Archive for the ‘Taking care of business’ Category

The beginning of the summer break is always a tough transition for me.  This is not a complaint – just a fact.  Moving from 9 months of meetings and classes and students and deadlines and committees and blah blah blah into lots of unstructured time requires a lot of focus and a huge change in priorities and perspective.  This is probably true for most academics with the privilege of a tenure-track job, though I suspect the shift is a bit bigger for those of us who teach at institutions with heavier teaching loads.  (Note: I know that contingent faculty would kill for this “challenge,” and thus, let me reiterate: I’m not complaining or talking about how hard it is to have a summer without teaching.  I’m very lucky.  I get it.)  But so usually at this time of year I end up making a lot of Big Plans, and then I get all Overwhelmed, and then I freak out a little bit THAT SUMMER IS OVER BEFORE IT HAS BEGUN, and then I settle in and get some good stuff done.

This year, however, my usual “process” for “easing” into the summer has been compromised.  How?  God, where even to begin?

  1. People keep coming to me for Insights, Support, and Advice.  Now, this is happening because I Know Many Things.  And it is my natural tendency to want to offer Insights, Support, and Advice, for, as a Leo (ha!  I’m only half-kidding), I really do believe that I am the absolute best person to ask for these things.  (This is a personal weakness of mine. It relates to my susceptibility to flattery.)  So in the past couple of weeks I have received a barrage of emails and had at least three lunches that are All about the Things in the Department, which is really a distraction from list-making and freaking out.  Yes, I know that I shouldn’t allow this to happen to myself.  Yes, my mother has told me for at least 20 years that I need to stop my impulse to play “Dear Abby” to people.
  2. It has become apparent that I must apply for promotion to full professor in the fall, even though I am in no way certain of actually getting it.  However, it hurts me not at all to apply, while the effect of me going up alongside others who will be applying will potentially have a positive effect, whether I get recommended for promotion or not.  So.  (Note: I am insecure about my application for reasons that have little to do with my CV.  The tiny bit of myself that is insecure because of my CV is basically because of how I was “mentored” by senior professors in my department, even though my research is in fact stronger than any of theirs was when they applied for promotion to full.)
  3. Department administrators have initiated a policy change, via email, as of 5 PM Wednesday.  The chair had scheduled a personal day Thursday, which effectively closed off the possibility for any sort of open discussion.  The policy change itself is not something I actually have a huge problem with.  But do I have a huge problem with the way in which this was handled?  Yes I do.  And do I have a huge problem with the fact that when they finally did offer some (inadequate response to questions today that it was made very clear that they were not going to be available for any other communication again until Tuesday?  Yes I do.  And do I have a problem with the fact that this policy change, while obviously (to me) necessary in the short term, is basically a band-aid over a giant gaping wound, and it does not address the source causes of the problem, nor have they appeared to have thought about the sources of the problem?  Yes, I motherfucking do.
  4. Further, and this relates to both 1. and 3. above, I appear to be the person who is going to explain all of this shit to my colleagues, even though a) I had no role in the decision and b) I actually have no authority to answer anybody’s questions.  So why do I bother to do this totally uncompensated work?  Basically, I’m trying to calm people down so that they don’t do something that totally makes us all look like lunatics to our (new) provost and incoming (in July) new dean.  I really don’t want to be part of the Crazy Department.  This shit reflects badly on me, too, yo.  (I am sorry to say, I have not been wholly successful in this effort, though I do think I have stopped some lunacy from getting out into the world.)

So that’s the overview.  These are the four thematic areas of my problems, but I’m sure if I were to list off all of the details, they would amount to 99.  But to quote Jay-Z, because clearly, we should all quote Jay-Z, “I got 99 problems, bein’ a bitch ain’t one.”

The good news is, I am on track to getting my book manuscript revised, polished, and out and under review by September, I’m going to Italy to present on something that might become the foundation of my THIRD book project in LESS THAN A MONTH, and I found out yesterday that a special session panel on which I will be a presenter at MLA 2015 in Vancouver has been accepted.  Oh, and I have finally been sucked into Twitter fully, and I am excited about my potential to use it for offering resources for the courses that I teach. (So no, it’s not Dr. Crazy twitter – it’s Real Life Professional Me Twitter.)

I do believe that is all for the moment.


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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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I am so freaking stressed that I have reached that stage where I’m too paralyzed to do any of the thousand things that are on my range of to-do lists.  How is it possible that I am so busy this fall?  In theory I should not be this busy, and yet somehow, here I am.

So, in the next 3 hours, I need to:

1.  Grade papers.

2. Prep for meeting I’m running tomorrow.

3. Get myself ready to go to campus.

Then, I’ll have 3 hours at school to grade more things, announcements to post on Bb to my classes, emails to respond to, and just basic organizational things.  And then I need to prep for my seminar, and then go teach it.

All of the above is manageable.  I can do all of those things.  I wish I could go back to bed.

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So I’ve been wicked busy, both personally and professionally, which accounts for my radio silence.  Inasmuch as it’s true that I would characterize myself as an extravert, even we people who get energy from other people reach a certain maximum after which we need to crawl into a cave and recharge.  This weekend was meant to be about that hermit-like recharging for me, and for the most part, it did work out that way.

Professional busy-ness is about what you’d expect for this time of the semester.  Meeting with students, responding carefully to student assignments, advising students, colleague-related interactions, meetings, and so forth.  I’m fairly caught up, or at least not drowning, so things are going ok.  But I need for the next couple of weeks to go quickly before I’ll truly be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, semester-wise.

Personal busy-ness in the past week to ten days has been… verging on the bizarre.  Where do I even begin?  Well, I guess I’ll say first that in terms of friend stuff everything is normal and fun and good, and all is well with my many, many friends, and that last weekend I’d gone away with my aunt and mom, so things are great on the family front, too.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, however, that when one’s general social life is in such good shape, when one is feeling content and fairly happy with what’s going on personally with family and friends, that GUYS swarm around one to throw everything into a nutso tailspin.  It’s like they get some sort of alert on their phones or something, “Hey, everything’s grand with Dr. Crazy, and she’s really busy but holding steady, so perhaps it’s time for you to make a dramatic appearance!”

To be fair, not all of the appearances have been that dramatic, but still.

Suffice it to say:

  • I heard from High School Crush, with whom I had one horrible pseudo-date in like 2010, and with whom I’ve not talked in a couple of years, though we do play Words with Friends, from totally out of the blue via a Facebook message. (I responded, and he didn’t reply, for he is a weirdo.)
  • First Love has been leaving phone messages worried that I’m “mad” at him (which, I have no reason to be mad at him!  I’m just busy!).
  • Fake Boyfriend has been calling me all the time, rocking it out like it’s 2007 when we actually were in a fake relationship.  (As I said to Medusa, it’s like when one door closes, another one opens, and what lies behind it is an ex who, phoenix-like, rises out of the ash of what you had believed was a totally dead relationship.)
  • A guy I went out with in August and then blew off with the start of the academic year reappeared, and while it was fine, it did remind me of why I blew him off.

And then, The Dude.

Because apparently all of the above needed some sort of Crescendo of Craziness.  Now, The Dude and I have been in contact over the three or four months that we’ve been broken up, but we’ve only hung out once, and he’s kind of been being a douche-nozzle for the past 6 weeks or so.  I’d kind of figured that he was seeing somebody else, but since he didn’t TELL me that, I was actually feeling hurt and like he didn’t want to be my friend.  Also I was feeling crazy for spending excessive analytical time thinking about whether he was seeing somebody, especially since I’ve gone on dates and fraternized with guys who aren’t him, so why did I care?

Well.  So the short version is as follows: He called me up last night, we talked for a couple of hours, he had been seeing somebody but thought it would “hurt” me to tell me, but now he wanted to tell me since it was over, and I was all, “you didn’t care about hurting me!  You just didn’t want to deal with how I’d react!  And I knew anyway, but you not being honest made me feel like crap, so you were hurting me anyway!” and then I stopped that line of conversation because honestly I don’t care that he went out with somebody else as he was totally within his rights to do so and I really don’t want to know any more about that than I now know, though I did lecture him about the particular category of lying that is the “Lie of Omission” about which he seemingly had never heard, being raised by wolves or something.

But so anyway, that was like only 10 minutes of the conversation, which when I stopped that topic, then took a VERY SHARP LEFT TURN in which 1) he asserted his continuous in-love feelings for me, which involve having dreams about me as well as thinking about me constantly, whether we talk or not, like every single day, which has apparently been a hardship for him, and 2) I said maybe it would be easier for him if we just stopped talking altogether, and 3) he replied that no, what really should happen is that we should be together for the rest of our lives, because he realizes all the things he did wrong and I am his One True Love and blah blah blah things about my perfectness for him and that he can’t live without me, whatever.  I was so caught off guard by all of the Passionate Emotions and Intimacy that I actually responded to his declarations as if they weren’t Totally. Fucking. Crazy.  Like, I entertained what he was suggesting.  We then got off the phone and I went to bed.

I then jolted awake at 6:30 AM in full-on panic mode, and I sent him a series of texts (they were numbered) in which the gist was, “we need a two-month trial period to figure our shit out if we are going to do this, and we don’t even know if we really want to be together because we haven’t even hung out, and I don’t trust you and I’m scared to death of trying with you again and you pulling the same commitmentphobic bullshit.”  Only (slightly) nicer than that.  Then, having articulated my panic feelings, I felt soothed, and I went back to sleep.  We talked this morning, and it was fine, and he said he’s going to get together with me this week (interesting, in that when we were going out he refused to come over during the week).

Here’s the thing.  We are in love.  Still.  Perhaps more now than we were 3 months ago.  That is true.  And yes, it is like a crazy once-in-a-lifetime sort of a deal.

I’m just not so sure that this matters, or matters enough.  And I’m not willing to just pick up where we left off (and, to be fair, nor is he, actually, which is the ONE reason I’m actually entertaining giving this a shot).  And I’m very suspicious about whether this is happening now 1) just because I really was feeling like I’d “moved on” and had given up hope and 2) because we’re coming up on what would have been the year-mark of our relationship, so maybe there is just some sort of calendar-mojo monkeying with our senses?

It’s exceptionally strange thinking about starting a relationship with a person with whom you’ve already been in a relationship.  I mean, I know it happens.  Hell, I have two different aunts – one on my dad’s side and one on my mom’s – who got divorced and then REMARRIED their ex-husbands.  But what’s strange about it is that I know exactly what’s wrong with him.  I’m not all hopped up on the anticipation and excitement and the feelings of newness.  I know what I’d be getting myself into.  That changes the dynamic considerably.  And, frankly, both of us have all our cards on the table now, in a way that you just don’t when you first get involved with somebody.  Breaking up puts the “warts and all” out front and center.  In other words, I don’t know if I actually want to be with him.  I might not.  I certainly don’t want to be with him if he’s not all in.  And I can’t be with him if I’m not all in, and I don’t know if I can be or want to be.  And, honestly, I don’t really know that he wants to be with the me that I am “warts and all,” though he claims having seen this side of me is what makes him confident that we could work.  Whatever.  In the words of Hamlet, “words, words, words.”

So, we’ll see what happens.  Regardless of all of his Declarations, what really matters is what he does.  And regardless of my declarations (for I did make some), what matters is what I do.

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My labor has primarily consisted of the periodic guilt feelings that result from procrastination.

Guilt is hard fucking work, and, as far as I can tell, it is the work of the college professor (which might explain why so many Jews and Catholics are in the academy, and people with Puritan lineage, too).

In other news, it’s hard to dislike a dude (The Dude) who will drive 40 minutes to spend 10 minutes helping you move your old sofa from the house to the tree lawn on the last day of his three-day-weekend away from the job he hates and when he actually has other fun plans going on, either for the Garbage Men tomorrow, or for scavengers the day before (Yay scavengers! Good job!).

[Note: I’d have donated the sofa, but I have some experience with Salvation Army and St. Vincent DePaul, and the sofa had some stains and a rip, and they’d have come, looked at it, and refused it.  But I still needed to get it out of my house prior to the new sectional arriving, for unlike with appliances, the delivery dudes don’t take the old stuff away.  But so I’m glad somebody spirited it away as useful to them, because it was, indeed, a decent sofa.  Also worth noting that while I could have asked other more convenient people to help me, when I asked the dude I promised him dinner in exchange, and I asked him in the first place because, well, you have “friends” but you don’t ask “friends” for shit like this, and I helped him carry his old couch out to the tree lawn in the spring…. I didn’t design this to be him driving 40 minutes and then moving a sofa and then driving 40 minutes back – that was his design.]

Was that 10 minutes with the dude also a labor of sorts?  Surely.  He interrogated me about my date (to which I responded, “Dude, I am not talking to you about this: it is none of your business) and then when we said goodbye he declared his love.  (A declaration that cost him nothing, but again, this is a guy who drove 40 minutes to move furniture for me for no reward, so indeed, he does love me, even if he’s impossible, and incapable of committing to an adult relationship, which makes his gestures and feelings less than meaningless, in practical terms.)

So my final labor of the labor day weekend is just that I need to get all my work done – get grant applications done, and prep for teaching and stuff related to research – WORK SHALL BE DONE!!!!

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  • Monday I was in a “Teaching Conference” thing with colleagues from across the institution from 7:30 AM until like 5 PM.  All in all, that was a great day, as I like institution-wide events.  I presented on a panel with colleagues from Computer Science and Biology, and that was especially cool, and I got to reconnect with my across-campus friends whom I’ve not seen in ages.  Still, even though the day ended with delightful wine and cheese, that was a long freaking day.
  • Tuesday I was at our department “retreat” (which is a terrible name for a meeting that lasts for FIVE FULL HOURS), and honestly it was one of the best retreats I’ve attended in my 10 years here.  A new chair who runs a meeting well?  REALLY HELPS.  Even when the meeting is five hours long.
  • One of the things that happened at the retreat was that I led an activity about curriculum mapping and assessment, and it was a roaring success!  I know – putting “curriculum mapping and assessment” together with the words “roaring success” sounds totally crazy, right?  But really, it was painless, useful, productive, and puts us on a path toward getting our assessment plan for the major in in time for re-accreditation in 2015.  I am a master of getting things done!  So now the work that we did at the retreat will go back to the department assessment committee, we synthesize the input of the whole department, and then we will bring a proposal to the department for a vote.  Easy peasy!
  • The secret to my abilities with really getting work done on assessment includes the following: 1) The activity that I designed was really focused, as are the activities I design for my students; putting the work in up front, yes, is work, but it is so much more practical than endless brainstorming! 2) I’ve devised a way for us to do the assessment of our major focusing on just a handful of courses as assessment points (which is, really, how program-level assessment should work according to the experts), which means that the most anti-assessment people in the department won’t have to think about assessment at all or at least very rarely, so I’ve basically neutralized the haters in advance; 3) I actually know our entire curriculum inside and out, as well as knowing curriculum across the university, which has not been the case with previous people put in charge of assessment.  (It seems like a no-brainer to me that assessment and curriculum go hand in hand, but it took me YEARS for those in charge to recognize that my expertise with the curriculum might actually help to get an assessment plan in place.  Um, duh.)
  • I went home last night and took a nap.  Then I had some dinner, and read for a bit.  And then I slept for 11 hours.  Because apparently the reentry into COLLEAGUES and THE SEMESTER leads to chronic fatigue.
  • I woke up this morning, and I immediately went in to the office to finalize my syllabi and to send them to printing services.  (Yes, I still hand out hard copies of my syllabus with the course schedule for my courses.  I tried just putting them up on our course management software once, and it was not effective.  It is true that I put the “course policies” up only electronically for literature and theory courses, so I am not killing quite as many trees, but I think it’s worth it to hand them something on the first day.  YMMV.)  This took about 5 hours.
  • Looking ahead to the new semester: 2 of my 4 preps are pretty much identical to the last time I taught them, so that’s good; my intro the major course includes one new assignment (stolen from CF) which I think is much more effective than the “reading journal” that had been in its place, and I’m teaching a different novel, but I’ve taught it before in another context, so that should be fine; the fourth prep… well, I’ve perhaps made more changes to it than are wise (though I did not stupidly assign myself a ton of texts I’ve never taught before like I did last semester) including changing pretty much every writing assignment in the course and teaching one novel I’ve never taught (though it’s pornographic, so does that really count?)  At any rate, I’m excited about the teaching, though a little fearful that I’ve done as much revamping of the fourth course as I’ve done.
  • You know why the re-entry into the semester is so hard for me?  It’s because I go from being a slacker to being a total and utter workaholic.  Also it’s because I go from being a person with very little face-time with other humans to being a person who is CONSTANTLY IN CONTACT WITH LIKE A HUNDRED OTHER HUMANS EVERY SINGLE DAY!  I’ll adjust, but I suspect I’ll be sleeping 10+ hours a night for the next week or so until I get used to the routine.
  • I still need to make my schedule up in my calendar for reading, grading, service, and research-related activities, but that can happen on Monday.  I do have to go to campus for convocation Friday, but other than that, my aim for the next four days is to rest up for the grueling slog that will be my 16-week semester and to NOT think about school.  Huzzah!

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Monday: Day-long teaching conference thingie at which I’m speaking.

Tuesday: Day-long department meeting (also on the agenda for that).

Wednesday: Finalize Syllabi, get everything up and running in course management software, blah.

Thursday: My birthday!  Though I don’t really have plans, and I kind of don’t care, in that this year the reason I’m excited for my birthday is just that I’m really ready to be done with being 38, which I have decided is a stupid age.

Friday: Convocation, and I can’t bail on it because it’s my 10-year anniversary.  If I’m lucky, I might get an umbrella.  But that might be too fancy for just 10 years… probably it will be something dumb like a linty fleece blanket. (Note to people who make such decisions: a gift card equaling the price of the commemorative shitty gift would really be much more delightful than the commemorative shitty gift.)

Saturday: A party at my friend S’s house!


I’ll admit, I’m overwhelmed just looking at the week ahead.  And I’m really not ready for all the face-time.  That said?  I am ready to get back to a routine, and I can’t remember the last time I so looked forward to the semester starting.

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So, when I’d started this project, I knew that a major part of it was that I wanted to move the majority of my books upstairs, and relegate what books remained downstairs to just two bookcases – one I already owned, and the other that I purchased yesterday and assembled today (one of those cheapy five-shelf jobbers from Target, because the point was to get this DONE and not to spend hundreds of dollars on a “nice” bookcase).

Of course, as I began, I had this grand idea that this would be A Great Book Reorganization, complete with a fancy “system” of categorization plus alphabetization plus keeping all authors together and blah blah blah.  In the interest of actually getting the books where they were supposed to go, I gave up on my fancy “system” and settled instead for getting the books shelved on the proper floors of my home.  There is SOME rhyme and reason to where things are located, but not as much as there could be.

Which is sort of life a metaphor for my life right now.  Contained, properly shelved chaos.

Also, what I discovered after unshelving the books and then reshelving them properly is that a new 7-foot tall bookcase was actually just enough to barely contain what I have, even after culling some books for donation/resale during the unshelving.  AND I HAVEN’T EVEN ADDRESSED THE BOOKSHELVES/NIGHTSTAND IN MY BEDROOM!  If I addressed those two spaces, I’d probably realize that I need yet another bookcase!  And seriously: I’m not a book hoarder by any means.  These are all books I care about.  I have majorly culled the collection at various points of moving, so we are not talking about me lugging around books from undergrad and grad school that I didn’t like (no, I didn’t keep my copy of The Wide, Wide World), and 90% of my JUST for pleasure reading from the past three years has been electronic.  I can’t even imagine this situation if the Kindle hadn’t been invented!  And lots of my books are actually in my two giant 8-foot bookcases in my office at school!

But so while The Great Reorganization was a non-starter, The Great Migration did occur.  And it is the case that the new bookcase does house all of my theory books, and the primary texts for my current book project plus the books that I’m teaching in the coming semester.  And the other bookcase does house my cookbooks and my travel books and my hardcover books that are extra special and my fun Latin translations of Winnie the Poo and Harry Potter.  So progress has been made.

And because of The Great Migration, tomorrow I can tackle organizing my yarn stash/knitting and cleaning the downstairs of my house from top to bottom tomorrow.

In other news, none of this makes me feel less like shit.  I miss The Dude, and no amount of rearranging my house and organizing doing productive and positive stuff makes a difference with that.  At least not so far.  I’m hoping that I will feel less shitty as this process continues.

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So, as Chair of the Committee of My Life, I have made the executive decision to table two agenda items until 2014.  I do recognize that according to Robert’s Rules Of Order there should be a vote in order to ratify such a decision, but the Committee of My Life does not adhere to Robert’s Rules Of Order.

1.  Moving in with The Dude

This has lingered as a Discussion Item for weeks, and interminable discussions are, at the end of the day, unproductive.  Would certain things be easier if we just decided and did it?  Certainly.  Just as certain decisions about General Education made life easier, even though they made no one, least of all me, the “spokesmodel of the New Gen Ed,” happy.  But, at the end of the day, The Dude put this item on the agenda, and he has pursued it, at turns with enthusiasm and at turns pointing out all the ways in which The Plan Will Not Work (much in the way of Crazy Colleagues during the Gen Ed Revision Process), and then somehow I get put in the position of being the one who introduced the item (which I didn’t) and of being the one who is “pushing” the process (which I’m not).  Having been put in a similar position in my work with my university’s curriculum, as Chair of the Committee of My Life, I Just Say No.  We will revisit this idea in the new year.  In the meantime, I will happily work on my book and stop giving this any additional mental energy for the time being.  As far as I can tell, all is well with The Dude in the present tense.  He is great, I love him, he loves me, blah blah blah.  But for whatever reason, he is totally irrational on this topic.  So you know what? Let’s not have it be a topic.  Because he is driving me crazy.  (Example: just as soon as I told him we were done talking about it until the new year on penalty of breaking up, and he celebrated that pronouncement, he then brought up something about getting married.  SERIOUSLY? What am I supposed to DO with him?  He makes NO SENSE.  And let’s note, all of this conversation happened while I was at his parents’ house with him.  GOD.)

2. Applying for Promotion to Full Professor

In some ways, I do think that I should apply.  But I have some reasons for not doing it this fall.  1) Our Faculty Senate just voted on new guidelines, which stipulate a “recommended” time in Associate Rank, which I’ve not yet met, before going up for full, and I’m pretty sure that certain of my colleagues will use that as the “reason” for not recommending my promotion, you know, just to make sure I know my place; 2) Our dean (who holds a grudge against me for writing an impassioned email objecting to his claim that “some people just work more than others” when I had asked for support for a terrible service responsibility that became more terrible because of a mandate from the State – indeed, my request for support was “unprofessional” and my explanation that I couldn’t do this job plus teach four courses and do research without support was an “ultimatum,” because, you know, good girls just take more and more shit and like it) has announced that this year will be his last, and I think my application will fare better without him evaluating it; 3) I am confident that the book manuscript will be out and circulating by the Spring, which I think it should be before I apply, plus I’ll have a couple of articles and some other stuff that will enhance my application by then, if all goes as it should.  In other words, yes, I’m chomping at the bit to apply, but the best use of my time right now is not in compiling that application.  And a bonus is that by not applying I should be eligible for some associate professor development money that I wouldn’t be eligible for if I applied for promotion.  So.  As with the Moving in with The Dude, it makes more sense to bide my time than to rush into an inauspicious arrangement, just in the service of having an arrangement, if that makes sense.

Now.  With those two items pulled from the agenda.  I can focus on my book.  Which I really want to focus on, because it is awesome, and also I can bask in the fact that as a thinker people are apparently recognizing me, for whatever reason.  As a result of my recent conference I’ve gotten some emails – one especially awesome, from an especially awesome person, reiterating that she thinks that what I wrote in my book about Underappreciated Author is amongst the best stuff she’s read in the past five years about him, and another from a grad student who took up my invitation to correspond because what he is thinking about will be usefully influenced by stuff I’ve done.  Look, I don’t think I’m anything fancy at all: but it is nice to be thought to be fancy by others, and it’s nice to think that my ideas have an impact on other people’s ideas.

In addition, now that I don’t have to think about those two items above, I can just do my thing.  I will go see HS BFF at the end of July, I will go to A’s wedding in October, I will go to MLA just after the new year and present at an actual special session for the first time (as opposed to presenting at a guaranteed allied panel), I will go celebrate Naomi’s 40th bday with a vacation in January, I will go to a slew of conferences after, all in awesome locales.  I have a plan for the next 12 months or so, and that plan is awesome.  And nothing in that plan is about cleaning out closets for The Dude, and nothing in that plan has to do with postponing ideas in order to apply for promotion.  And you know what?  That is AWESOME.

You know what?  I hate nothing more than being cast in the role of being somebody’s “old lady” who is a “nag” and who is “pressuring” them to do something that they don’t want to do.  Unless we are talking about me being cast in the role of the “bad girl” who is “spoiled” and who doesn’t “do her time” to “prove” that she is “worthy.”  You know what?  I’m nobody’s old lady, and I’m nobody’s bad girl.  I am a person.  And I am a capable and reasonable person.  And I’d rather just tell everybody to fuck themselves than to try to fit into their rubrics for who I’m supposed to be, personally or professionally.

So yeah, with an attitude like that, I might die alone.  And, with an attitude like that, I might not have a job if I didn’t already have tenure.  But you know what?  SCREW that.  I am a person.  And I have my own fucking agenda.


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I feel like I’ve written this post before, but I’m too lazy to go searching for the link to whatever that post might have been. And it also occurs to me that maybe if I write this post now, it might be different from what I wrote before.  So at any rate, a commenter, Andrea, writes:

Once again, when I read your column I wonder if I wrote it in my sleep our experiences are so similar! But I aged out of being the youngest during my phd program because it took me so damn long. And though I too am realizing that I am a mid career prof it’s just because I’ve been at my school for a decade not because I have become an important scholar. :) . What I can’t figure out is how you have the time for that much scholarship with a 4/4 load. No seriously. That s my biggest struggle. Tips/advice would be greatly appreciated. Like literally when do you do it?

First things first: I don’t think I’m an “important” scholar.  While people are apparently recognizing my scholarly work these days, there is a vast chasm in my head between that and “important.”  Seriously?  I think that I’ve just been around long enough that people have heard my name.  And I think if I were truly important that I would have achieved a hell of a lot more, and I likely wouldn’t be working at a regional university.  So let’s not think more of me than should be thought.  Have I had some good ideas?  I think I have.  Do I think I make a contribution?  I do.  But I ain’t no Judith Butler (or even somebody less famous than she is, who is still -marginally- famous).

How have I done scholarship with a 4/4 load?  Let me count the ways:

1) I entered my tenure-track job having been jilted by a dude to whom I though I would get married (I was 28).  I had a lot of time on my hands once I started my job because I wasn’t managing a committed relationship.  And since I’ve had that job, I pretty much prioritized my ideas ahead of any other person.  I don’t recommend that, if you want stuff other than work, but it’s what I’ve done.  BECAUSE MY IDEAS ARE IMPORTANT!!!!  And I’m a workaholic.

2) I really do care a lot about scholarship: I wasn’t that person who started grad school believing she’d like to be a college professor in order to teach college students.  You might think that this doesn’t mean a whole lot, but it really does.  Do I love teaching now?  Sure.  Do I think (and do I have evidence that) I am good at it?  Yes.  But if I’d gotten into this for the teaching, I’d never have achieved what I have as a scholar.  Because I just wouldn’t have cared as much about making that happen.

3) I am privileged to have a tenure-track position that allows me to teach courses that combine with my research.  And since I got my job, my ideas for research  came out of my teaching, or vice versa, because they had to. With a 4/4 load, it is entirely unrealistic to totally divorce one’s scholarly life from the work that one does with students.  My colleagues in the sciences (and sometimes the social sciences) manage this by having students work in labs for them.  In the humanities?  In English?  The classes that I teach must inform the research that I do, or vice versa, if only through the texts that I teach.

4) But teaching comp (even though I’m not a rhet/comp specialist) helps me, too, because teaching writing makes me a better writer.

5) At the end of the day, I really do believe it is intrinsic to the job that I do as a professor to be an active researcher.  I’ve seen the way that it has helped my students get into graduate school, and I’ve seen the way that I’ve been able to persuade students not to go to graduate school, as a result.  The point is: how can we really teach our students if we are checked out of our fields?  It’s not just about me having a job, at the end of the day.  Academia is a pyramid scheme.  I want to give them good advice, and they need me to give them good advice, and I can’t do that if I don’t do research myself.

6) I am inspired by my former students.  Today, if you don’t know, is Bloomsday.  I teach Ulysses every four years.  Today I’ve gotten Facebook messages, emails, whatever, from students who read that book with me.  Why do I care about scholarship?  In no small part because caring about that means having this particular relationship with my students.

But seriously, how do I do what I do?  People have told me that I have more energy than other people do.  I’ve always thought that’s crazy, because I feel like I’m lazy, ultimately.  I have thought to myself that I just have more ideas – and then I pursue them, which I think is the trick – than other people do.  But seriously?  Lotsa people have ideas: I’m not unique there.  But then I pursue them?  Other people try to pursue them, so why does it work out for me?

Seriously, I got my job in my first year on the market, abd, in a year when only three percent of people in their first year on the market in English lit got a job.  Is this because I’m awesome?  I don’t think so.  I think it’s because I was like win-the-lottery lucky.  That doesn’t mean I don’t think I’m good enough (any more… I used to think that).  It means that I recognize the role of chance in all of this.

But so here’s the thing: I got a book published before tenure because I had great advising during my dissertation which led me to an almost-book product.  I’ve done good research since then because I courted excellent mentors who helped me to get publications, even though that is really hard when you have a teaching-intensive position.  And I have sacrificed my personal life in order to get more professional recognition.  At the end of the day?  This job has been more important to me than anything else has been.  And I don’t recommend that, but if you want to know what I have done, you have to know that this has been true for me.

Will it continue to be that important for me?  No idea.  But that is how I’ve “done it” teaching four courses a semester.

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