Spring term started on Monday this week, after a shorter-than-normal spring break that wasn’t really a break. I knew going in it would be a tough term workload-wise — 2 full courses plus an every-other-week colloquium plus my research group plus FPC plus wrapping up my leadership of the cohort program I coordinate. I was somewhat prepared for that coming in to the term, although I am still a bit alarmed at the lack of whitespace whenever I open my work calendar. As I told my therapist at my last session, the second course is a multiplier in terms of time added to my schedule, not additive. More time in the classroom, more prep time, more students in office hours, more staff meetings to coordinate, more things to keep track of.
I was not, however, prepared for the sheer level of exhaustion every single day.
My “tell” when I’ve reached my limit is that everything becomes intolerable. Everything is too loud, too messy, too chaotic. I want everything to be quite, calm, and orderly. When you live in a house with teens / tweens, multiple pets, and an extroverted partner who works from home, calm / quiet / orderly is non-existent. I have been an absolute nightmare to my family the past few nights because they’ve had the audacity to exist and be their usual boisterous selves. I may have threatened to move out at least twice last night at dinner.
Paradoxically, I can’t wind down at night either because I’m so keyed up from exhaustion and from all the things from the day. I’ll try to do something sensible, like work on a craft project, but then get caught up in a Pinterest rabbit hole trying to figure out what the “best” thing to do with my leftover yarn is, or what yarn might be the closest match for this other pattern I want to make because the original yarn doesn’t exist anymore….and then it’s past my bedtime and I never actually got around to doing the craft project and now I’m both frustrated and exhausted.
I recognize that things will likely improve soon. I’ll get used to the rhythms of this particular teaching schedule. I’ll get to know my students better, which will remove the layer of exhaustion caused by interacting with people I don’t know well and trying to figure them out. The startup costs of a term are real, and those will subside and be replaced with more predictability. And, most importantly, I will get a bit of a break this weekend, something I haven’t been able to say in a long time.
And maybe, in the interim, I’ll find a teeny slice of whitespace in my calendar and put my head down on my desk for a few minutes, so that I’m not always bringing my absolute worst self home to my family.