animals · chaos · empowerment · enter the confessional

Facing the wind

It’s mid-semester and the accumulated unfinished business of weeks 1 through 6 have piled up as the same time that the end-crush of anticipated grading for semester’s end looms. As graduate officer, right now is possibly the worst time of year, work-wise: I’ve got more than a hundred applications to review, as well as four or five separate funding competitions to adjudicate with the committee. I just went away to Michigan to give a talk and attend an incredibly exiting one day seminar squarely lined up with exactly what I’m working on. Then I took my daughter to Florida (for three days) to see my parents. I have another talk, in Pennsylvania, in less than three weeks. There’s a dissertation on my desk from a committee I’m on, and two of my students have proposals in front of me.

The weather is cold, and dark, and damp and, along with all the piles of work, cues “hibernation.”

This is the time of year I tend to panic, freak out, and go into denial. But I’m going to try something different this year. Check out this Royal Tern, which I snapped in Everglades National Park last week:

I have an awesome hairdo.

The guide on the tour told us that Royal Terns always face into the wind. And as we looked around we could see them all on posts, pointing their beaks right into the headwind.

Look, this storm I’m in now is just kind of situation normal in this job. Panicking, hiding, and hibernating are not going to solve my piles-of-work problem. I’m going to try pointing my beak into the wind and just braving it.
For me, that looks like writing down a to-do item every time I have a panicked thought, or a deadline I forgot bubbles up to the surface. I carry my notebook with me EVERYWHERE and jotting stuff down as I think of it both concretizes and organizes the work I have to do. Everywhere:
To-do list and Margarita scale distorted for comic effect

I’m making lists of things I need to grade. Lists of assessment criteria for admissions. Lists of committee meeting dates and times. Lists of travel arrangements that need making. Facing into the headwind of a rapidly advancing semester.

How do you keep from collapsing at mid-semester? Is some kind of hibernation strategy useful to you? (I put my pyjamas on the minute I get home from work: that helps.) Or do you face the wind straight on?

2 thoughts on “Facing the wind

  1. Aimée, this is such a timely post in highly panicky times! I, too, am a fan of lists, but also of the SAD lamp, classical novels on audiobook, which I turn on every time I get away from my computer or my marking, and running at least once a week. It helps that it's no longer dark (most days) when I pick up the kids from school, so there is literal light at the end of the metaphorical winter-long tunnel. And now I know to turn my beak into the wind, too.

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  2. Hi Aimée,
    Thanks so much for this. I have been in full on hibernation mode for the past two weekends. The weather (cold, snow) has really sapped my energy (ya that's a bold claim from someone from the North, guess I am getting soft). But yes the plates are definitely getting full; grading, lesson reviews, reference letters, conference paper writing. I have found that lists help for sure but I have also found that blogging more regularly has allowed me to engage with all the things in a sort of academic thought purge in order to focus on all the other things after.
    There is definitely a lot to be said about creating space to do these things and I know I am privileged in that way for I do not have many outside of academic space responsibilities. So in order: space, lists, writing blogs, and buy all your groceries on Friday night so you don't have to leave the house for anything.
    Happy term to you all!

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