Friday, August 06, 2010

I Guess a Post about Sabbatical-ing, in Which I Complain a Lot

I know that I haven't written in an age. This is in part because much of my energy has been taken up since a week ago with not really knowing where I want to go next with Housewives and Hussies. Things are percolating. Fermenting. Marinating. You know. All of that stuff that has to happen passively. And then I have to feel guilty about the fact that I'm not actively "producing" anything, and that takes more energy. And after all that? Well, clearly I need a nap, and I don't have anything left over for blogging.

So now I have a stockpile of things that I might write about on the blog but I don't really know that I want to write a whole and entire post about any of them. I know. That is irritating. I'm even irritating to myself. So let me talk about my sabbatical and how I'm feeling about it and maybe you'll get an idea of what's going on with me and why I've been so quiet of late.

My sabbatical doesn't technically begin until the middle of the month (so like another week and a half), but I've been considering the summer as part of my sabbatical since I had an award that meant I was paid to do research this summer and was prohibited from teaching. Now, as I began with the leave time, I got a lot of advice and words of wisdom from people. Advice about taking time just to rest; advice about allowing oneself to enjoy oneself in this time, etc. And I have done those things. And, actually, in addition to resting and having fun I'd say that I got a good amount of work done, even considering the fact that I moved and all of that.

But I've found myself over this summer feeling a lot of stupid envious feelings, which I think has to some extent gotten in the way of me enjoying what I do have with this time as well as getting in the way of me celebrating what I have accomplished. See, lots of people I know in my academic generation are beginning their first sabbaticals, too, and they are either a) traveling to fabulous places, and in one case actually living in the fabulous place "abroad" for the time of the sabbatical; b) able to take a whole year instead of the one semester that I can afford (and this envy isn't just about money - it then feeds into the envy about people having partners whose jobs can carry the partner who gets a 40% salary reduction and then I don't have a partner and then woe is me I'm going to die alone and this is bullshit); c) I feel like everybody's work is more interesting than mine, more important than mine, and more ... just MORE than mine, so not only am I trapped in the United States, with only 4 months of sabbatical leave where other people get the whole academic year, desperately alone, but on top of that my research is stupid.

Now. I do realize that all of the above is pathetic and self-pitying and not only not useful but also not even how I really feel. Or, well, I feel those things, every now and again, but I also the majority of the time feel like I don't want anybody's life but my own because my life is pretty great.

And then I'm also feeling irritated about the fact that it's the start of the academic year and that as much as I want to be totally checked out from what's happening at my university and my department I'm not. Instead, I'm trying really hard to force myself away (which I know is good) but then certain things find their way to me anyway, and then I feel like I want to punch people in the face. Like, for example, I've got this colleague who... Ok, the most diplomatic way that I can put this is that this colleague's scheduling needs have had an impact on my teaching schedule (both in terms of times that I've taught as well as in the courses that I've taught) in a number of different semesters. I am sick of it. And yet, what's the first thing I hear when I pop into the office to check my mailbox? That once again this colleague may well be being accommodated and that it may well affect my rotation of courses. And I am sick of it. This colleague is unpleasant, doesn't carry hir share of the service burden, and students hate the colleague. Why in God's name don't we tell this person to suck it? Because I would really like to tell this person to suck it. But, if I were to do that, it would make other people's lives difficult and I don't really want to do that to them, and so.... Yeah. (Anyway, knowing the track record of this person I feel like this is probably going to come to nothing anyway because zie will change hir mind at the last minute, but whatever.)

And then I'm also irritated by the fact that my department chair had asked that people on sabbatical come to the department retreat (even though we are not supposed to have to go to it according to the faculty handbook) and I know that some people are just not going to show up, and I know that if I show up and they don't that it will fill me with rage, but on the other hand, I feel like it might be stupid of me not to go to the retreat because I know that we will discuss some important things and also it's really hard for me not to do what my chair asks. Colleague Friend suggested that I just plan to be out of town and that way I wouldn't need to worry about making an excuse, but that sticks in my craw. I don't want to lie or to shirk. What I want to do is to be up front with my chair about the fact that it's bullshit that I'll be at this thing while other people just ignore his request and that is why I won't be there - or won't be there for the whole time (because I can imagine wanting to be there for a couple of items that I think will be on the agenda). Gah.

But see? I feel like I have all of the irritation of the academic year without any of the joy of being excited about teaching my classes. And I also have hit this block with the book, feeling like it's lame and like I'll never finish it anyway so what's the point? (That last bit isn't true. It's just how one feels at this point in a project I think. I've done enough now that I see exactly how much I have left to do, and that's daunting.)

So. I'm going to go and attempt to make some headway with research (a) and with the conference I'm planning (b). Wish me luck.


lin said...

If I can put in some humble advice: plan to go away when the retreat is, just not be there, go to the other side of the country, do............ some whale watching, participate in an organized horse back riding trail thing, take some short course making patisserie, do a short clinic on lumber jacking, wine tasting, or any other stuff you have never done before, only takes a day, or a couple of days, you get to be out, do new stuff and miss the stupid retreat that will either make you feel stupid for coming, or angry 'cause yo are there and they are not. Plus you did boundary breaking things, in you sabbatical, perhaps that kills the envy for a while.

Dr. Crazy said...

Lin, the reason it would be inconvenient for me to leave town for it is that I have a friend coming into town the day after, so it would make my life complicated to take off. But also, there is the principle of the thing: I want to be straight up about why I choose not to go. I don't want it to be about "Oh, she already had plans before she knew the date" or some other excuse. No, I want to refuse to go, if that's indeed what I'm doing. I want it clear that this is not just me being flaky but rather me protesting inequity in our department.

And, in fact, that is the reason that I would go to maybe one agenda item that I think is going to be covered: rolling out of a new scheduling policy/rotation. If that gets discussed/voted on at the retreat, that could screw me for like the next 10 years if I don't participate in that conversation. I need to see what the deal is when we get the agenda, though.

helenesch said...

I don't think you should go to the department retreat! As a matter of principle, this isn't something that your department chair should even ask you to do. You can depersonalize it, too--In *not* going, you're establising a precedent for others in the future (and that's a good thing).

In my department, we have a distinction between a "research leave" that one gets through the university (technically this is just for a release from teaching for one semester) and an official sabbatical. Sabbaticals mean you're not supposed to teach or do service (the only exceptions are that when working with PhD students, you still need to continue working with them--there's no way around that, really).

We've debated whether people on research grants should be put on department committees and expected to attend departmenet functions. But *sabbaticals* are supposed to be sacred--that's not even up for discussion. So, I think you shouldn't go--and you shouldn't feel bad about it!

Of course, I realize that each department's different and maybe the culture in your department is different from mine...

Dr. Crazy said...

H- Sabbaticals SHOULD be sacred, and people should also PRODUCE things on sabbatical, imho. I think the tendency for people not to do the latter contributes to people thinking that the former isn't important: there is a long and sordid history of people taking sabbatical leave and having absolutely nothing but a vacation to show for it, and it really and truly sucks. As a person who does actually produce research, I am irritated because my need for leave or resources isn't respected as legitimate and resentful because there are pretty much no consequences when people fail to produce when they are granted leave or resources. Grumble.

You know, I need to stop thinking so much about other people, or, as my mom would say, "stop measuring with a yard stick." Normally I don't give in to this, but apparently my sabbatical has turned me into the sort of person who does.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like it's time to break out the emergency MFJ.

Dr. Crazy said...

For the moment I'm breaking out some Bourdieu and deCerteau. Too early for Jameson (whether of the written or liquid variety :) )

Lesboprof said...

Crazy, I definitely think you should skip the meeting, and I also get what the problem is with doing so. I am also on sabbatical, as you know, and I am also not really travelling anywhere fab. But I am going away for the first week of school, which gets me away during all the orientation/meeting/retreat hullabaloo. Perhaps you could fill your day with a massage, old movies, and pampering as you get ready for your friend to visit. Go buy flowers for the house, some nice wine, etc.

I do get why people go away, as it is difficult to "get away" while staying close to work. And when you have work friends, it is difficult to figure out how to see them and not get sucked in. I am still working it out.

Good luck with Bourdieu!

Anonymous said...

Why you reading that fucken austrofrench garbaggio?

Bardiac said...

Do you have a colleague who's likely to share your interests in working out the schedule a given way? And could you talk to your colleague about it?

And then skip the meeting. At NWU, we're pretty clear that we expect our sabbaticalling folks to stay away from meetings and everything else that doesn't contribute to their sabbatical happiness and goals.

Dr. Crazy said...

Because I'm a masochist, clearly. (Except it is actually pretty awesome.... though I guess a masochist would say that, come to think of it.)

Dr. Crazy said...

Oh, and everybody: you've convinced me. I'm not going, no matter what's on the agenda. Once I get the agenda, I'll send an email to my chair with my views on pertinent things, and I will enlist Colleague Friend and Mentor Colleague to do my dirty work for me at the meeting itself. And while I'm sure my chair won't be thrilled, I'm also sure that I don't actually care if he's thrilled with me about this.

Kitty said...

Even though you've already made your decision, I would have to agree with everybody else. You have tenure now and one of the blessed things about it is the ability to say no to certain things. I, unfortunately, am not so lucky but even I would avoid department retreats like the plague. I don't like anybody in my department nearly enough to spend time outside of school with them and I think it would lead to some rather uncomfortable situations. If worse comes to worse, you can always do what my students do: feign an illness. ;)

Notorious Ph.D. said...

I really like your colleague's idea about being out of town. Not only will it get you out of the retreat, but it will help with the "everyone's doing something more interesting/important with their sabbatical."

And if you really need to feel like you are working, then why not make it a retreat of your own? Find someplace semi-isolated with scenery that inspires you (mountains, beach, forest, polar ice caps) and no internet and go write.

And for the love of all that is holy, woman, set up your "I'm on leave until January" e-mail auto-Reply NOW. Sabbatical should let you mentally and emotionally regroup, too, but you won't be able to if you stay engaged.

Even the god of Moses took a day off.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

(and now I just read what you said about your "inconvenient to travel" thing. But doesn't that make the retreat equally inconvenient? Why does your department deserve more than you do?)