balancing it out

This is the latest I’ve ever started summer break. I typically only teach 2 classes, and both in our first summer session, but for a variety of reasons, I also taught a very very intense (5 hours a meetings, 7 meetings, 3.5 weeks) course about educational policy and multicultural education. My students are in an intense program themselves–they are math and science folks, many of whom have years of industry experience–and have a year of classes and student teaching (3 semesters of classes, two of which are at the same time as their 2 semesters in the classroom) to get a grad degree in teaching middle and secondary math or science. For many of them, this course was the first time they had been asked to consider, certainly, educational policy and the media’s portrayal of it, but also issues of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism and their/our roles in perpetuating it or challenging it. I had one student for whom this was a particular challenge, and I realized in the middle of a class discussion that we were considering issues that republicans, generally, don’t think exist, so OF COURSE this is a challenge for her. Anyway, I love teaching that class, but I feel like I was hit by a train at the end of the day. And, to top it off, my fabulous collaborator came to Kzoo this week to write–we had three pretty ambitious goals for 4 days and 3 nights plus two 5 hour teaching days for me, but we accomplished two and a quarter of them. There were, to be sure, cheesy metaphors along the way (“this argument needs more meat. It is presently vegan. Not that there’s anything wrong with that”) and spontaneous outbreaks into songs by the Carpenters (“it’s only just begun!” Seriously, when, unplanned, that happens with someone who is not your life partner, you know that this is the right person to collaborate with. We are clearly in the other’s brain.). After she left yesterday, I thought about going for a run, but then realized that I wanted to just … sit. The kids were at camp, and I had 3 hours to myself. I decided to watch dvr-ed Daily Shows, but seriously? I was too brain fried to keep up. This is where I am right now. My entertainment is too hard.

This morning, Jess had to go to work for a few hours, and she asked me to coordinate the plans we have with friends this evening (which, seriously, entailed fb messaging them a time to come over), and I lost my shit. She gently suggested that I take one full week off of doing any work.

I’ve been thinking about it. I really really do love my work. I love teaching (and, if I could do it without the piles of grading? Just the prep for class and in class teaching and thinking? I would love it even more. I really really love those two parts), and I’m lucky enough to have mostly great colleagues. Caitlin and I worked a lot in the common area (a corner open room with great windows and chairs) of my departmental office suite, and as it is summer, only a few people were in. Those who were were not only interested in what we were doing, but supportive, and full of suggestions when asked. Sometimes, it feels like a movie rendition of what being a professor is supposed to be (um, without the A-list actors). And, I really really love the research and writing part. I said to my other collaborator at our skype meeting two weeks ago that sometimes I want to be the kind of professor who really does take the summer off, or who doesn’t over commit to projects. She laughed, agreed, and said, “But that’s just you, Jill. Nobody’s making you do these projects. You have tenure. You just like it.” She’s right. I think that, for the sake of my career not burning out, and for my family not thinking I’m crazy, and for Jon Stewart not seeming too hard, I have to figure out a way to balance all of it.

Things that I find annoying are: the self importance that comes with some advanced degrees. This is just a job. I mean, I feel like it is a valuable job, and that, both in the classroom, and in the scholarship, I am contributing some small thing, but in the end, it is just a job like (and not like) every other job. I remember in grad school, and in the weeks after I defended my dissertation, feeling like I had accomplished this huge thing. Indeed, I had. I mean, it is, without a doubt, an accomplishment anytime a goal is completed. But, I think that what I’m starting to realize as I begin my 10th year as a professor (oh my god. that is hard to believe. Also: I am olde.), is that using the accomplishment well is almost bigger than the accomplishment itself. There is a new head of school at my kids’ school, and she asked me the other day if I felt a sadness when I finished my dissertation. I didn’t. I felt that when I finished my course work because I knew that the taking classes part of my life was over, but the work of scholarship is the work of being a professor. I get to still do that, only I have to fit in more teaching, more service (much of which I couldn’t give two shits about), etc. etc. I know that this is the forever and always discussion among women who work outside of the home, but finding the balance for all of it, not in the same ways that every other woman finds it, but for oneself is part of the making the sustenance of the career sustenance, and not burden. I don’t know. I actually cannot believe that I wrote all of those rambling words after a week in which I collaboratively wrote (and edited) close to 10,000, but it’s on my mind. Now, I must do some house cleaning with Trudy (“I LOVE cleaning!!”) who is currently swirling around the kitchen singing for me to “let it go!” Here I go.

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