a decided twinge of mania

One of my graduate students suggested the title of my biography last night: A Decided Twinge of Mania: The PhD Me Story.  (Don’t worry, it was taken from a comment I made, not an unsolicited evaluation of my mental state.)  I laughed very loudly.

Life is good at the moment: not great but good.  I’m enjoying my classes this semester; I’m making very slow progress on research and writing tasks – but it is progress; I’m tackling service commitments with a fair degree of efficiency.  I’m doing my best to fit in down time every day, whether reading a couple of chapters (even if it is to pick texts for next semester) or watching something enjoyable on tv; tonight, I even sat down and played the piano for half an hour.  I’m going out with friends, even if I have to be the driving force behind the going out, so we have some communal down time.  I can deal with my single-hood with equanimity these days; it isn’t ideal but life rarely is so why focus on what I don’t have.

But life is also busy.  Very, very busy.  When I get to campus, I feel like I hit the ground running and don’t stop until I leave for the day.  One of my students said today she knew I was coming down the hall because of my fast footsteps (I also wear heels on teaching days, so I’m rather loud).  I do walk fast, because there are places to get to and things to do when I get there – and if I’m lucky, I can fit in a trip to the bathroom along the way. I’m less frantic at home – and I wear socks – but I’m still busy.  I might take an hour or two to watch a show or wash the dishes but I’m back to the computer after that to try to keep up with everything that needs my attention.

A student came to office hours today to talk about graduate school; she’s considering different avenues and gathering information.  Amongst the many things I shared, one hit me as the most true as it left my mouth: A PhD doesn’t prepare you for the job, it prepares you to think.  I try very hard to give students some insight into life as a professor when they ask about grad school; it isn’t strolling around an ivy-covered campus thinking deep thoughts, that’s for sure.  You grasp (some of) the skills you need to function as an academic, of course, but grad school doesn’t teach you what the job “academic” actually is.  It’s running full-tilt, it’s juggling, it’s balancing, it’s meeting deadlines, it’s grading papers, it’s dealing with rejection.  I wish I had time for some deep thoughts.

after the fun

Ugh.

I got back very late last night, and – of course – I was too keyed up to go straight to bed so it was a very late night, followed by a late morning, followed by a squirrely day.

I had a very nice time visiting my niece, though.  It was a little strange to spend time with her as an adult.  That may seem like a stupid comment – she’s clearly been growing older over the last 26 years – but this is the first time I’ve traveled expressly to spend time with grown-up her.  She’s lived close to my parents (and hers) for most of her life, so seeing her was part of the whole “going home” routine.  Now, I have to go in the opposite direction and it’s just the two of us (plus her boyfriend) when I get there.  It’s fun to think that I have a new destination when I want to run away, though!

We didn’t do anything particularly exciting.  There was a lot of eating (wow, can young people put away a lot of food without consequence) and walking around scenic areas.  We visited some location-specific places, including a very tasty candy factory.  We did some shopping, too, which is sort of our thing.  I consider Oldest Niece my personal fashion consultant, which isn’t to say I agree with everything she tries to get me in, but I do appreciate her eye, especially when it comes to make-up.  That girl knows her beauty products!

Today was me trying to catch up on some of the tasks and emails I ignored while I was gone.  I meant it when I said I wasn’t working over break.  I took care of a few things that were absolutely essential; otherwise, I let the out-of-office message confirm that I wasn’t paying any attention.  I managed to get my head above water this afternoon, which will hold me for the rest of the week, but I shall be very grateful for the weekend.

on the plane

I’m sitting on a plane at the moment, feeling exceptionally grateful that I booked the ticket to visit my niece long ago. It would be too easy to claim too much work to leave on a purely fun trip. And I’m planning to enjoy myself for the next four days, which means no working.

My fun has already started with my two seatmates: a brother and sister, probably nine and seven. They’re pretty funny and I’m fairly certain everyone thinks they’re mine.

why, yes, it is a bit much

I had a marathon meeting with my grad student yesterday. He graduates in December and there’s a dissertation in the way so he’s writing full out and I’m trying to keep up. In the course of our conversation, he commented on how I am crazy busy this semester. I scoffed – I’m always busy, every academic is – and said it was just normal workload.

It is not normal workload.

I got over 70 emails today. 70. I was full tilt as soon as I stepped on campus: meeting at 10:00, finish early and arrive late to another 10:00 meeting, make it back to office in time for 11:30 meeting with student which requires a degree of sternness, teach at noon, meet with student after class, meet with department head at 2:00, meet with student at 2:30, teach at 3:00, meet with student after class.

Dinner with friends at 5:30 since none of us had made it to lunch.

Get home around 7:00, change into comfy clothes, head to computer. For the next four hours, review proposals for professional organization, respond to 25+ emails, send 10 new emails, buy ticket to next month’s conference, finish budget work for study abroad, schedule new committee meeting.

It’s not that I’m crazy busy, I’m just crazy.

random weekend thoughts

I bought a pair of size 10 jeans today.  I realize that numbers don’t mean anything and it’s superficial to focus on sizes; I don’t care.  I’ve dropped two sizes since this summer, and I’m proud of it.  Now I just have to work on keeping it off.

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I spent Saturday on a field trip with my students.  Yes, there are field trips in college, much to (some of) my students’ chagrin.  I’m trying to employ a few more of my study abroad learning experiences while stateside, like getting students out of the classroom to expand on concepts we’re learning.  It’s much easier to do that while in London but I’m pleased with my efforts here.

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Because I promised some students that I would, I saw Gone Girl today.  Even though I recognize the appeal, I didn’t enjoy the book; the movie was better, in that the book was basically a screenplay so might as well have at it, and the embodiment of the characters provided a little relief from their sheer despicableness.  The whole storyline is just deeply disturbing, perhaps because I can recognize the kernel of reality in the awfulness.

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I’ve been having awful leg cramps the last month or so.  They aren’t regular and they aren’t connected to anything, that I can tell, but they are painful.  I’ve even woken up during the night to scream a few times, they were that bad. My legs were twitching tonight, as I was watching my favorite show (The Good Wife, in case you wondered), like little tremors.  It’s the weirdest thing.

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It’s going to be a busy week, mostly because it’s short week.  I have lots to squeeze in before I leave Thursday to visit my oldest niece in her new home.  I’m focusing on how fun that will be versus how much I need to do so I don’t choke when I return from my visit.

this week…

This has been a very long week.  I feel like I’ve been running ever since I got back Sat night and I am really out of breath at this point.

Nothing out of the ordinary, just a semester in full swing.  My students are drowning me in paper, which is obviously my own fault, since I’m the one making them turn in work.  I’ve had service commitments coming at me from all directions: a meeting for this committee, reviewing proposals for this conference, reviewing submissions for this award.  I haven’t managed to do any writing the entire week, despite two manuscripts and two conference proposals breathing down my neck.  I’ve crammed in student meetings every day, for study abroad questions, independent studies, thesis work, program interest, class questions.  And because I’m crazy, I have a “field trip” with one of my classes tomorrow, so my weekend really isn’t much of a breather, either.

I can’t work every minute, though, for my sanity’s sake.  So, I had time with “my” kindergartners this morning.  So many pigtails! I’m starting to get a few smiles and waves when I show up at the door; that’s always nice.  And in the middle of the week, I took myself off to the theater to see a screening of Gone With the Wind.  Yes, it’s over four hours, and those were four hours well spent.  I love that movie, just love it.  Sure, I can pontificate about everything that’s wrong with the film, the story, the historical presentation but that doesn’t change how enthralled I am with the whole big screen spectacle.

Now, however, back to work.