It is now truly the countdown to summer vacation. Our last day of school is April 27, if you can believe that!
– only four more seminars
– only three more undergrad lectures
– only two more discussion sections
– only eighteen thousand more committee meetings
As you know, I have a number of non-school-related hobbies that I largely credit with keeping me from going completely insane and becoming morbidly depressed. I think the list of things keeping me sane is, in order of importance:
– my husband
– my dog
– my few sad straggling hobbies
– large wine
My hobbies tend to be the kind that are easily fit around the academic’s schedule. Baking bread, for example, is something you do for hours and hours while not leaving the house. It is perfect for me! I usually bake bread while grading. I set my timer and go for it. It gives me focus, and then at the end of the day the grading is done and the house smells like delightful bread. It’s a true win-win—hey, it’s good for the grading, and it’s good for the bread! Or for another example, there is yoga, which I kind of half-assedly do whenever I have a moment here or there.
Now, however, I am seeing that my new hobby goal, which is gardening, is going to be much, much harder to fit around my weird schedule. Gardening takes serious and consistent chunks of time and you have to do them at certain moments. I’ve already waited too long to start my seedlings, and I should have built a fence a month ago. Right now I ought to be getting going on these things, but I have to spend my weekends prepping for the coming week, and there’s just hardly any time to do these things. Normally, honestly, I don’t really mind working every day, first of all because I like my job, and second because I know I have these gigantic breaks built in. So, I can take up landscape painting once summer starts! Or whatever (note: I will never take up landscape painting). Gardening though you have to really start whilst the semester is still fully underway, indeed you have to start it at the very moment the semester begins ratcheting up to pants-shitting levels of intensity. And your garden doesn’t care that you have all these oral exams and that you have to drive two hours to go to a PhD defense you agreed to do and that you have to write these program notes for this orchestra concert and all the rest. Your garden is like, gimme compost, NOW, it’s TIME!
I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I’m going to garden to the best of my abilities and see what happens. There will be epic failures but lord knows I am used to that. God. If there is a sphere of my life I have yet to epically fail in I’d like to hear about it.
Anyway, I went to the farmers co-op to get some new pots in which to re-pot my poor suffering houseplants, and right there, glowing on a shelf in the front of the store, was exactly the gardening book I’ve been dreaming of but haven’t been able to find. It is just a locally-produced book about gardening in new england. It tells you exactly what to do in each month, with no frills, no expensive full-color photos, no great reams of prose about “honoring the seasons” or some shit. Just pragmatic lists and warnings about slugs and advice for attracting “predatory wasps” to your garden by planting goldenrod or whatever. I read half of it yesterday and now I feel ready, although it did stress me out by noting all the aforementioned stuff I was supposed to have been doing a month ago.
My gardening goals:
– grow a decent tomato. I have not tasted a decent tomato since I moved to this tomato wasteland. When you ask local farmers what’s up with new england’s shitty tomatoes they get this really pinched, haunted look on their faces and then they talk about this weird mildew that hides in the dirt and infects everybody every year and there’s nothing can be done. If you say “what if I try growing in a container,” they just shrug fatalistically. MY DREAM MUST BE REALIZABLE
– have a strawberry patch
– learn to can, and can stuff
– figure out what I’m doing wrong with Sandor Katz’s fermentation recipe, fix it, and pickle a bunch of shit from the garden
– hire an arborist to create a 3 year plan to lower our apple tree
– grow my husband some hot-ass peppers
– plant a cherry tree like the one George Washington chopped down to prove his honesty
– figure out how to keep cats from shitting in my garden constantly
It is hard to get this garden going when I have so many meetings and service requirements. On weekends! At night! And now we have to meet all summer long, which frankly I feel is an abomination. I didn’t pursue this career because I wanted to keep doing my job all summer! Lord have mercy.
Also, for the two years I have had this job, I have known that my office would eventually be taken away from me. And now it is happening. I am excited and horrified and nervous. Basically I was put in way too nice of an office given my level of seniority (nonexistent) and my area (academics, i.e. the area in a conservatory-style music department that is lower than a piece of shit on the floor). I was put in this nice office because when I started this job, the huge class I teach every semester had seven TAs and a full-time program manager with whom I shared an office. Thus, I required a large and accessible office, even though every other academic is shut up in former broom closets down in the basement. My office is a source of resentment within the department, and I totally get it. There is no reason I should randomly have this huge bright office right on the main floor, when there are people who have been here for 20 years who are stuck in the basement without enough room to rehearse their quartets or whatever. Also, over these two years, due to state budget cuts, this huge class I teach has slowly been whittled away from underneath me–TA line after TA line has been cut, which results in a lower and lower enrollment cap. Now we are running at a lean-and-mean 100 students/3 TAs and plans are afoot to cut the program manager position. If this happens, it will indeed be insane for me to be in this office, and I am fully on board with that. I am not selfish enough to demand I stay in this office when it is patently unfair. If I had won a MacArthur or something maybe I’d pitch a fit but I’m just a hardworking junior faculty member without even a book to my name, who the hell do I think I am?
So anyway the point is I’m probably getting moved down into the basement. Honestly I am looking forward to it. A clean slate! An office not filled with the detritus of ages. And, my office will be so tiny that it will be impossible for my TAs to sort of unofficially use it as a hang-out zone where they store their trombones. The thing I am not looking forward to is cleaning out this current office in preparation for someone else taking it over. I might just not do it–lord knows nobody cleaned it out before I moved in! But that is petty of me. OH GOD it is SO TEDIOUS to do the right thing, alas.
Really, I have to HOPE I am getting moved to the basement, because SOME junior faculty are actually in this whole other building, in this awful broken-down abandoned warren of fake offices partitioned off with like particle board. The building is slated to be demolished soon but they sort of let some of the less lucrative departments on campus squat in there as necessary. If they move me over there I will scream; that shit’s not fair at all! Oh god now I’m scared. There’s always someone worse off than you, ain’t it the truth!
But anyway, this is why I never actually invested emotionally in my office. People would come in and say to my face how shitty it looked and I’d be like….yeah. But I knew that I’d feel like a dingus if I spent days of my summer painting and cleaning and buying new furniture, only to get shunted down into the basement! NOW WHO IS LAUGHING, FUNNY MAN???? I made the right choice!
when you go down in the basement you never see anybody ever again. Currently, my office is a buzzing hive of activity. My TAs are in there, my program manager is in there, people are always popping in to say hi and ask me a question about policy or curriculum I don’t understand, or invite me to lunch, or tell me about a funny thing that happened. It’s so fun! It’s the reason I have actually made some friends here. But the flipside is that everyone knows when I’m NOT in there, which can work to my disadvantage in a department where most of the people do all of their work on campus and don’t totally understand what is involved in writing a book/prepping for class/grading, and how even when you are at home you are working. Down in the basement, no one can hear you scream, but also no one can see that you are actually at home working on your book. You can go literally weeks without seeing your colleagues; I know, because I go weeks without seeing the people down there. When I do see them it’s almost like I forgot they existed. We look at each other in delight: Oh yeah! YOU!
So my social life is going to be very different. And, I will need to get a mini fridge. And plants that don’t need sunlight. I guess mushrooms.
Anyway yes, it is almost summer time. The birds are chirping. It’s supposed to snow tonight but I don’t think it actually will. Tonight I am going to an event I nominally helped put on after which we get to go to a fancy restaurant on the school’s dime, everybody’s favorite activity. I was like “is there a bar” and everyone was like “uhhhhhhhhhhh let me check, ARE WE FUCKING IDIOTS? Of course there’s a bar”
When summer comes I always want to get a crazy haircut, to emphasize my freedom from my teaching duties. What will it be?? There’s not much hair to work with, in truth. Maybe instead I will grow out my armpit hair.