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?
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.