I started the school year with an equal dose of confidence and trepidation, knowing my ability to teach would have to somehow balance with the expectations of Burris. One thing is true: this month has been a complete and utter whirlwind. I have never graded so many papers in such a short time, nor have I ever had so little time to do any personal reading or writing. I have found myself getting up at 4:00AM or 4:30AM each day this week in order to get grading and planning finished. I have spent the better part of at least one day, if not both days, of every weekend at school working. I haven’t even touched my dissertation, and now I face a couple of late nights working on a presentation for a conference I foolishly applied to attend. However, I do get to spend a good bit of quality time with friends I don’t get to see frequently, so I am looking forward to that part of it. Writing the presentation is an entirely different story!
One month into this new school year, I have to say that my experience is different than I expected. The people I expected to not like, I have grown to love, and the people I expected to really like, I am recognizing I am not so fond of. As usual, I am left with one driving question: Why do people insist on treating each with no compassion and no respect? When I die, I fully expect to move into my afterlife, asking to speak to whomever is in charge and trying to understand why people can’t be nice to each other. I will also demand to know why people get cancer and why it seems that the worst, most hateful people continually get ahead. I mean occasionally kind, loving people get ahead, but it feels as if the predominance of folks who are lauded in the media aren’t very nice. It seems as if the predominance of people in my life who have “the best lives” are the most hard-hearted and cruel. I suppose that is what happens when we continually measure the quality of people’s lives by financial success.
As you’ve noticed, and as I’ve said above, this new gig leaves little to no time for personal writing or reading. Normally, I wouldn’t consider working on my dissertation as personal gratification, but I crave a minute of reading a book written expressly for adults. I want to wrap my mind around a little Toni Morrison, and cuddle for a minute with Gloria Naylor. I have even found myself desiring to read scholarly articles! This need will be temporarily sated by my necessity to complete this conference presentation for next weekend. Sarah, Elizabeth, and I are going to Minneapolis, MN, for a fat studies conference. We are presenting on fat, pedagogy, and images. I was going to write about the students I’ve had who have interacted with the ideas of fat and body image, but I think I am going to shift my focus to include conversations or teachable moments in which my students have said things about being fat.
Finally, my body craves exercise in much the same way that my mind craves intellectual stimulation. I desire a run and a swim. I keep thinking that I will start running and swimming in the mornings, but this week I graded instead so next week I am going to shoot for swimming in the morning and easing back into running with a short barefoot run every evening. I feel like a slug. My ankle still hurts, but it is no longer excruciating. I hope the running won’t injure it again, because I have already missed one marathon opportunity, and it sucks.
The sun peeks over the top of the gas station across the street, highlighting the new garage being built next door. The rafters and wall-studs are geriatric dinosaurs darkened against the pinks and blues of the early morning sky. Two men sit, silhouetted by the light, by the windows between me and sunrise. They have discussed baptism, blackholes, and solar flares before moving on to high school cross country. Now they give thanks for their posh lives, reveling in the fact that they are not traveling business men who sit “forlorn and lonely” in hotel lobbies.
Gosh, I do not envy all that grading! But I do understand how difficult it is to sit for long periods of time and focus on something. In fact, it’s so draining that it doesn’t leave much room for anything else. Good luck on the presentation, and hang in there!