Wednesday, April 28, 2010


This month's Scientiae Carnival is asking for stories of bumps in the road. I'm sure everyone has a contribution that could be made, but it got me thinking about how to define that particular idea. Is it still a bump if it doesn't go away?

I'll try not to bore my readers with yet additional descriptions of my slow death by this term's workload. Hence I am awake at 11:30 pm about to start writing my lecture for tomorrow, only to blog instead (classic!). My inability to handle the Spring took me by surprise, in part because this second year had been going so...functionally. Except that I hadn't been doing two new classes at once: eight lectures a week. As soon as I step out of the classroom I'm writing another lecture, and I've additionally (idiotically) covered for three lectures a colleague had to miss, taken on student researchers and independent studies, and spoken at a conference.

Partner is equally oversubscribed - working long hours, getting home just in time to eat dinner and go back to bed. Sometimes I don't see him for more than a few minutes, and the one weekend day he has off is often a day I need to use for a field trip or lab day. I know we aren't the only ones living insane lives; however, I am concerned that this is somehow seen as normal for a "young working couple". This isn't normal, and it shouldn't be. We shouldn't be working 15 hours a day each, throwing dinner together, barely managing the most necessary of chores. Our cat is perpetually pissed off that we leave her alone so much; if our schedules overlapped more she would probably kill us in our sleep.

Thus the question: why? The nature of Partner's job makes it necessary for him to work these hours during particular parts of the year. He could quit, but he won't unless there's a better option out there. The nature of my job makes me rationalize current insanity with the idea that this is temporary. But I wonder if it really is. Next term I'll be doing one repeat and one new course: will I have more time for research? Will I get more sleep? Will I be so accustomed to my current schedule that I'll feel GUILTY when I get to go home for dinner? Will I watch TV for fun and feel bad about it? Do I really think that I need to run myself like this in order to make a decent tenure case? Might I be focusing on classes when devoting time to research and neglecting my lectures would be better for my career?

I like to think that I came to a SLAC to allow for a more reasonable life, one not ruled by the power of the external funding agency, one where I might someday have a free evening once in a while. I like to think that this reasonable life is still possible, out there somewhere over the tenure rainbow. Or maybe I should stop waiting for that mythical future and try to create a more sustainable life for myself right now.

Sitting in my home office, the full moon caught my eye out our back door. I never notice the moon, it seems, when I'm not living in the field. It's nice to be reminded that it's still there, even when I don't have time to pay attention.

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