What a difference a year makes

This morning, I took a deep dive into my research notebooks from last fall to the present. I am trying to finish up a particular article by the end of the year, and wanted to remind myself where I left off with it at the end of the summer. (I worked with students this past term and prioritized projects that involved them over this particular paper.) I knew I’d started brainstorming and sketching out ideas sometime last fall, but I couldn’t remember exactly when.

I found those notes….and a whole set of notes on a whole bunch of other projects / articles in progress that I’d completely forgotten about.

My first reaction, of course, was to beat myself up over my lack of productivity and what I took as proof of what a lousy hack of a researcher I am. Because of course I did. With the exception of our 2019 CHI Work in Progress poster, I’ve been in a publishing slump for a few years. Which, in my better moments, I recognize as part of the normal cycle of research. More often, though, this becomes proof that I Do Not Know What I Am Doing and that It Was A Mistake Awarding Me Tenure and, my personal favorite, I Am A Deadbeat Professor.

(My head is a fun place, sometimes.)

But then I reflected back to November, 2019, and everything that’s happened since. The mental health crisis we faced with one of the kiddos, which took almost a year to properly get a handle on. The increased struggles helping the neurodiverse kiddo navigate daily life and school — which leveled up once the pandemic hit and have really leveled up this school year. The overly scheduled Winter Term 2020, for which my mantra for survival became “Spring will be more manageable.” (Ha!) And of course, the pandemic, with its ever-present firehose of work that hasn’t let up since March. Not to mention all of the chaos and stress and worry involved in managing the day-to-day, and the news cycle, and the election, and and and…

And that’s when I decided to reframe my thinking:

  • I managed to make forward progress on several different projects in a year filled with chaos.
  • I managed to launch a new line of inquiry.
  • I managed to collaborate with 4 brand-new-to-research students this year.
  • I have several articles in progress that I can, with some work, get out into the world in the next 6 months. Particularly since I am only teaching sections of our capstone course in the Winter.
  • I have a number of projects in progress. If some of them fail, that’s ok, because I have plenty of other ideas to pursue.
  • I could make more progress on some of these projects if I bring in collaborators, so perhaps that should be a goal in 2021.

As we head into the final part of 2020 (motto: The Gift That Keeps On Giving), let’s all remember to extend ourselves some grace, maybe even the same grace we regularly extend others. We’re all doing the best we can, with the resources and energy we have available. And that is more than enough.