Still Rockin Pollyannaville, and Why Perspective Matters

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Part of me feels like it’s really shitty to be talking about how much I love my job especially when yesterday marks the official beginning of the new job season. I hope I don’t lose any of you as readers. And perhaps I won’t. Perhaps I’ll offer a nice alternative to every thing the Chronicle is reporting about when to quit. Or maybe I’ll represent false hope which is just as bad. I like Anastasia’s treatment of this whole process. Or maybe I should just shut up about it and say what I have to say, although any of you who have read me for even a little while know that I’m like the queen of disclaimers.

I think I just want to ride the wave of feeling good, and for the first time in a while, feeling like I’m, you know, human.

And granted, I have not started grading yet. And that’s going to be fast and furious on quarters in the freshman class once the papers start coming in.

Here’s the thing: I have had an amazing first week at the new job. I absolutely, positively cannot believe my luck at being here. I think if I were to look at it realistically, I could see how if this were my first job, I might feel differently. I might think that the amount of office hours a week is too much. I’m used to four. At BLT-U, it’s more than double that. I could see how the class sizes are daunting, and how a 3/3 load on the quarter system seems obnoxious and that I *could* be saying, “I did not sign up for this madness. I want to teach and do my research and be a scholar.” It’s true that with this job, I will be teaching more classes per school year than at the last job. It’s true that I actually have more students this semester than I did that first year when I was teaching the 4/4 (before the admin part of the job)–96 here compared to 88 there. But you know what? Only 26 of those 96 are comp students, so 88 comp students compared to 26 is a HUGE difference. Sure, I have little things due in the lit class, but it’s not the same, at all.I feel freaking liberated here! I’ve noticed that the newer people here who are still smiling after a year here feel the same because they came from much heavier comp loads as well, and that perspective here makes a difference.

I will say honestly, though, that I do miss my Fridays off. And I miss cramming all my teaching into two 12 hour days. However, I think one of the things, and I don’t want to admit it, that is helping me right now is that I have a five day a week schedule. Because I’m not exhausted at the end of each day. I think Thursdays are going to be tough, as far as exhaustion, but then what I have to do is just plan on that. I think, too, the thing about the five days a week teaching is that we all know that Nola is like a toddler–she needs a consistent schedule to stay on track. And as much as I miss only working two days a week, I think I’ll be able to get more done without three full days off. Since I don’t have many students coming to see me right now, and I find it hard to imagine a time when all ten of my office hours will be filled with students, getting my work done at school, having those ten hours that I have to be there and actually using them for prep has just been a godsend, really. I come home without the burden of class prep. And I think I should be able to get a large portion of the grading done in my office as well. At least initially. But, it means that I have to get up at the same time every day. That I have to be at school at roughly the same time every day, so I don’t have the mental burden of “oh crap, I have to get up early tomorrow.” And while I like my mornings to myself, I like that I’m back on a morning teaching schedule, which is easier when you’re close to campus. And perhaps it’s because I like where I am that I don’t need the entire morning to prepare myself for going to school.

We do not appear to be overburdened with meetings here. It appears to me that most things are done by stopping in another person’s office and taking care of business that way for nit picky things rather than scheduling a meeting for everyone involved in the issue, if that makes sense. But I have the luxury of newness right now and not having to serve on committees or having to have advisees.

Here’s what I also like about this place, and here’s how I feel: I feel like I’m back in grad school–in that early course work phase where you still have a lot of energy and excitement for where you are. Remember those days? I remember those times positively, and being in a little college town–this is the kind of place I feel most comfortable in. I feel like I’m in my element here. I remember feeling a certain freedom in grad school at times, that nice intersection between confidence and still learning, between excitement and the desire to do good things. I thought I had lost that. I thought, “hmph. This is it. My idea pool is drained. Students don’t give a shit about lit, so why even bother. Just let me get tenure because I will be one of those who just checks out. Sadly.” That’s totally where I felt I was headed. Here I feel different. My first week was not a beat down or a reality check or a harsh jar out of the lazy days of summer. And maybe that’s part of it, too. I did not have a great summer at all. My first week is what I remember first weeks being like–exciting, exhilarating, exhausting in a way that leads to deep sleep not anxious fits of anxiety and tossing and turning. I am starting to look forward to teaching again. In the last two years, I’m sad to say, I began to hate teaching. I began to see the majority of my students as roadblocks to happiness and agents intent on making me age early, and it made me resentful and bitter. Now I come home from class, and I don’t reach for the wine bottle or beer first thing. I run. Or I read for pleasure or for something lecture or scholarship related–and even when I do that, it’s dare I say, enjoyable. I don’t feel the need to check out of my job and my life and everything related to academia when I walk through the front door. This week, I have thus far cooked my dinner M-Th. And not leftovers. Four fresh meals. I have not cooked four nights in a row since grad school. No shit.

I have found, too, that I don’t actually feel like zoning out in front of the t.v. now because I don’t feel beat down. This is the first time I’ve felt that way since before starting the dissertation. That is a big deal for me. Granted, I know it’s only been the first week, but I’m not counting down the days until the end of the quarter yet. It’s more like, “shit, Thanksgiving’s going to be here before I know it! I don’t have enough time!” But right now, there’s at least the promise that there’s time for me to take care of me, the promise of time for scholarship, the promise of not feeling beat down and enjoying what I do. I wish I got paid before the end of the month, but hey, I’ll adjust. And maybe that’s it. When the things that have gone awry this week have gone awry, I didn’t panic. I was able to put things in perspective and adjust. I hope that’s something that I can maintain.

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