Sunday, November 25, 2007

Getting My Life in Order

Those of you who know me in real life may remember that crazy job I had in Alpharetta. It was a teaching gig, yet I was required to work from 8 to 5 (b/c "that's normal business hours") and my lunch break was nonexistent. But the commute was an hour each way (after I moved, before it could extend to 1 hr. 45 min. depending on Buckhead traffic). So all told I spent about 11 hours a day just getting to and from work and working. It was hell.

Now I'm a graduate student, doing work I love, but also realizing that the schedule is insane. Wednesday on my way out the door for break, I chatted with one of my professors about how excited we all were for a day or two off. When she heard I hadn't had a full day off since August, she nodded thoughtfully, "That's about right. I finally allowed myself a day off a week when I made tenure." While I enjoy what I do, this takes me away from many other things I enjoy: my family, friends, travel, environmental concerns, blogging, exploring eating locally, sewing, hiking as well as many things I don't enjoy: cleaning house, cooking every single day, etc. The point is, my life still isn't balanced. And when I quit my job at FSA I swore I'd never live like that again.

This semester is the worst yet, though I've developed my academic muscle enough that I'm not discouraged as I was the first semester when I planned poorly for the end of the semester and then wrote really crappy papers. Now I'm just annoyed. At myself and the university. I'm taking three classes, all of which because I'm really interested in them, though one has gone out the window as far as keeping up with it. But I'm also teaching a 50% load (20 hours a week) because I was told to. The combination means that I likely won't have even an evening off before December 24, once I've finished grading the exam I'm giving at 7pm December 21. No, I didn't choose that date! (Hope no one expects Christmas presents on time this year!)

So the purpose of this post, as I'm drinking my cup of tea and trying to rewake up -- I woke up this morning to Finch running around and meowing -- is two fold: 1) to let you know this is never happening again and 2) to let you know what I have to do in the next month so you can feel sympathetic (and I guess stop checking this blog regularly till Christmas, though I often blog more when I'm stressed out since it's refreshing to write about things that are practical).

Why this is over

I demand that my life be in balance. I'm happy reading during the weekends if I can also drop things during the week and say, I'm going for a walk or the Wednesday market (b/c it's not crowded by 8am). But I require flexibility in my scheduling and the ability to say I need a day off.

Next semester, I am again taking 9 credits (usual load = 6), but if I'm assigned a 50% TA assignment, I will talk to the department head about taking a more reasonable 37% load. If that does not work, I will drop my Art History class, though since that's crucial to where I see my scholarly work heading I better not have to do that. 6 of my credits are independent studies/directed readings, which means that I have a lot of say in what we're reading. So my entire semester should be spent reading material that will give me the background to write a seminar paper. (For those of you lucky folk not in graduate school it usually works this way: you read x amount of pages a week for class and then you also read x amount of pages to write a seminar paper.) So this should reduce my overall stress throughout the semester.

For my life, I want to be able to take life on my own terms. I've talked before on this blog about how my years at FSA (4) showed me that I don't want to be at the mercy of a paycheck for the rest of my life. Well, academia has only reinforced that. I want my job to be something I love doing, not a collection of stresses. And I want choice in how my life is balanced. And I am determined to insure that my children have the same choice. Warren Buffet did that -- he told his kids: you can do whatever you want and I'll support you, but you have to be doing something. And they lead productive, interesting lives and he used his money to help save the world. I admire that on so many levels.

Now this does not mean I'm leaving academia, graduate school, etc. That's the life I want to lead. But I don't want the tenure track stress. And I want time to research. And I enjoy teaching when I'm not overwhelmed (or teaching the same thing 4 times a week). So, what this requires is financial independence. Interestingly enough, the people who achieve this usually start their own companies. Where this is going, I'm still working out. But if you think about things, you're closer to fruition than if you keep living paycheck to paycheck.

What I'm doing for the next month
nb: This doesn't include reading for class (which I'm not really going to do) or planning for class (which since I have to be evaluated again I need to do).

Week 1 (25 Nov - 1 Dec)

*Due: book review (1000 words), 3 page paper abstract (my paper's on Julius Caesar and the city)
*Due: 500 word article review on 3 articles (on monsters!)
*Due: 1hr 15 minute presentation (on nativity plays in the York Mystery Cycle)
*Due: finish grading 500 word essays from students (41 left)

Week 2 (2 Dec - 8 Dec)

*Due: Art History presentation on yet unwritten paper (my paper's on two Old English manuscripts and their relation to the political structure of the day)
*Due: Draft of 25-30 page essay (on Medieval poem St. Erkenwald)
*Due: Read & comment on drafts from 3 other students in Medieval class

Week 3 (9 Dec - 15 Dec)

*Due: Early Modern paper (18-20 pages) [nb: am going to ask for a week extension]
*Due: Art History paper (20 pages)
*Due: Revised Medieval paper (25-30 pages) [nb: am going to ask for a week extension]

Week 4 & 4.5 (16 Dec - 23 Dec)

*Due: Grading 70-odd 1100 word essays from students
*Due: Proctor exam and then grade 70-odd essay exams from students

I can do this. I'm not sure how, but I've been busy before and done it. I've written three papers in less time than I have now. So, I'm off to do this! I'll see you Christmas Eve.

No comments: