Thursday, July 2, 2015

Last year

I started this blog a half dozen times. It never seems to stick. But now, as I move into my last year on the TT (letters go out in the Spring), I find myself thinking more and more about it. About the toll and the joy, and all the other emotions.

This is my push year, as I need to get everything that will be in dossier out by this time next year. As my contract runs July 1 to June 30, starting this, on July 2, seemed ideal.

Last year ended in burnout. There is literally no other term for it. It wasn't the "gosh, I'll be glad when the semester is over" usual, beign burnout. It was the on the floor, unable to get up, ready to walk away from it all, kind of burnout. It was the scariest thing I have ever experienced. I have never not been able to will myself to do anything. But I couldn't. I remember being on the couch, in the darkness and silence, thinking about how much I wanted to turn over. I couldn't find the energy to roll over, and Netflix had long decided I was not actually watching, even though I was there. I had five migraines in two weeks, after two years without one. One day I managed to work up the energy to go to the store for ice cream. The choices overwhelmed me, and I broke down in tears in the store. I went home sans ice cream, and on the return trip that night, forced by my husband, I lashed out over ice cream and energy and everything. Ice cream was too big a choice. The calories contained within it were too much to consider - the time for runs, the dietary rearranging that would be necessary. It was too much.

That was, in some ways, how I was starting to feel about my job. The AAPA meetings took so much out of me it was unreal. They continue to demand time, but the level of demand and exhaustion from them cannot be described. And I never gave myself time to recover. I spent my birthday hauling bags and boxes, and the following week taught all my classes. By the time the earthquake hit Nepal and my field season was canceled, I was running on sheer willpower. And it cracked. My mind would tell my body to do something, and my body would more or less give it the finger.

I gave in. I lost a week. I painted our bathroom and screamed at my husband for not appreciating the paint job. I sat at my desk and cried, realizing how little impact I had on my home space, and how it all radiated from one single point - my desk. I watched the Planet Earth series four times in four days. I surrendered.

During this dark period, I read "The Joy of Burnout". It finally cemented what was going on for me, and how I felt about it. Gorkin observed "Burnout is less a sign of failure and more that you gave yourself away". I'd been feeling like a failure when I had done anything but fail - I had given myself away. And I had to come back to myself in order to be okay.

We are one month out now from the darkest days. I've submitted three papers and a grant since since then, putting me with a comfortable four papers and two grants in review right now. I'm in the lab four days a week for a few hours with a bright, talented student, and then I go for a run or to yoga. I'd never done yoga before, but was tempted (and hooked) by a Groupon for a month of unlimited classes. It becomes a reflective space to think about my actions, intentions, and how I am treating my mind and body. Afterwards, I spend the afternoons writing, revising, and reading. I'm on track to get several more manuscripts submitted this summer, and I take most evenings (post 7pm) off these days. 

I've set myself some personal goals for balance this year as well. I don't have kids, which helps with having more free time to pursue these goals. I'm planning on running a half in October and a second one in April. I want to learn how to make sushi and my great mother's burnt sugar cake. I'm going to try a temporary remodel of our kitchen, and a capsule wardrobe.
My reach goal: I want to the run the Disney Star Wars Half Marathon in 2017 with my brother, and then us go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Our husbands may or may not be invited.

I have 3 field seasons next year in Nepal, and will be away from home for four total months with all the travel I need to do, plus more for the family travel we want to do. It's going to be a big, crazy year.

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