I'm still here, just busy beyond belief, as most are this time of year. I just wanted to write something -- anything -- and have no time to write anything thoughtful. One can be shallow and thoughtful at the same time, do you think?
My depression has subsided for the most part, although I do have to beware of going out of town, especially to conferences and especially to places that I want to explore in greater depth. England was both. In fact, England had the added benefit (or deficit?) of being a conference where I presented a paper. I like doing that. I've grown to like conferences, too, because I feel rather like a grown-up historian at them. That doesn't happen much at work. In fact, it never happens at work. I'm learning to accept that.
This past weekend, I attended another conference. All of the people whom I met there helped me come to some realization about my position where I am, both good and bad -- or, not so much bad as not quite right. As I have bitched and bitched and bitched, I have a 5/5 load, and have to specifically state and defend by desire not to teach in the summer since most of my colleagues are begging for more courses to teach in the summer. They are the sort who LOVE to teach, who define themselves primarily as teachers, and (with a couple of exceptions) don't care if they never write another word about history again.
I am not that way. Again, it isn't that I hate teaching, but it isn't the main reason that I went to graduate school for so long, and it isn't where my passion is. I'm just over-fucking-whelmed by so many classes and students. This means that I feel like a failure at my job. Not that I am, I think I do a pretty good job, but I just feel that I'm somehow not right.
Anyway, at this conference, everyone whom I met said, "you have to get another job with less teaching." They often said this in tandem with, "if you want to get anything done." Well, it isn't as if this hasn't occurred to me, or as if the Gentleman Caller (who knows the job) hasn't told me this a million times. This time, however, something about the message sunk in. Everyone with whom I spoke are dedicated teachers. They think and work at teaching; BUT, they see themselves primarily as historians and their passion is in research and writing. They did not understand my desire to teach less as a failure, but as a need to have more space for research and writing.
I did not feel judged as a bad teacher. I felt sympathy, not in the personal close way that Gentleman Caller offers (which is quite important); but in a general, professional way. In fact, this epiphany finally appeared when a gruff older historian whom I respect, but whom I had only just met, said, "you need another job." His matter-of-fact tone made my whole situation seem suddenly very clear, understandable, and not something about which I should feel guilt.
Of course, there are no other jobs, so I have to work with what I have, and -- as always -- I'm pretty lucky in what I have. Working with what I have means finding a way to manage the stress much better. Managing the stress meant identifying the two sources: no time to write and too much to grade. The grading I broke down into a schedule of ten papers or tests per day. That's all I can manage, and even then I have to use weekends to catch up. That also means that I am appallingly slow in returning papers and tests, but that's just how it has to be given the time constraints that I am under between the teaching all of that other stuff that comprises the job outside of the teaching. The research and writing I've broken down into certain tasks or two hours per day. Again, I don't always make the quota and have to use weekends to catch up, but I still can chip away at the big project. That's all I can do right now, given the job.
Once I burrow into the work, I don't have time for the depression. I don't have time to grocery shop, clean house, blog, answer personal e-mails, or do other things, either, which brought up another problem. Grants and conference paper proposals and so forth have deadlines. If you are too burrowed into what you are doing to get from one day to the next, you lose sight of those. I missed one grant deadline and one conference proposal deadline, which really pissed me off. At least the grant was tiny; but the conference would have been awesome because the topic was both new(-ish) and appropriate to the conference location. Lesson learned. Now, all of my deadlines are on my calendar, and I have to work in a bit of time each day to work on grants and proposals.
The plan for quiet has also come along fairly nicely. My life is not actually quiet, but I've weeded out a lot of distracting noise, sometimes by finding a quieter noise to decrease the frantic noise in my head. For instance, I can work myself into a frenzy in the mornings while getting ready for work. Sometimes I would use the t.v. or music to quiet the frenzy, but the external noise simply drowned out the internal noise, much the way anything on my cd player or iPod must drown out the general noise and the ghastly music at the gym. My head ended up in a cacophony rather than a calm. No noise left my head to make its own, so I decided to play audiobooks. That, for some reason, makes the morning much quieter -- or less loud.
My little indulgence for the day in reading fiction before I go to bed also seems to have a general calming effect. Also, I rationalize the reading as helping my writing. After all, if you read precise and elegant prose, you begin to write more precisely and elegantly. After reading undergraduate prose for much of the day, this is an absolute necessity. Besides, I found myself starved for beautiful language and have gravitated toward the nineteenth century. I'm now reading Emma, which I have never read. In fact, I've read very little Jane Austen, only Pride & Prejudice and that was back in high school. I find her very chatty and almost breathless, and envision her sitting around with a bunch of girlfriends gossiping about the neighborhood.
In any case, I'm maintaining my grip on sanity ("sanity" defined as "not depressed and furious at the world"). Let's see how long this lasts.