Today was one of those days where I was busy all day long and yet I feel like I didn’t accomplish very much. I had a couple of meetings with students, another meeting with a colleague, I took care of some emails, and I submitted my sabbatical report. So in theory I accomplished a fair amount. Oh, and I prepped for one of my three classes.
Of course, I still have prep to do for the other two classes I teach tomorrow (easy prep: all texts I’ve taught before so just a matter of going over notes and throwing some stuff up on Bb), grading for one of my classes, a ton of emailing I didn’t get through today. This semester is kicking my ass.
That said, one of the things that I’ve been thinking a lot about – worrying about, in fact – is not how my ass is being kicked but rather how the asses of my junior colleagues are being kicked. Because here’s the thing: as much as I feel like I’m swamped, I’m used to it. And I’ve let go of a lot of the anxiety that goes with this gig, because at a certain point, you either do that or you never relax and you never have time for yourself and you’re just miserable. But I remember what it was like to be in my first few years on this job, and I know that’s where some of my colleagues are. Only they have it worse than I did, for a number of reasons, most of which are beyond my control. So I’ve been fretting, trying to think of what I can do to help, trying to figure out why things are the way they are, in terms of the way that my junior colleagues are being treated, and to figure out how things might change.
I suppose the thing that I see – and is this so glaring to me because I am back after the sabbatical break? – is a lack of generosity and kindness in the way that my colleagues treat one another. For those of us who’ve been around a while, well, I think that we’re just desensitized to it in a lot of ways. We’ve toughened up. We’ve gotten to a point where that lack of generosity and lack of kindness is just part of the gig, and we either ignore it or we refuse to be dumped upon or we wallow in it and perpetuate it, or whatever, and then we just go about our business. It’s not pleasant, and it’s not a supportive environment, but it’s not debilitating. Or, at least I think most of us have found a way for it not to be debilitating for us. But when a person is new – or new-ish – at this job, I think it feels very dangerous to ignore such things, or to refuse to be dumped upon, and so the order of the day is that people suffer in silence. I know I did a fair amount of that in my first few years. And I think my feeling of isolation did contribute to me going on the market a number of times in my first five years here – and to my inability to enjoy myself and to settle in.
When I’m not fretting about my junior colleagues, though, I’m also spending a lot of time feeling pretty great. The WW continues to go well if slowly (~33 lbs. as of this week), I’ve managed to prioritize my needs as a human being over the demands of the job, and I’m really pleased with how my social life has expanded (more plans with friends, dating, etc.). I mean, I’m tired, but I’m also energized, if that makes sense. I’m really enjoying teaching, and I remain excited about the research projects that I began during sabbatical, and I’m even weirdly happy to return to some of the service that I do. Well, or maybe not happy exactly. More like… well, I’m satisfied with the work that I’m doing there, and I’ve gotten some much-needed perspective on it so it’s not all so life-or-death, and at the end of the day I’m happy to have a voice in the things that I’ve taken on and not to have checked out. Being engaged is an important part of me being happy, even though that means more work.
It’s also been really good to return to the classroom, although intense and exhausting. I really like the classes that I’m teaching, and I really like the students I’m teaching. Feeling constantly behind sucks, but well, you can’t have everything.
So that’s what’s going on with me. I’m pretty chill, but I’m worrying a bit about a departmental culture that does not foster that kind of chillness. It took me nearly 8 years to get to this place of chillness, and I think that’s kind of fucked up. I don’t want to perpetuate that sort of a culture, and I don’t want to be complicit in it. But how much can I really do? Practically speaking, what is there for me to do? I’m not really sure.