Emerging

After pressing “submit” this morning on the study abroad program website, uploading the weeks-ago promised letter of recommendation, I felt something I hadn’t experienced in quite some time:

Relief.

Going into the term, I knew that Winter Term would be a whirlwind. It’s always my busiest time of year service-wise — reviewing applications and selecting the next cohort for the Summer Science Fellows, coordinating the review of applications for faculty-student research funding (and suggesting how to allocate those funds), managing the end of the Fall/Winter Comps cycle with the Comps Gala and the oral exams and all of the other administrative tasks that entails. On top of that, I have a large Software Design class (36 students). And this year, I’ve added reading tenure and promotion files to the mix and attending meetings for the tenure and promotion committee I was elected to at the end of last year.

It’s…a lot.

It’s been particularly a lot since mid-February, starting with Advising Week and going non-stop since then. I’ve worked every weekend in February and so far in March, sometimes both days (particularly in the last couple of weeks). Early mornings, late evenings, random bits of time I’d usually spend on other things — work, work, work. (When I grumpily kicked my partner and my elder kiddo out of my home office last night, both of whom bounded in wanting to brain dump their days on me, both of them rolled their eyes at me and deemed me “no fun anymore”. Ouch.) Work often feels like an avalanche — as I finish up one set of tasks, I can see the other ones quickly bearing down on me.

I’m definitely not at my best. Because of all the work, and because I lack some of my coping mechanisms like running (more on that in a future post), I have limited energy reserves. I find myself spending those limited reserves on my students and my colleagues — which means that my reserves are even more shot than normal by the time I get home.

The recommendation letter is not the last item on my way-too-long to-do list. Not by a longshot. But that letter was the last thing in the overwhelming backlog of tasks. I can look at what’s left on the list and slot those tasks, many though they are, into mostly normal working hours that don’t involve frantically keeping one eye on the clock and worrying about the 8000 things I’m not currently doing. I have time to pause and take breaks in between tasks! I can take the entire weekend off if I choose! I might even spend a wild evening (gasp) playing board games with my kids tonight!

For the first time in a long time, life feels….manageable.

(At least until the final projects and reflection essays come in next week!)

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