Women In Academia

Getting through the mid-term push

It’s the end of October and November is looming with its angry weather and constant grading, paper submissions, grant deadlines, and the oh-so-fun job hunt. The freshness of September has worn off by now – office supplies are no longer in crisp-from-the-store condition and the ambitious to-do list tacked on the wall above the desk now seems laughably naive. This is the long, dark tunnel of the term. Soon, a light will start to peak out in the distance, and, to follow a common joke, it won’t be the light of an oncoming training.

This is my attempt at a mid-term pep talk, for those people in generally nice situations who are finding themselves perhaps overwhelmed right now. I was going to talk about propositions and education, like the two competing propositions in California, one of which funds higher education and K-12 and one of which only funds K-12. Competing propositions make it less likely for either one to pass, but even if they did both pass, there can only be one, like a horrible academic Highlander. That could spell trouble for California higher education and the current and prospective students in that system.

But as I sat in my office at 6 AM wondering how science labs manage to look so creepy in artificially cold fluorescent light, I thought that perhaps delving too deeply into the recurring issues facing higher education would not be best for my mental health. Pro tip – singing to exams is not exactly the sign of a calm attitude. Instead, as I saw my fellow academics zipping from meeting to meeting like highly caffeinated zombies (which is not much of a stretch if you imagine comments like, “Brainsssss I need to know what’s in your brainssssss and can we collaborate on this paper because you have such nice brainssssss”), I realized that ’tis the season to be zonked up on generated enthusiasm.

This is the time to savor that morning cup of coffee, and that afternoon cup of coffee, and that emergency 6 PM cup of coffee. This is the time to reflect on how nice things were two months ago and how they’ll be exactly that nice again ten months hence. This is the time to get excited that you have things to be busy about. This is the time to embrace your role as an educator – undergraduates are experiencing a time of many changes and many challenges, and they are awesome, and you get to work with them and in some cases, they get to work with you. This is a time to explore the new opportunities that are being offered at your institution, from new seminar series to new colleagues to new resources. This is a time to put in the extra work so that down the line you can prop your feet up on your cushy desk and sigh contentedly over your empire, like a fat cat in an old Hollywood film, minus the sinister motives. You can do this and it’ll be awesome. Tomorrow is a new day – a day filled with promise, opportunity, time, and caffeine.

3 replies on “Getting through the mid-term push”

Thanks. I needed this today. It’s a white-out here in the Great White North, and I haven’t seen the sun in weeks… Sigh. And yup, very, very busy. But, on the bright side, I quit a job last year because I was bored out of my skull. I’d rather be too busy than bored!

I sort of miss that cycle of school. In a full time job, it’s sort of never-ending. I’ve had this major project I’m working on (it’s really, really cool!) and while I am really dedicated to making it awesome, I am so tired of working so hard all the time and there is no end in sight. And of course as soon as that ends, you get piled on with more work. There’s no Christmas or summer vacation to mark the end!

That sounds like a lot of being busy! And I definitely relate to the feeling of seeing no end in sight.

Also, while summer feels completely different from the rest of the year, I don’t think the summer vacation the undergraduates get is really a vacation for the rest of the people working on campus. I don’t know that I know anyone who takes a summer vacation, actually. There may be fewer teaching obligations, but lots of other deadlines, like research and conferences, are more than happy to fill in the void. It’s more like the whole feeling of a campus shifts with the moods of the undergraduates.

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