Every semester, especially in the fall, I struggle to find my feet as the semester begins. I worry over classes and scramble to find the right pace for them. I rush to catch trains and mourn the loss of my morning walk (I get it in some days, but not often). I collapse at the end of the day. This year, I have added administrative responsibilities that have me running from one meeting to the next. Know what I'm really, really not good at? That's right: running around from one thing to another without a coherent connection between my duties, and especially if doing so offers me no time to hide away and decompress in my office for a while.
I worry if I don't say enough in meetings. I worry if I say too much. I feel overwhelmed by the juggle of classes, meetings, train, home, LIFE. I watch as my plans to continue research and writing into the school year quickly turn to dust because other tasks demand my time and attention.
I wonder, every year--heck, every semester--if I shouldn't throw in the towel and admit that I'm just not cut out for a job that has me wearing so many hats at once, and that has me to deal with large numbers of people all.day.long. (Did I mention that I'm an introvert?)
And then, sometime around week 3 (sometime right around now), I begin to find my feet. I revel in opening worlds of thought and history to my students, and remember why I teach. I come away from a meeting energized with ideas and determination to follow through on them. I realize how much I missed my fellow train folk. I remember to cherish the depth of community that I have found at my university. I encourage a younger faculty member and think back to how others' support helped me to thrive as a scholar, despite having a 4/4 course load. I figure out getting a real walk into a late afternoon or evening. I spend an evening baking fall foods rather than prepping for the next class or meeting, and for a brief moment I get off the hamster wheel and breathe.
Life gains perspective again. At least, until the grading hits full force, and at least by then I am used to the pace of the semester. And by then, New England fall will be in all its glory--bringing all the weather and colors and foods and smells and coziness that I love and thrive on.
And when all is said and done, I will survive the semester.
Every year the same process--always familiar, always different than the year before. Every year I wonder if I really can keep doing this job, and every year I come back for more. For the past few years, I've thought about leaving full-time work. I agonize over when and how to do that. I can feel something slower call to me.
But apparently it's not time yet. For now, I will keep finding my feet and trying to remember why I love this work so much, even though it's hard for an introvert like me to handle it all.
May as well make happy where I am, right?