Professing * Reflecting

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Burnout + Baseball + Boundaries = Brush Off

How am I already so burnt-out? How did my plan to focus less on teaching and more on research go awry so quickly? How is it that I am either at school or holed up in my attic, wondering if I still have friends and if I will ever emerge to see them again? How is it that I have managed to piss off Cassio--the only friend who has been willing to visit me in my hermitage--so thoroughly?

Time to face reality and figure things out ONCE AGAIN, before I give up entirely on this profession. Part of the problem, a huge part, is my particular institution. Even though student numbers are growing by leaps and bounds, the faculty remains small. This means all hands on deck all of the time. If you slack on service, people--faculty and administrators alike--notice. It's the fucking panopticon. I even find myself saying to colleagues: "Why weren't you at event x or y?" Disgusting. In the past week or so, I have attended three long public-relations events, three long committee meetings, and one university-wide colloquium. These have eaten up my free days and made it impossible for me to grade, to prep, or to work--hell, I can't even remember what my work is about--on my research. I did manage to pull one panel proposal out of my ass, but I have six more proposals that were due, like, yesterday. When I will have time to write said papers is anyone's guess. So, at my institution, "focusing less on teaching" = making your ass available to get sucked into more service.

The second reality check: I can not focus less on my teaching this semester. Yes, I am teaching repeat courses. Yes, I know the material. Yes, I have some notes. Yes, I am an exceptionally good ex tempore speaker and teacher. Yet, my students this semester, for the most part, are dead. Dead, dead, dead. None of my old tricks are working. Nearly impossible to get anything out of them. Other professors are having similar problems and blaming it on: bigger class sizes, the heavy late-night baseball-viewing schedule,and the influence of a particularly unruly first-year class. I have had big classes for the past two years, so that--while an annoyance--is out. I have dealt and can deal with the numbers. As much as I love the baseball, I refuse to rely on it as an excuse. I am as sleep-deprived as the rest of Baseball Nation, but I am animated and engaged in my classes. I do not have many first-years, but I would welcome an unruly influence. My students, because of the culture of the institution, are in my opinion far too docile. In the end, I do not know how to account for the utter lameness. I will be giving my "wake up or get the hell out because you are boring me" speech in my classes this week. I have been told by some that I focus too much energy on teaching because "I care." And this might be true. If I cease to give a fuck how my classes are going, my classes might still go just fine and I might have more energy for other pursuits.

Speaking of which (and getting back to the title of the post), Cassio's pursuit of yours truly may have ended. Especially when I get stressed, I need my space. I tend to get pretty testy about personal boundaries under the best of circumstances. The whole mirror trope--me as a professional mirror--is based on how I use the mirror or mirroring as a boundary. But because Cassio is no narcissist, I am left to deal with him face to face. I thought I had been doing pretty well with this. We have been hanging out in my little attic, watching a lot of baseball, drinking a lot of wine, and having some crazy good sex. Lately, I--exhausted and stressed--have been lame company and have fallen dead asleep at some too-early part of our evenings together. When he suggested we go out to the pub to watch the game mid-week last week, I--exhausted and stressed--told him I was going to stay home. He suggested that he go to the pub, come over to watch the end of the game with me, and spend the night. I explained that I had an early class and had to get up especially early the next day. He, having the sleep schedule of a rockstar, does not even consider getting out of bed until 11 a.m. His response? "That's fine. You won't disturb me." What?? How am I supposed to tiptoe around a sleeping man to get ready at crack-of-ass o'clock in the morning? Have I explained that I live in a little attic? Getting ready in the morning involves a whirlwind of radio or television accompanied activity. Music or news blares as I race (usually naked, the benefit of living too high for anyone to see in) from shower to kitchen to computer to closet. Clothes and papers fly. Cursing is frequent. In any case, the point was clearly that *I* would not be comfortable having him in my bed on such a morning. Somehow, maybe because he got more and more upset at the suggestion that we see each other another time, I gave in.
Next morning, I got ready in silence (a huge feat) and arrived at school late (of course).

The rest of the week was chaos; my sleep deficit exponentially increased. When he called on Friday to suggest we get together, I had to decline. All I wanted was my bed. After all of the face time with so many people needing things from me, all I wanted was to be alone. He became very quiet for the rest of the conversation. I finally asked him if he was angry. He explained that he was not angry--emphasizing and completely undermining the point with "HOW CAN I BE ANGRY?"--but disappointed. I called him back later to try to smooth things over, but by that time he was in "I-am-perfectly-fine-and-I-don't-need-you-because-I-have-quite-a-bit-
going-on-myself" mode--full-on and unreachable. So did I brush him off or did he brush me off? Have not heard from him. Am I an asshole?

After all of this musing, I am left with even more questions. Why can't friends/lovers/family understand the pressures of my profession? Am I putting too much pressure on myself? In other words, am I blowing my workload way out of proportion? Am I not seeing it realistically? I have had this problem--at least the problem of alienating lovers because of my work--since graduate school. In my relationships, I often find myself feeling like I have to PROVE just how much work I have to do and just how stressful it is. Then I just come off looking like some kind of martyr or victim or whiner. Is there any possibility that someone could just understand in the first place without me having to feel like I have to explain myself constantly? Is it possible for someone to just give me my space without me having to use socially retarded expressions like "give me my space"?

Well, this has turned into more of a rant than I intended it to be. Thinking more and more that I should move to Maine or Nova Scotia or Newfoundland and become a fisherwoman. (Yes--this a strange dream of mine based on a strange notion that the sea is calling me, though my friends insist that whatever is calling, it is not the sea.) At least then people might understand that I had been in the cold sea all day risking life and limb to pull up heavy traps. If not, I could pop in a tape of The Perfect Storm and go on about my business.



Post a Comment

<< Home