference I can’t even describe it.  Both in terms of the energy that I bring to the classroom and in terms of my own feeling of well-being.

3) I’m finding it easier to remember new student names.  I’d thought my problems with that over the past 5 or so years were about just having been teaching for so long.  But now I’m thinking it was maybe that I was seeing too many different students in one day over the past five years.

4) I didn’t wake up, either yesterday or today, with the thought, “I wish I didn’t have to teach.”  Seriously, I’ve woken up with that thought almost every single day – even at this early juncture in a semester – since I moved away from the 5-day schedule.

Look, I’m not saying that this schedule is for everybody.  I know it isn’t.  But with a 4/4 load, with 4 different preps in a semester, maybe it’s better to spread the teaching time out.  Also, maybe this works for me precisely because I’m extroverted, and this means that I actually am less productive if I don’t get out in the world with people in bursts each day.  (My theory on why this might be better for me is that interacting with SO MANY PEOPLE in two days and then seeing very few or no people the other five days throws me out of whack, making the people exhausting even for extroverted me.  Whereas, interacting with 50 people every single day, consistently, actually keeps my energy up.  I dunno.)  But I will say this: I’m thinking I may stick with the 5-day schedule even when I next teach in the grad program, just making sure that on the following day I don’t teach until afternoon.  We’ll see.

Here’s the thing: I think that I went to teaching fewer days a week in part because that is a model that “works” for research at a research university, and it fit with advice I’d gotten from mentors in grad school.  But while teaching a lighter teaching load only two or three days a week might make some sense, teaching a 4/4 load on only two or three days a week, at least for me, does not.

What I need is consistency and to feel like I can structure my available time in ways that really work for all of the parts of my job.  It’s easy to let teaching overtake everything, and then, once teaching has filled up as much time as possible, to let service take whatever tiny bit is left.  But research matters to me, and spreading my teaching schedule out makes me feel like I am allowed to set aside time for research, too, at least right now.

So for the time being, I’m feeling very positive about this change.  And I’m excited to see whether I can produce some concrete results with it.

(And it doesn’t hurt that everybody thinks I am some sort of saint for having this schedule.  Especially when I’m less exhausted than I was when people were busy envying my old shitty schedule.  It’s nice to be congratulated for doing what ultimately makes me a much happier person, as opposed to being treated like crap for doing what makes me feel like crap.)

Oh, and you likely won’t hear from me again until next week because I am going away for the weekend to celebrate my high school friend Naomi’s 40th birthday in a locale with beaches and sun (although the weather looks like it will be kinda lame for beach-related activities).

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So this past weekend I traveled to Virginia to celebrate HS BFF’s upcoming wedding.  First of all, seeing her was just what the doctor ordered to end my Crappy July on a high note.  There is something about a friend who knew you when you were 14 to put your whole life into perspective for you, and to remind you that you are maybe not a gigantic loser.  So that was great.  Also, her “bachelorette” celebration was positively delightful (in ways that such things RARELY are), and it was so great to be with her and her other friends for that.  Also, it was great to get to spend some quality time with her husband-to-be, whom I’d only met once before.  And, even though I was there to celebrate her this weekend, she had talked it over with her husband-to-be, and they bought me big a LE CREUSET DUTCH OVEN as a present because, in HS BFF’s words, “You have had all of these amazing milestones that you should have gotten presents for – getting your PhD, and writing a book, and earning tenure, but I was broke then!”  I said to her that I never expected presents but she was all, “I am doing this for you!”  And I said, “I am letting you!”

She is truly one of the most generous and thoughtful people that I know, and she is marrying a person who is just as generous and thoughtful as she is.  I am so happy about the life that she has chosen and the life that she has in front of her.  I would think that without my Fancy Pot, but let me tell you: I love that fucking Fancy Pot!!!!!  (Also: HS BFF specifically requested credit for the Fancy Pot on the blog, so here it is!)

But better than all of that:

I AM GOING TO BE AN AUNTIE!!!!!  HS BFF is, though it’s very VERY early days, GOING TO HAVE A BABY!!!!!  (Imagine me knocking on wood and throwing salt over my shoulder and all manner of superstitious things so that all goes according to plan, because really, it’s VERY early days, and I shouldn’t be announcing that this is happening, but I feel like doing so doesn’t count because it’s the internet and we all have pseudonyms here.)

So, I was drinking for two at her bachelorette, which was perhaps not ideal but I had a grand time (and a giant headache in the morning), and I’ve been obsessively thinking about knitting projects to honor the new tiny human that she shall bring into the world!  I’m so happy!  I can’t believe my good fortune!  Auntie Crazy!  Huzzah!!!!!  (HS BFF was, like me, raised as an only child – though also like me, she does half-siblings, but that’s just not the same given our particular circumstances as having actual siblings, and I have always dreamed of being an aunt, which seems like a supremely excellent gig.)

So I went to the Yarn Store today and I purchased GORGEOUS AND WAY TOO EXPENSIVE delightful yarn (in a light green) for the fancy heirloom baby blanket that I shall knit as my first gift to that Tiny Baby, and then I shall knit all manner of hats and booties and sweaters – OH MY!  I am so excited!!!!!  And I have already announced to HS BFF and her Hubby that I shall be coming to stay for a week or two to imprint myself on that tiny baby when school gets out next spring.  And they were like, “you would do that?  you would come to help?”  And I was like, “you can’t stop me!” Hooray!

But so look, bloggy peeps: you all need to send whatever good vibes you have into the universe that everything is going to be perfect with this Tiny Baby, because I am breaking all of the rules by talking about it this early, but I couldn’t keep the news in.  (As, apparently, HS BFF could not either.  Though, really, I can’t blame her, since I did give her the perfect opportunity to tell me, when I revealed the GORGEOUS wrap that I knitted for her to wear at her wedding in two weeks, and I said, “It took as long to make this as it takes to make a baby!”  Little did I know that my silly statement would give me the best news I’ve gotten in years!!!!)

 

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I have returned from my conference, which was wonderful and enriching and inspiring and so productive. I have found the introduction to my book, as well as the path forward to completing a draft of the manuscript, I have been inspired by the work that my colleagues around the world are doing, and I am fuzzily contemplating a next book after this one is all done.  All in all, I really, really needed what this last long weekend gave me.  But it was also a weird weekend in many, many ways.

Why weird?  Well, for the first time it was clear to me that I am officially well beyond “junior.”  And that was a really bizarre feeling, but I realize that probably I have been that for a while, and yet I hadn’t realized it.  My saying this might seem disingenuous, but I promise, I’m not being falsely modest here.  Yes, I know that I’ve been an officer and president of an allied organization of the MLA, but I was pretty crappy at that, and it was a small organization.  And yes, I published a book, but it was not with a fancy press at all.  And yes, I have a good few essays published, but they are, for the most part, in non-fancy venues.  I teach a 4-4 load, and my record reflects that. Seriously: I’m nobody special.  I’m just a person who says yes to things and who tries, in what limited way she can, to contribute.

But anyway, this feeling that I’m this non-entity, this babe in the woods, stretches back a long ways. See, my whole life, I have always been on the “young” end of things.  I started kindergarten as one of the youngest kids in my class (August birthday right before the kindergarten cut-off), and progressed in P-12 accordingly, as one of the youngest ones. That meant getting a job later and driving later than other people.  And then I finished college in just 4 years, so the gap widened… by the time I graduated from college at my regional state university, I was running with a cohort that was 2-3 years older than I was (if not more – given the non-traditional student-friends I’d made).  I didn’t take any time off between undergrad and grad school, and I went straight through to the PhD, so at that point the gap widened again, and my “peers” were typically 5-8 years older than I was, if not older, and I also went to my first conference when i was just 21 years old, and I was a TOTAL baby in that context, both to the advanced graddies there and to the proffie people whom I met.  And then the gap became a giant chasm when I got my tenure-track job ABD, making the vast majority of my colleagues and people with whom I socialize a good 10 years older than I was at minimum.  (Seriously: some of my colleagues, including the person who was my official pre-tenure “mentor,” have been at my institution longer than I’ve been alive.)  In spite of the fact that we’ve done a lot of hiring in the past decade (for, in truth, I started this job a full decade ago this fall), I have just one colleague – who was only hired three years ago – who is younger than I am, and only by months.  My point here is that I basically view myself as a little sister who is doing marginally important things, if they are important at all.

Combine with this the fact that I typically see myself as sort of an invisible scholarly entity, partly by virtue of the institution at which I work (which is fine, but it certainly is a Very Directional State type place that doesn’t have much, if any, of a reputation for scholarship, and which does virtually nothing to support scholarship in the humanities) and partly because I just don’t typically think much about myself as being super important in terms of the scholarly conversation in my discipline.  Yes, I do scholarship, and I care a lot about it for my own reasons, but really, who else does?

It turns out, a fair few people care about it.  And so that was my first weird thing of this conference. I would introduce myself to a new person, and that person would be like, “Oh, you’re DR. CRAZY.”  And then they would either pause in awe (in a way that I vividly remember doing when I would meet people whom I’d cited in my own work as a graduate student – in a way that I still do when I meet people whose work is especially fancy in my brain) or, if they were less star-struck, they would start talking to me about one or the other of my publications, or, if they were VERY FANCY, they would just say they couldn’t believe they hadn’t met me yet, as they know my name, blah blah blah.

Now, I’m still pretty sure that some of this – especially the “I know your name” stuff – was politeness.  But to be fair, there was no reason why anybody needed to pretend they knew my name if they didn’t, so maybe I should be a little more impressed by that? I don’t know.  The point is, for the first time in my career, I’m apparently a Person of Note, which is super freaking weird.  The most dramatic of these moments was at the conference’s opening reception, when I was chatting with a friend who, in the context of this conference, is infinitely more important than I am.  A woman came up to us, and I didn’t know the woman.  I just assumed she was coming to talk to Important Friend (as I suppose she shall now be named).  But no!  The woman interrupted to introduce herself to me!  And she wanted to tell me that she thought that what I wrote in my book about Infamously Sexy Author (ISA) was the best thing she’d read about him, and she wanted to tell me that I must come to ITALY next summer to participate in a symposium about ISA!  And then when I figured out who this stranger was, I realized she was a person whose work I admire greatly!  And then later that night, while still hanging with IF, another person was all, “Oh, you are you!  I am so glad to meet you! I am from Italy and I have cited you!”  (Obviously I’m paraphrasing).  The point is, apparently, I am a PERSON.  What. The. Fuck.

And so this leads to the second weird thing.  I have officially reached the point where I am “old” and “mid-career” to graduate students.  This is profoundly weird to me, as I don’t think I’m far enough along to be that, though apparently I am.  Now, part of my confusion about my status has to do with the way that I interact with my own students and former students.  Yes, I kick my students’ asses, but I never see myself as very different from them, particularly once they have graduated.  And I’ve befriended a fair few of my former students, so I don’t feel too far removed from them.  But I am now officially the person at a conference who “gives advice” to the graddies, as opposed to socializing without hierarchy with them.  WHAT?

You know what’s strange? The fact that other people think I’m important when I so decidedly don’t think that I am.  What’s also weird is that I don’t see myself as an authority when the little graddies surely do.  I think that this is what it means to age in this profession, especially when you’re not some Fancy Person at some Fancy Institution.

I have a lot to say, actually, about the aging of the profession and the casualization of academic labor, and the impact of that on scholarship, particularly feminist scholarship, things I’ve thought about because of my experiences this weekend.  But now is not the time for that as I’m jet-lagged and I don’t have the energy for a big treatise on anything that isn’t totally self-absorbed.  But seriously: can I finagle Italy next summer?  Preceded (ideally) by The Netherlands, and preceded by that by Chicago?  Indeed, that’s my goal.  Even though all of that plus MLA (I was accepted for a special session), which is super expensive?  Even though I’m at a regional institution that doesn’t support research even as it expects it?  The good news is that I am done with my car payment next month, so I can save that money, but dude – who does three conferences in a month?  (I really, really want to.)

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I hate the metaphor of “spreading one’s seed” as an academic.  I think it’s gross, not only because of the whole “seed” business but also because it makes it seem like one’s students accomplishments are one’s own, and really, they aren’t.  But when my students and former students accomplish amazing things, I also feel unbelievably happy and proud to have taught them – not because I think that I am in any way “responsible” for their accomplishments or that I deserve credit, but rather because I feel so grateful that I attract the sort of students who go on to do awesome things. (In case you were wondering, from what I’ve seen, not all professors get to experience that particular joy.)

So what are my awesome students (former and current) up to?

Today:

  • Tattooed Student just got admitted to a very competitive MA program with full funding.
  • Rocking Student (who I actually saw at The Breeders show!) just got a promotion at work (she’s working in a staff position at a university).
  • BES got a named award that came with travel money for a paper that she presented at a conference in her dissertation field, plus she won an essay award from an allied organization of the MLA.
  • Law Student #1 is finishing up law school, got married, and was accepted for publication in Law Review in his second year and I believe is doing Law Review in his third year.
  • Law Student #2 is actually a current student, who was painfully shy when I first taught him a year and a half ago and has now come into his own and has been accepted with full funding to law school for next year.
  • CC Transfer has been accepted into a great MA program in Chicago to study poetry.
  • Hippie-ish Student from a while back went to that same MA program in Chicago, and is now getting his PhD at State Flagship.
  • Michael Fitzsimmons (do you get this reference?) is studying abroad in Barcelona with lots of scholarships to support him….
  • Mr. Frankenstein, who was accepted to and did his time in Teach for America in inner-city Midwestern City, is now, after teaching middle school for three years, working in that city’s education office, doing awesome shit.

And I’m sure I’m forgetting some people!  Again, their accomplishments are not my accomplishments.  But I do feel such gratitude that I know them and that I had any small part in getting them where they wanted to go!  And I feel such gratitude that I am a teacher who has the privilege to teach students with such wide-ranging abilities and ambitions.  And I feel such gratitude that I am a teacher who has students who want to keep in touch with her and tell her about their accomplishments!  I am a lucky, lucky professor.  And my students and former students are ridiculously cool.

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Like a Discopone

So, back in olden times, lo, what now seems to be just about 15 years ago, my grad school friends and I took this song as our anthem:

Medusa (longtime readers will remember her now defunct blog) misheard the lyric “I feel like I just got home” as “I feel like a discopone”, and “the discopone” was born.

So my life now is very different than my life was then, as are all of the lives of those women friends of mine who were in that circle at the time.  Except for Medusa, we’ve all left Grad School City, Medusa and I have tenure, two of the others are married with kids, and the remaining lady is now living in the upper midwest with a partner and owns a business.  I have been a  college professor for nearly 10 years, I own a home, I typically socialize by drinking some wine with friends over dinner as opposed to going out five nights a week to listen to live music (though it occurs to me that if I did that, rather than staying home to write and to read, or socializing by eating great food and drinking alcohol, I’d weigh a lot less because of the endless dancing involved in that former live music schedule), and, indeed, last night I was so wiped out by the week that I came home, had some dinner, did some knitting, took a hot bath, and fell asleep on the couch around 8:30.  I then woke up just before 10, and thought, wow, I’m exhausted: time for bed!

But tonight!  Tonight I went out with The Dude (who early in the evening made it his job to annoy the fuck out of me, to which I responded not entirely positively, but it all worked out in the end), and I saw a band I love and I danced my ass off, and honestly, I’ve not had so much fun in years.  Now, it’s true that I was ready to leave long before last call, even before the encore was complete.  I’m no spring chicken.  But, nevertheless, while I might not be a spring chicken, I am, indeed, a discopone.  Maybe not regularly, but that part of me still exists.  Seriously: tonight was fucking boss.

And, on that note, I shall now retire to bed.  And the bars aren’t even closed yet.  Because while I may still be a discopone at heart, I’m also a lady in her late 30s who needs her beauty sleep :)

 

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Best Date Ever

 

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(For those of you who’ve not been reading blogs since 1912, “RBOC” stands for “Random Bullets of Crap.”)

  • I am so excited about the research paper topics that my tiny honors freshmen are developing.  They are picking stuff that is interesting to them, and they are also totally on top of the fact that they need to have some sort of “primary source” to ground the paper, as well as secondary sources to support their claims.  This is the difference between teaching “regular” comp vs. honors: I really get to focus on the ideas and not on the mechanics of the research process.  It’s really, truly, a gift to have finally gotten myself into the rotation for honors comp (after 9 years).  And I really, really like my students in this class.  They are truly interesting, smart, and thoughtful – all of them.  This is not to say that I don’t get interesting, smart, and thoughtful students in regular comp – I surely do, but it’s usually just a handful (if that) out of 22.  In this class, I only have 14 students, and ALL of them fit this description.  They are a joy to teach.  Also: who knew that it was a “thing” amongst the late-teens to collect vinyl records?  It’s doubly retro, because I feel like that crap was retro 20 years ago when I was in high school/college.
  • Speaking of teenagers, I think I’m going to get to hang out with my little bro C. (half-brother from my dad’s second marriage, for those of you who are just tuning in) when I’m in Hometown over Christmas!  Also: he had an awesome football game last weekend and got interviewed for the local news!  And he was so eloquent and poised – not nervous at all in the video!  He is seriously the most awesome.  It’s crazy to me that every single girl in his high school isn’t clamoring to go out with him.  (He’s cute and tall, he plays football, he’s super-smart, and he’s NICE.  Sure, he seems to share my propensity for breaking up with people with whom he’s not in a relationship, which might explain some things, but DUDE!  High school girls are clearly super-dumb.)
  • In my Joyce and Woolf seminar, my students a) all showed up for library instruction, b) all did the online pre-test and paid attention and actually took notes during said library instruction, and c) so far (I still have to meet with 5 of them) have handled their (compared with what they are used to) low grades on their first papers with aplomb.  Now, partly their ability to handle the grades is probably because I’ve forced them to come to my office to talk to me to get the papers back, which I do think makes the comments sting less.
  • That said, it’s funny: I posted about the papers on Facebook yesterday while I was grading, and who came out of the woodwork to address what I posted but three of my prized students who took the same class with me 4 years ago.  The first, who’s begun his PhD at our state flagship university, just “liked” the post (he’s the only person of all my friends on FB who did); the second, in his third year of law school in a top program. wrote, “This all sounds so familiar”; and the third, who got accepted into Teach for America, completed the program, and is STILL TEACHING in an inner-city middle-school – which just goes to show that not all TFA alums abandon the schools when their time is done, wrote, “Flashback.”  First, I love that they weighed in.  Second, it’s times like these when I want to organize some sort of “Survivors of Dr. Crazy” group for my former students. As I imagine this club, its members would all be super-successful and happy, and they would consume a lot of cocktails at their meetings :)  (I’m not saying that all of my former students end up super-successful and happy: I just assume that the ones who don’t end up that way probably wouldn’t enjoy getting hammered and reminiscing with the ones who feel like they learned a lot in my classes.)
  • My students in my Gen Ed lit class ADORE Jean Rhys’s Voyage in the Dark.  1) Who knew?  2) How fucking awesome!  (By the way, if you don’t know this book, you should totally read it.  For it is awesome, if perhaps a bit depressing.)
  • I had a (first-semester freshman) student from my Gen Ed lit class, who happens also to be an English major, stop me as I was leaving the building in which our class meets to ask me about whether I thought it would be reasonable for him to try to “write something up” about Jim Morrison’s poetry through the lens of Nietzsche, you know, “just for fun,” and if I’d give him feedback about it.  This is also the student who wrote his first paper in my Gen Ed class (a really basic 2-page analysis paper assignment) about George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” parodying the style of that essay, which he did quite well, actually, and which obviously was going above and beyond what the assignment required.  It’s wrong, but I want him to take every single class ever with me.  Why?  Because if this is his starting point, I can’t even imagine where I can take him over the course of the next four years.
  • For the first time ever, my College within the university is going to award professional development money on a competitive basis to assist people who are working toward full promotion.  It’s not a lot of money as such things go, and there are only 10 awards available in this first year, and let’s note that there are like 200 associate professors, which makes this in theory exceptionally more competitive than a freaking NEH grant if everyone were to apply (which everyone won’t, but still).  Whatever the case, I wrote up my application for it today, because you can’t get the “not a lot of money as such things go” if you don’t apply, and, since even “not a lot of money as such things go” is more than nothing, it’s worth doing.  And you know what?  It’s about time the College did something to support my work and to assist me in getting fully promoted.  So anyway, I wrote it and submitted it, ahead of the deadline, and we’ll see what happens.

AND NOW THE GOOD NEWS!!!!!  (As if all of the above isn’t awesome enough.)

Unless something goes stupidly wrong, I will have an updated kitchen one week from today!!!!!  A kitchen with new cabinets and counters and an over-the-stove microwave and a dishwasher and a garbage disposal and a brand new sink that can accommodate my stock pot when I need to wash it and a new faucet!!!!   Now.  I’m doing it on the cheap, the Lebanese way, and so it’s my cousin Nino’s “guys” who rehab houses for him (for he’s been doing the whole “flipping foreclosed houses” thing of late), and so G. is accompanying them down from Hometown, and the dishwasher/faucet/sink/over-the stove microwave/disposal are driving down with them and I need to make sure that the cabinets and countertops are available upon their arrival (I’m doing totally standard stuff for that, all available at Home De$pot/Lowe$, so this is not an issue of ordering of fancy business), and I’m still going to be responsible for painting the kitchen and for doing backsplash business as a whole DIY project sort of deal, but after 2 1/2 years living in this house I will have a DISHWASHER!!!!!  And a GARBAGE DISPOSAL!!!!! In time for Thanksgiving!!!!  I’m so excited!!!!!  (You can tell how excited I am by the exclamation points.)

Life is good.

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