Learning to be Okay


Three weeks into 2016, and already it’s been a very up and down kind of year.

I have taken the deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman surprisingly hard. Alan Rickman in particular genuinely made me cry, which surprised me because I don’t generally react so strongly to celebrity deaths. Perhaps it was just because it’s only been a month since my grandfather died of cancer, and perhaps the cumulative effect of all these deaths intensified the feelings. I don’t know. But the last week has been very difficult because of it.

And just like last Spring semester, I’m not teaching because there were just not enough courses for all the adjuncts. Last Spring semester I had the same problem. I didn’t get any courses and thus didn’t have  job from the months of Jan through Aug. It was extremely difficult, and money was very tight, particularly after my mother was laid off back in May.  I applied for positions at several community colleges as well as the university I generally teach it, and didn’t get any courses at any of them. But I have no doubt that is at least partly my own fault: because I don’t drive, the locations I can reasonably get to is limited, and when I stipulate that, it lowers my chances of getting any courses to teach. I know there were some openings at two other community college campuses, but I just can’t GET there. The places I can get to aren’t hiring, and the places that are hiring, I just can’t get to. So, as usual, I have shot myself in the foot because of my driving issues.

But there was good news. I applied for a position at Duke University’s Talent Identification Program Summer Studies Program. I had an interview last Wednesday and was immediately offered two courses to teach during the summer. This is good for a number of reasons: first of all, the Duke TIP Summer program is very prestigious – an advanced studies program for high school students around the country that is run by Duke University but takes place locally; second of all, it’ll be a good experience and a good thing to put on my resume; and third, it means I’ll have a paycheck over the summer for once and won’t be quite so worried about my finances.

However, the Duke TIP Summer Studies program is going to be a SHIT TON work, and is going to monopolize most of the summer. I probably won’t be able to do much of anything else – dissertation work, or fun things, or whatever – during the months of June and July.

So, since I don’t have anything to do this semester, and I’ll have a LOT to do over the summer, the plan is this: I’m doing my summer and spring in reverse. And not teaching this semester will give me the opportunity to really focus on my dissertation work.

Of course, I said that last spring as well, when I was trying to finish my prospectus, and due to severe depression, I failed MISERABLY. Last Spring and Summer were just BAD. Okay, more than bad, I was (as I’ve said here before) suicidal for three months and genuinely did not believe I would see Christmas.

But now I’m on new medication, and a strict vitamin regimen, and I’m trying really hard to find a good balance between expectation and reality. I’ve been making extensive to-do lists, and I’m trying to figure out a workable daily schedule. I’ve been on a major self-help book binge the last two months as well. I’ve read Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and her next book Spark Joy. And next up is Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done by Brian Tracy. I’m trying to do small bouts of exercise or yoga throughout the day, to keep myself moving even though I’m stuck at home most of the time. I’m meditating on a semi-regular basis. In other words: I’m doing everything I can think of to do and be better this year.

My biggest problem right now is forcing myself to stick to a schedule. I know I feel better and work better when I have a set routine. But when I have no set things to do or places to be – ie, teaching, grading, taking a course – I have a very hard time motivating myself to stick to a routine. My own knowledge that I should never seems to be enough. In high school and even parts of my undergrad I could motivate myself just fine. I didn’t need external motivation to keep myself moving. Apparently, I do need external motivation now though. And without a class to teach, or a graduate seminar to attend, finding that external motivation is proving difficult. Here’s hoping I can work something out.

But in the mean time, the take away is this: my spring is my summer. My focus will be on my dissertation work. And I’m learning how to be okay with that.



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