New semester resolutions

Ask any educator. August is a month full of intense ambivalence. The last vestiges of summer feel tinged with anxiety over to-dos left undone, class prep waiting for completion, and the impending end of freedom. Then again, August also marks the return of structure, the camaraderie of colleagues, and the thrill of new students.

As for me, I’m contemplating the start of my 11th year in the classroom with some consternation. I’m still tired from last year! The normal back-to-school buzz has yet to materialize, despite visiting campus, meeting with students, even hosting a school-related social at my house.

The summer, while definitely busier than usual during the front half, wound down nicely. I took a couple weeks all the way off–barely an email answered, I swear! I’ve spent the last weeks tempering class prep with leisurely afternoon naps and house projects. I’ve had a difficult time accounting for my malaise. Until I remembered the intense grind that was last year.

In the fall, I prepared for my fourth year retention review, finished an odyssey of an article, and earned my private pilot’s certificate, while teaching a new graduate seminar and starting as the director of our department’s graduate program. In the spring, I submitted my book proposal (finally!), collected 55 in-depth interviews for a new project, wrote several new pieces, recruited like mad for the grad program, and chaired my first master’s thesis. And then for the first 8 weeks of summer, I just kept working—teaching summer school, revising articles, writing sample chapters for my book, and building a new website for the grad program.

After typing all that (with so many other things I’m probably forgetting), I contemplated deleting for fear of sounding whiny (which I totally am) or like I’m a humble bragger worshipping with the Cult of Busy. But no. On the penultimate day of summer, I’m realizing it’s an existential tiredness that I feel—a topic I write about at least annually apparently (see here, here, and here) as I evaluate my own choices about work and life.

But another thing I like about August? The chance to reset. And hopefully, cultivate new habits. So, I’m here with some new semester resolutions! While I am loathe to make them at the new year in favor of specific, concrete goals, I’m enamored with a few overarching, interconnected resolutions to guide the fall season.

1. I will prioritize my health and wellbeing. Last year’s flurry of work activity meant minimal exercise and an abundance of on-campus eating, not to mention a fair amount of burnout. Starting now, I’m building exercise (back) into my calendar, recommiting to meal prep, and putting myself to bed earlier. And taking breaks and days off, dammit.

2. I will say no–and not feel riddled with guilt. My but this is a hard one to even type out. But hear ye, hear ye, I am no longer here for everything. And I’m going to practice not feeling bad about that, especially when the things I’m saying no to are important, wonderful, meaningful tasks, probably that I came up with for myself anyway. (Remind me, okay?)

3. I will protect my time. Because who else is going to? That relaxation and exercise I mentioned above? They now have a home in my planner alongside PROTECTED WRITING TIME (I’m yelling at me, not you), with the same importance as class hours and faculty meetings.

So let it be written, so let it be done!

–Dr. Shawna


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