Monday, May 11, 2009

One Hell of an Academic Year

I don't really know how to start this post. But I want to write it because this academic year has been, in a lot of ways, the hardest one I've ever had. And I suppose I kind of want both to commemorate that as well as to close the door on it.

I started thinking about writing this when I began the arduous task of cleaning out email this afternoon. I had just under 3,000 emails in my inbox when I began (I've deleted about a thousand, but I've got miles to go before I'll be done with this project). Now, a lot of it was garbage - budget updates from my university's president that I just never bothered to delete, emails about appointments with students, the usual stuff that I tend to hang on to just in case that I don't end up needing. But my messy inbox also told a story. And it got me thinking about everything I've been through this year. In no particular order, here's a list:

  • I returned to teaching four courses a semester, after having begged, borrowed, stolen, and sold my soul not to do so for the past couple of years.
  • I taught online for the first time.
  • I taught the required theory course for the first time.
  • I taught the upper-level course that is, basically, my "book" course, which always, though rewarding, leaves me a pile of useless goo by the end of it. The best part of this course this time around, though, was that it brought together a group of like 6 students who are awesome and who got more out of it than just the requirement on their transcript.
  • My chair, who had been one of my most steadfast sources of support throughout my time on the tenure track, died suddenly.
  • Within 6 weeks of that, another colleague died.
  • I gave two conference papers on entirely new stuff.
  • I got an R&R (after months of waiting) from a good journal (though I've still not revised and resubmitted, because I haven't had the mental space to deal with it).
  • I became president of a small professional society.
  • I agreed to host a conference for that same society in 2011 (because I'm an idiot).
  • I served on one university-wide committee, one standing department committee, and three ad hoc department committees, one of which I served as the chair of and which dealt with overhauling a major that hasn't seen a true overhaul since the 1970s.
  • I continued on as adviser of BES's thesis, which she has now completed (awesomely) and submitted. The bad parts of that involved having to be a total hard-ass and making her cry. The good parts involved really developing a professional, collegial friendship with her. (Incidentally, I've been forcing her to use my first name for the past couple of weeks. She only uses it in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS - both when she says it and in email. I find this hilarious, though I do hope that she can take me out of CAPITAL LETTERS before she applies for grad school next year.)
  • I sponsored two other students for presentations at our campus-wide student research thingie - and everyone noted that my students are teh awesomest of teh awesome. Now, of course, I should not get total credit for their awesomeness, but it's always nice for your chair to note that the best students always seem to be affiliated with you (as my chair did note at graduation).
  • I served as a reader for a "best graduate thesis" thingie for some regional organization.... I don't know. My dean of the grad school asked me to do it and I did it. At least I got a $5 Starbucks card for my trouble.
  • I put together my tenure application. Which even though I was secure in it, still caused ridiculous amounts of stress.
  • My book was published.
  • I found out that my uncle was terminally ill.
  • I found out that my father was terminally ill.
  • I drove approximately 9 hours in one day in order to see my father (for what I would come to find out was the last time).
  • I made it a priority to visit High School Best Friend.
  • My father died.
  • I finally called it quits with FB.
  • I visited BFF (under the auspices of a conference, but dude, it was really about seeing her).
  • I officially got tenure.
  • My dean made a point of saying, at a fancy reception thingie, "Dr. Crazy ROCKS," in his introduction of me. Sure, he totally didn't mention the fact that I'm the only junior faculty member in the history of the English department to publish a book before tenure - nah, he focused on my service - but still.
  • I finally got to zero on what had been my highest balance credit card.
  • I somehow got it together to post grades for all of my courses for this spring.
I don't know what to say about all of that. Some parts of it are amazing. Some parts of it are horrible. But isn't that an awful lot for one year? I think it's an awful lot for one year. Dude, and really I'm not even talking about a whole year but just about 9 months. And I'm not even listing off every single thing - just the major things that occurred to me as I was writing (and for real, I probably padded a little toward the end with the stuff about visits with friends because otherwise it all seemed so treacherous).

And I'm not writing all of the above to be self-congratulatory or egotistical or whatever: it's just seriously the main points of this academic year. And it was a lot. And it meant that I sucked as a teacher in some of my courses, and it meant that I didn't get that revise and resubmit turned around as soon as I normally would have done, and it meant that over the past couple of months I've pretty much been just trying to keep my head above water. And so I am done with this year. And this year has been both good (tenure, book, paying off a credit card) and awful (dead father and chair, dying uncle, ended relationship). And you know what? I'm done with all of these highs and lows. I just want a nice regular non-tumultuous year. So I'm looking forward to 2009-2010. And I'm closing the door on 2008-2009.


Auto Ethnographer said...

Wow. Congratulations on tenure, surviving all the personal trauma, and thriving academically and intellectually, despite it all. You certainly deserve a medal and a vacation.

Lawgirl said...

You have so much to be proud of from this year. I think that this was such a year of growth for you and you handled it with remarkable aplomb.

Oh, and I couldn't help but giggle when you said that you end up with lots of goo, as um, well, what your subject matter deals with. :D

gwinne said...

Damn, Dr. C. I mean, I read your blog regularly enough that none of this list was new information for me...but it's astonishing to take in all at once. Here's to the "regular" 2009-2010 that you want!

Ann said...

To that end, then:

Happy New Year!

Boring would be good, really good, wouldn't it? Just nice, normal, happy, productive, not so much death?

Barb said...

It's amazing you've gotten anything accomplished. Losing a parent and/or a relationship would have knocked me off my game for at least a year.

Doctor Pion said...

Your year makes mine seem downright relaxing by comparison.

But I'll single out "My dean made a point of saying, at a fancy reception thingie, "Dr. Crazy ROCKS," in his introduction of me. Sure, he totally didn't mention the fact that I'm the only junior faculty member in the history of the English department to publish a book before tenure - nah, he focused on my service - but still." for some additional praise.

If it is the usual fancy reception thingie, service is probably the big thing he needs to sell. But it is too bad that he didn't mention that you ALSO published a book while doing doing those other things for the college. I'm certainly impressed.

Susan said...

What so impressive is that you have done a good job of taking care of yourself amidst all this stress. But here's to a much calmer year ahead! And a restful summer in between...

Fabio Sundeen said...

Oh my god, you have so much to be proud of, your such an awesome awesome person. I've never heard of anyone having to burden to truley are my hero!!!!

Comet Jo said...

Like Gwinne said, even though I've been following along, its pretty incredible when you lay it out like that. Congratulations for getting through it in one piece. You sound like you are in a good place. As someone about to go for tenure & hoping to get a book project moving, as well as trying to sort out my own personal life stuff, I am full of admiration and inspiration. Anyway - Happy New Year does sound like the right thing to say, I know this is the moment in the year that really feels a like a turning for me.

Bardiac said...

What a year. I hope the next one is better in all the ways it can be, but way less stressful!

canuck_grad said...

Isn't it nice that as academics we get to have two "new years" per year? Hope you get the regular year you're hoping for!

Astroprof said...

Wow. This really has been a busy year for you! You should take pride in coming through it. A lot of what transpired was bad stuff, but you managed to pull out some really good things, too. That is what separates the best of us from those that just exist. Hopefully, you can have an easier summer, and maybe next year will be calmer.

Sisyphus said...

"Dr. Crazy ROCKS,"

This is absolutely true! You go!

Terminal Degree said...

Yes, it was a lot. Congrats on surviving it all--and so successfully.