It’s a new year!
Last year–which due to my profession I can’t help sort of blobbily thinking of as Fall semester 2015-Fall semester 2016–a lot of shit happened. You get to a point in your life where you feel like everything is just kind of the same all the time, and then a year like last year happens! I’ve been trying to take stock:
CAREER STUFF: I got a “real job” (I don’t like that term because it implies that adjuncts don’t do “real” labor, which is of course a dark fallacy of our current era, but anyway I went ahead and used it (the term)) and moved my family almost as far across the country as you could go without being in Maine or Florida, to a small town in bucolic New England that I had only seen once, perhaps 12 years previously, and that my husband had never seen. And of course the dog had never seen it. We drove for 7 days across our great nation, seeing fields of corn and fields of wheat and fields of Wal-Marts. We camped in the Badlands, we saw those crazy sand dunes in Indiana. We visited old friends and met new babies. The dog transformed from a sniveling wretch into a cool road dog, settling into his spot wedged between the two front seats and chilling hard as hell; all that he lacked was a jaunty bandana tied ’round his neck like a Colorada dog. We pulled into Western Mass and I was very afraid because what if we didn’t like it here–or worse, what if my old man specifically didn’t like it–and I had just uprooted our entire life for naught? But instantly we knew we had made the right call. It felt weird to immediately feel great about a place. I guess we felt that way when we moved to Santa Cruz too–getting out of the car and smelling the ocean and high-fiving each other and then getting a really good burrito, man, that was pretty good too. Maybe you just feel good about a place when you feel like you triumphed over obstacles or did something brave or rad in order to get there? I wonder if we would have felt the same way if the place we’d moved had been, I don’t know, no offense, but like the middle of Kansas or something. Or fucking Phoenix! I don’t know.
Other career stuff: that first year was INSANE. By far the most insane period of my life–finally something trumped my first year of grad school when I’d cry on the phone about how I didn’t understand Kant, and Marisa told me not to worry about it because Kant was a loser who never left his hometown. The first semester I struggled with depression for the first real time in my life. Winter came and it was apparently the most unbelievably epic winter in recorded human history. We missed so many days of school that some classes literally just got canceled, like, “sorry, we’ll try again next year.” I did not do a good job, at first, of keeping a handle on work/life balance. Work swamped me, and not in a fun productive way–it was more like constantly, constantly working and not knowing if you were doing it right or if everyone was sorry they hired you. My book got brutally rejected and I had the realization that I had to start over on a new book from scratch, and I have to write it in 3 years or I will lose my job, basically, barring unforeseen circumstances like I win a MacArthur or something. Would they give me tenure if I won a MacArthur but hadn’t published a book? Wait, why would I be winning a MacArthur? Like I write an award-winning play about race in America or something?? Can you imagine! That would rule. Anyway, that realization was sort of awful but also sort of liberating, just like, jesus christ, thank you, I am ready to no longer think about this book, I want to start my new life and establish myself in this wholly unrelated new field I’m excited about. So okay, that’s that. The ten of swords, you know? The worst it can be; now you can pick yourself up and see what might be possible moving forward.
Then things got better and I started loving my job and talking more in meetings and feeling like I had opinions that were valid. I started talking in conference Q&As! My big achilles heel! And a few times I said stupid stuff and didn’t die afterward and that was liberating (one of the stupid things I said was literally as follows:
Me: “How do the female madrigalists set this topos? That might be an interesting direction for this project!”
Presenter and every other person in audience, scoffing audibly: “THERE ARE NO SURVIVING SOURCES!!”
Me: “Oh god, I don’t know what I’m talking about”
Oh I forgot it also happened again, same paper:
Me: “It’s so cool that these 16th century people are using the Guidonian Hand as like a revenant of this fantasy of medieval life! Like they didn’t know what it was, or how it worked, but as an IMAGE it survived in these weird texts…”
Presenter and every other person in audience: “THEY STILL USED IT PEDAGOGICALLY!”
Me: “They did???? WHOA”
These are verbatim. Are you jealous of my life yet???)
ANYWAY OTHER LESS BORING STUFF
Dudes, I did it, I learned to bake sourdough bread from scratch! And that’s not even all, if I may brag my ass off for a minute! I can now make bread whenever I want, using literally only flour, water, and salt (and a heat source), and not only that, I can make it WITHOUT LOOKING AT A RECIPE, just feeling the vibes, like my foremothers before me! Also, the other day I pinched some dough as it was rising and just made some fuckin’ PIZZA with it, and it was incredible. This is honestly one of the top 5 things I am proud of in my life. It’s up there with getting a tenure-track job, I swear to god
I can’t remember anything else that happened. Oh my god wait, I remember,
WE BOUGHT A HOUSE
So crazy! It’s been really fun. Taking down cabinets, digging fire pits, talking about rugs. We are really digging it. We immediately had to buy two major appliances but that’s life, you know? Thanks to this very blog, we also started using the dishwasher for the first time ever and we are having so much fun. It honestly is a labor-saving device; I feel ashamed for how much shit I have talked about dishwashers in my life. I think just because the only way I’ve ever seen anyone use a dishwasher is to stand there running water in the sink for 30 minutes while carefully rinsing every single dish before putting it into the machine, which seems wasteful, and like it doesn’t save time anyway. But thanks to being schooled in my blog comments, I now know you just put heinously filthy dishes in there and the machine deals with it! Post-dinner clean-up is a goddamn BREEZE my friends! And apparently it uses less water and energy than hand-washing, which I still don’t understand, because it runs for an hour and a half whereas you only wash dishes for like 20 minutes, but that’s what the internet says, so there you go.
I fell massively behind on my new yorkers but now I am almost caught up again!
We have started making friends! Last year we had one friend; now we have somewhere around 5 or 6. Some of them are like 25, and treat us like comical grandparents, which is fine by me. My old man says they can take care of us when we’re old. I was like, when we’re 80 and they’re 70?
We learned a new Settlers of Catan expansion (Traders and Barbarians)
We decided not to have internet in our home, and it’s going really well. Yes, we are getting very out of touch with pop culture, but on the other hand we are:
– reading more
– listening to more music
– hanging out and talking more
– getting more work done
– watching weirder movies (the other night we watched all these promotional films the British Postal Service commissioned from an experimental filmmaker from New Zealand in the 1930s. They are all like basically incomprehensible acid trips and then at the end a text comes up that says “USE THE POST OFFICE!” We laughed and laughed and laughed. Then Gary went and got a book about “the films of the British Postal Service” or some shit and read to me from it until I literally died of boredom while also crying)
– playing more board games
– spending a lot more money at coffee shops because we actually constantly need the internet
I’ve been asked to head up a new committee, which means I am considered at least vaguely competent. Obviously I don’t want to head up a new committee but you have to say yes to everything and it will be an opportunity for me to monologue ceaselessly about my opinions
I am figuring out “who I am” in the context of this school/department. It is taking me a really long time to figure out who I am. I mean, to figure out all the different ways of being a professor/scholar/administrator that exist, and which one(s) accurately apply to you. Slowly realizing why they hired me, and how much of their perception of me is accurate vs. inaccurate (so much is accurate! They knew me better than I knew myself). Finding my niche. Figuring out how I want to engage with students here–what role will I play for them, in this context? Finding the confidence to “own” what I am interested in/good at vs. what I believe I am “supposed” to be interested in/good at.
We are making cider in our basement!
IN THE COMING YEAR
– get a proposal together and hire a writing coach
– publish more articles
– get a keyboard and develop a piano practice
– meditate sometimes
– keep reading stuff in French
– go on an actual vacation, even if just one weekend in a cabin somewhere
– continue cultivating new friendships
– write write write write write, get better at writing, get better at self-editing
– continue working on character flaws
– buy a coal shovel