Unlike most colleges and universities in the US, we haven’t started our academic year yet. That changes today, our first day of classes for Fall term.
Last week the first years arrived, visible by their tendencies to travel in packs, and the meetings started in earnest (although I’ve been in meetings for the past 3 weeks, so my year started even earlier). Students trickled back on campus, last-minute problems arose (of course), and I began my normal full-fledged panicking about the first day of classes and the state of my syllabuses (syllabi?). Today the craziness begins for real: we hit the accelerator pedal and don’t let up for the next 10+ weeks.
It’s been a tradition around these parts for me, and other academics, to set a theme for the year. September is an academic’s “new year”, and I don’t care much for new year’s resolutions (although I have made them in the past), but I do like the idea of having a guiding principle, if you will, for the year ahead.
In the past, I’ve tended to set high standards for myself in my choice of theme, much like I do in the rest of my life. I seem to conveniently forget each and every year just how insane life during the academic year gets. I set these lofty ideals for myself (I’ll get 8 hours of sleep every night! I’ll bake bread for my family! I’ll read a research article every week! I’ll achieve work-life balance and be happy happy happy!)…and then everything falls apart around week 3 of the term and remains in a state of chaos and I enter a phase of self-loathing since I can’t keep it all together.
This year, I know going in that my life is going to be complete chaos. This term alone, I have 2 classes, one of which is a brand-new prep and a brand-new class. I’m revamping my grant application, which is due in early December, and need to do some more proof-of-concept experiments there to address some of the shortcomings pointed out by the last set of reviewers. I’d like to get another article out by the end of the year, since I just got an article rejection. I’m department chair, we’re hiring, and we have a lot of new people. I have a conference, an external department review, and a big service meeting, 2 of which require travel, in the next couple of months. And as my kids get older, their lives get more complicated, and I have to manage getting them where they need to be.
So in this year’s theme, I’m attempting to recognize all of this and, for once in my life, cut myself some slack. My theme is good enough. I want to do my best this year, but my best doesn’t mean perfect. And let’s be honest, I don’t have to do an A+ job at every single thing all of the time. I want to be more mindful of when I’ve done enough in an area and move on. Because at the end of the day, I don’t want to be a ball of stress and I don’t want to be harping on all the things I didn’t do and all the ways I failed (myself).
Do you have a theme this year? If so, what is it?