Weird Individual

Just tell me what kind of a weird individual falls down while walking slowly in front of her house in a wide, well-lit street that hasn’t seen any ice for years and while wearing super-comfortable shoes with non-existent heels?

And what kind of a strange person scrapes her leg in the fall so badly that she draws blood and now has trouble walking and even getting into her own bed?

And what kind of bizarre creature does all this the day before she has to return to the classroom?

Yes, that would be me.

80-Hour Week

The most dedicated participants of the misery sweepstakes are insisting that college professors work 80 hours a week. Tanya Golash-Boza, an academic I really admire, wrote a very enlightening post on how to ensure that you never work more than the required 40 hours a week.

I also went through a time when I worked 80-hour weeks. In my first year on the tenure-track, I came to my office every day of the week (except Sundays, but that was only because the building is locked on Sundays) and stayed there from morning till late at night. Given that I published absolutely nothing that year and barely managed to squeeze in one low-quality conference talk, I’m now at a loss to determine what exactly I was accomplishing with all that busyness. I invested endless hours into preparing and over-preparing lectures and that, of course, took all the joy out of them. I fussed interminably over the most trivial service assignments. I pondered the all-important issue of what color ink to use in grading a particular assignment. There was a lot of hustle and bustle, but very little actual work.

It is understandable that people who are just beginning their academic careers would be anxious to make a good impression while being completely clueless as to how to get organized. Since that first year, I learned how to manage my time and now lead a very different existence. This is why I agree with Tanya in that profs who dedicate twice as many hours per week to work than what their contract requires them need to stop moaning and look at their time management skills more closely.

I taught 4 courses last semester and worked actively on my research, but at the same time, I led a very rich, stress-free life, spent a lot of time with my husband and pursuing my hobbies, and couldn’t even imagine needing anything close to 80 hours per week to fulfill my duties.

Rather than having fits over the suggestion that there is no need to be a perennially stressed out academic, people should read Tanya’s blog and listen to her helpful suggestions on how to get organized.

Misery Sweepstakes*

I’ve been reading some of the responses to the article quoted in the preceding post and I can conclude that it really offends people when somebody suggests they are not completely miserable. It’s like a mortal offense to point out anything good about their lives.

In my culture, it’s the opposite. People will go to great lengths describing how great they are doing even when their lives are for shit.

I dislike both approaches because they are insincere and emotionally taxing.  I’m a drama queen and I love to engage in a regular bout of complaining about the imperfections of the universe. I don’t, however, have the mental fortitude to participate in the misery sweepstakes that some of my colleagues enjoy so much. At the same time, if I’m lying bleeding on the sidewalk, I prefer to be able to scream for help rather than convince everybody that I’m simply practicing a new method of irrigation that will make me a millionaire like my compatriots would do.

* If I’m not mistaken, I learned this beautiful term at the Stupid Motivational Tricks blog.