about bliss

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

daily bliss: looking ahead...

Meetings at work yesterday and today put me in the mind of fall and of all my work commitments that I have blithely pushed to the corners of my mind during this, the Summer of Fun. A forward glance at the calendar last night quickened the back-to-school anxiety. If I'm not careful, any day those dreams will start. You know, the ones where it's the first day of class and I'm supposed to hand out the syllabus and, um, it's gone missing. Or was never prepared.

A drizzly, hazy morning and a coolish, humid afternoon felt more like early fall than late July, and I felt that old sinking heart return. I pulled on my hooded sweatshirt (only in the upper Midwest will you need such garb on July 22, yes?!?) and walked my favorite lakeshore path, hoping to lift my spirits a bit. Perhaps a different soundtrack would've helped, but a dose of Coldplay and Damien Rice did nothing to make me smile.

As I sat on a log and stared out at a steely Lake Michigan, I thought about the class schedule I had started working on today--plotting assignment due dates, and envisioning hours grading papers. I'm trying a few different approaches this year, namely cutting out mandatory student-teacher conferences for the first essay (they make me sick, every single semester, and i'm not sure the benefit is worth the cost, so to speak), and scheduling paper due dates on Tuesdays instead of Thursdays in an attempt to *not* use my weekends for grading. I'm confident that I can make this schedule work, especially since Fall is my "easier" semester, teaching-wise.

Walking back home, I thought about how to maintain positivity and ebullience in the face of negativity and naysayers, and don't have many answers. In many ways, this is the most challenging aspect of any job. (all and any suggestions will be most welcome).

I climbed the stairs to my apartment, warm enough to remove my sweatshirt, and took refuge in the kitchen, cooking fresh, local veggies and pasta, unscrewing a bottle of Layer Cake shiraz, and playing a CD of a band I saw in concert earlier this summer. Eating dinner, I flipped on the television and wavered between Nora Roberts' Midnight Bayou and The House of Mirth. Tonight's *not* a night for poor Lily Bart, though I love her dearly.

As I type these words, my verb tenses shifting, my perspective tilting, I think that it's *not* wise to worry these last five weeks of Summer away. I think it *is* wise to dig in, prepare my classes, and stock up on school supplies (fashionwise and pen and paperwise and pink stapleswise). I think it *is* wise to find that happy, calm core, and cultivate it at will in the face of doubts and negativity and adversity. I think it *is* wise to focus on the students: the new, fresh, eager first year students, who need kindness and challenges, compassion and courage. Just like me.


  1. How great to be planning! I loved the feeling of being efficient and productive - that didn't last long once the school year started (ha!). Tuesday due dates are smart - it makes it look like you 'gave them the weekend to work on it'. :)

  2. I relate so much to your mood right now. After a few nice days with family and friends, I had the same sinking 'back to school' feeling. I am anxious that the academic year rollercoaster will start suddenly finding me unprepared, un-relaxed. Just not ready at all. The summer time is when I manage to get most of my creative writing done but I don't seem to be advancing much so far. For some reason, my body asks me to relax, to do nothing, to nurture other parts of my life. But here it is the voice of guilt at the back of my head telling me I should be working more, more efficiently, faster. I should obtain more results.
    I like how you are including your own time and personal life into your planning, the idea of working the week out in a way that you can have your weekend off. Marking always take soooo long!
    Thank you for your final paragraph. It has helped me to put all these anxieties into perspective. At the end of the day teaching and learning is a fantastic journey for both students and teachers. I want to make it this year as exciting, fun, enlighting as possible for both of us.

  3. I usually freakout about fall this time of year as well but this year my summer isn't over till the sumptuous summer solstice lady sings(which will be around midnight on sept 20. This year I'm trying to get on a seasonal calendar rather than be ruled by the unnatural academic calendar. We'll see if it works. Maybe trying to carry your summer pleasures right up to the fall solstice will ease the transition.

  4. Hmm, Looks like you're right on the edge of being "ahead of schedule" and just "obsessing". Take refuge in your last weeks...let them be the best ones and than I guess, think of all the things you love about teaching and look forward to that...Other than that...you wore a hoodie?? You'd die if you wore a hoodie in ATL in the summer. hehe

  5. Reading this has made me realize that the academic calendar can be as much a curse as a blessing. To a non-academic, the idea of 3 months of the year having immense flexibility seems blissful, but I now see the downsides more clearly.

    I think your view on the next few weeks is absolutely the way to go.

  6. oh, ladies, thank you for all of your heartfelt comments. the summer is such a special restorative and creative time that i hate to lose this feeling. i love revisionista's point that the academic calendar is rather...unnatural, and that we should follow the true, natural, seasonal calendar. i'm going to do this. after all, i am *not* my job. i am so much more than that!