This time of year, we are a busy lot. Our email pronounces things to us. Things like good news. itinerary. reminder. favor. checking in. favor. big favor. ms. review?. urgent. We send emails with these same subject lines to others, like barely mutated viruses. We get colds. We medicate. We wonder why, with medical advances and so many medications, we still feel as if we lost an eraser up each nostril. We quickly skim the surfaces of each other's lives
via facebook and blogs. With others we have drinks and think through more important matters with the kind of attention they deserve. We join
groups online that cohere around fleeting desires. We attend
curriculum meetings; we shuffle papers; we receive news about the dire budget situation; we read first-person columns in the
Chronicle detailing problems with one aspect or another of our jobs, the framing of which make the authors seem virtuous, suspiciously so. Some of us sneer. Others of us snort. Others of us wring our hands as if we wrote the column and are about to be discovered. Maybe we did. Maybe we are.
Some of us check email incessantly and cultivate reputations for our lightening-quick response time. Others of us ignore email for days and days. This slowly drives us fast responders insane and perhaps it serves us right for not having a more full life. We stand in front of classrooms, looking out upon distracted faces, formerly chatty and bright young adults whose slouching seems to have deepened as the semester goes on, turning to slumping after the end of daylight savings time, when even the reasonably timed afternoon classes spill us out into darkness.
We try with varying degrees of success to conceal our weariness. Some of us act more beset than others. Others have little patience for the contest of who is busiest. We are all very tired; this is the point. We read Nietzsche and wonder why more people don't think this way. We are very tired, but we wake up at 3 am and can't go back to sleep. Our days become shorter. We begin to feel out of touch with our research, which in turn makes us restless. Those of us who are on leave feel their euphoria giving way to a vague anxiety about not having done enough. To steel ourselves and remind ourselves of a more productive time, or to postpone beginning that conference paper we proposed in some spring haze, we check on the status of manuscripts we submitted at the end of summer, when everything seemed bright and fresh, and turnaround times could be counted in weeks, not months. We get cheerful but vague replies from overworked editors and/or their overworked assistants about how they are still waiting. We wait. We unroll our lunchbags and chew on cold sandwiches. We attend afternoon talks and fend off sleep by snickering at our colleagues who nod off in the front row.
Soon (though not soon enough) it will be time for thanksgiving break. Some of us will travel a long way for a big meal, while others of us will lay around all week, catching up, peeking at our research, falling into slumbers, rousing ourselves only to make soup and bread and eat turkey and pie, all in an effort to regroup somehow.
It helps to know we're not alone.