Monthly Archives: December 2013

A New Faculty Filled Year

It was a big year for New Faculty (AKA: me/yours truly). Not only did I learn a lot, but I was able to share a lot. I feel as though I did a much better job of communicating this year and tried to address a broad range of issues from being a grad student, to working with them, to addressing our own needs as a new faculty. I tried to be mindful and post once per week and while I’m fully aware they all weren’t “fridge worthy,” they all have a place for you, my readers.

Thank you again for taking the time to read my space on the Internet Machine! Let’s have some fun in 2014 and publish, teach, serve, and make it to 5 pm every day with minimal tears from all parties! If we’re feeling crazy, we’ll even cook more than once a week and take time to read a book that’s not on the syllabus!!!!

My most popular post:

Faculty Resolution for 2013 | New Faculty

Stop Being So Generous

Surviving Grad School | New Faculty

 

Dear Grad Students, Let’s Try to be Professional

Let's Be Honest: Grad School Right Out of Undergrad | New Faculty

 

Let’s Be Honest: Grad School Right Out of Undergrad

Teaching vs. Research | New Faculty

 

Teaching Vs. Research Universities

Work Smarter Not Harder | New Faculty

Work Smarter, Not Harder

 

 

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My Year in Review

My Year in Review | New Faculty

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The 2013 calendar year has been good to me. I worked hard, I sweat out my writing, and I chased those middle school students like the wind. I revisited my posts from January 2013 and found that the ONE biggest thing I needed to do was stop being so generous with my time. While there’s been no perfect system for this, I’m working towards it.

What I wrote in January:

“So, my professional resolution for 2013 is to stop being so generous with my time. Not be a jerk but stop being so giving. As a female, I know it’s somewhat genetically built into me but I need to start ignoring it. My boss and I were chatting a while ago and his comments went something like this…(paraphrased):

“stop being so generous, even if you don’t have anything else going on, just stop. you’re too valuable. you have too much to offer. you deserve to be compensated with more than your name almost last on a byline.”

You know what, he’s right. This is not a situation with young students but I think our society has programmed all of us to just keep on giving until there’s nothing left. When I was teaching middle/high school, it was the same way. I would give and give until there was nothing left. I’m doing the same thing right now and I know it’s affecting me. I’ve started to gain a few pounds back (not withstanding the excuse of the ‘holidays’) and it’s time to stop. Finding that work/life balance continues to be a struggle for me and unless I begin learning to say no more now, I fear for my future as a faculty, a daughter, a sister, a partner, a parent, or whatever hat I put on.”

How’d I do?

I moved forward, not backwards.

And that folks, is a big WIN in my book.

8. I stopped dwelling on my mistakes as much. The voice in my head = the biggest pain of all. Yes, I made lots of mistakes this year, small to medium/large. But, instead of just beating myself up over them, I moved on. Yes, I apologized if necessary, but for the most part, I’m having growing pains (in a good way) and testing the academic waters. I can only assume up to half of any mistake if someone else was involved and make amends for that half, the rest I cannot take on as my responsibility.

7. I stopped sharing details with people. I stopped being so giving about my time. I started blocking off times when I needed to take care of things and planned respites on days when I could. I stopped being an open book to people in general and no one has noticed except me.

6. I stopped “shoulding” all over myself and making myself feel bad for ALL of the things I ‘SHOULD’ be doing. It’s a hard habit to break. I started enjoying the silence of my home and the luxury that it is to have space and freedom.

5. I started listening the cues that I was getting to the ‘edge’ of my wits. I’ve started meditating in my office for a few minutes at a time. Turning off the lights, sitting or laying on the floor and purposefully breathing deeply has proven to be a wonderful coping mechanism for me. Planning my calendar for a free afternoon (when I can) after I know I’ll be in face-to-face meetings all morning or ensuring I’m done at a decent hour on the days I’m not working until 7-8 p.m. have been excellent for me. Last week during the final rush, I found myself coming home, putting on all elastic/spandex clothing and not speaking to anyone until the next day. It’s what I needed and I did not feel one ounce of guilt for missing a holiday drinking binge or otherwise exhausting social engagement.

4. I stopped answering the bings, buzzes, and other sounds on my phone. In fact, I’ve turned most of them off except for texts and calls. Everything else waits and the calls and texts usually do as well.

3. I purposefully became more elusive in many areas of my life. Now, if my best friend calls, or my mom texts me, odds are, I’ll tell them what I’m up too, but I understand fully why my faculty colleagues will just disappear – they NEED too! I stopped posting on social media as frequently in general and started calling/texting people who are actually IN MY LIFE more regularly, even if it was once a week to say “hey, i’m thinking of you, hope you’re doing well.”

2. On paper, it was a great year. Six papers accepted/in press/published and a few conference proceedings. My mentor/colleague asked me at lunch last week, “how many you have ready for 2014 already?” and I could confidently answer that I already had two in the works. My life is not built on acceptances/rejections though so while this is important (enough to merit #2), it’s not the end all, be all for me, it’s part of the work I do in becoming a better academic.

Probably the most salient thing I did this year professionally:

1. I stopped investing in people and projects that would yield nothing in the end. I learned to say no and not feel bad. My students joked that I was the “how about no” bear but I took it as a compliment. Saying “yes” was killing me and setting my own boundary was one of the wisest decisions I made all year.

That mentality bled into my personal life as well and I took a good, hard look at the people and things in my life that weren’t serving me in return. I’m not the perfect friend, daughter, sibling, etc… on any given day so I know I’m not guilt free here, but I started saying no to relationships that were toxic, negative, and if the thought of it made my mood turn, I stopped investing in it. Some of those people haven’t even noticed I’m not in their life and those that do probably know there’s a reason and they’ve either accepted it or ignored it. Some of those people were more difficult to let go of but careful reflection revealed that they weren’t enhancing my life in a positive way and while it may have hurt, it was for the best.

As I put a close on the 2013 calendar year, I still have so much to be thankful for professionally and personally. By learning to invest my time in myself instead of others all of the time, I learned to enjoy relaxing, I learned to enjoy my space, and I worked to cultivate real relationships with real people that were new in my life. I accepted my introverted tendencies and quit FIGHTING myself into thinking I SHOULD be something I was and am not. I will always be terrible at small talk. I’m honest and to the point all of the time. I will always look at a crowd and think of ways I can get away. But I’m aware of it and am learning. I hope that 2014 yields the same quality of work, the same energy toward education and life, and continual reflection and growth on my own terms.

I bid you a wonderful holiday season. I hope your bucket runs over this time of year and lasts you until the next time you need it! I will see you after a much needed and well deserved break from it all!

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It’s Rarely About You…Until It Is

It's Rarely About You | New Faculty

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I’ve been coming under some scrutiny lately. By someone who’s NOT in academia. Yes, they work for the university, but they have to clock in/out 8-5. They don’t work weekends, they don’t have any responsibility outside of 8-5. Sometimes, I’m jealous. I’d REALLYYYY love being able to leave work at work. I’d really love to clock out at 5 and have the rest of the day to do what I want. But I don’t and I’ve always been ok with my decisions. However, lately, I’ve found myself being called to the carpet over someone elses’ insecurities about my work schedule and I’m not really ‘feeling’ it lately. In fact, I’m getting down right annoyed.

As an academic, I have the ‘luxury’ of being:

  • self motivated
  • creating/setting my own calendar
  • being more self motivated to produce/publish
  • working odd hours–until 7-8 p.m. 3 nights per week
  • working regularly on weekends when needed due to the nature of my work

I have been very careful to NOT complain or air any of my dirty laundry about faculty life, but one day, some passive aggressive comments came my way when I was feeling under the weather and took the morning to see if I could cut the fever I was running.

“Lucky you, you can just stay home.”

At the time, I was in no mood to really argue because I really was running a fever and feeling a little like dog poo in the brownest sense of the word. I let it slide because sometimes people have stuff that’s not my stuff.

What this person didn’t know if that I spent the morning on the couch, drinking tea, and working on article edits. Not exactly the most ‘restful’ thing but it was something.

Why am I defending this anyway?

The next time it happened, I came home for lunch after a series of meetings off campus and before heading out to collect data. Upon entering,

“wow, you’re free a lot.”

Um….?

I think it’s time for some ‘come to jesus.’ I don’t judge anyone else and their work (unless it was that time I had crooked hair and had to go back for a re-cut) and people are working hard, whether it’s punching a clock or not, so where did the scrutiny come from?

Now, repeat after me:

It’s rarely about you.

Whatever this person has going on, it’s not my beef (or chicken, turkey, venison, or pork).

Whatever this person is feeling, it’s not my feeling.

I don’t do that kind of competition.

After several off handed comments, I finally womaned up and said, “this is not a competition” with very open, aggressive, and albeit negative body language.

I had had enough. 

Maybe it’s because the last push of the semester is here. Maybe it’s because I’d had enough in general but my statement was short and sweet. It got the point across.

As we race to the finish of another semester and earn a little down time, I’d like to share the following phrases to help keep us all in line:

“it’s rarely about you.”

“thou shalt take no shit sometimes.”

As new faculty we sometimes come under scrutiny for reasons with which we cannot understand because someone is just looking for a tiny punching bag and who better than the low man or woman on the totem pole? While we don’t want to step on toes, it’s sometimes crucial to stand up for ourselves. Not another word has been mentioned since then. The end….

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I Do What I Want

Doing What We Want | New Faculty

Thanksgiving was a different break for me this year. I typically take the whole week off and get in the car or on a plane as soon as I can and head to the north AKA: the motherland for a week of fun, cooking, seeing friends, eating like a boss, and wearing elastic waist band pants. This year: I didn’t go 35 miles in any direction and my couch and I reignited our longstanding and might I add, passionate relationship. I did rekindle my relationship with elastic waist pants when ever possible so I’m happy to at least be consistent. My family is celebrating at a different time due to a lot of planning and it was just easier since we’re geographically spread out now.

IT FELT AWESOME!!!

Doing What We Want | New Faculty

This fall tuckered me out. I’m sure that like you, the burn had never been stronger and my desire to melt into the cushions of comfort were insurmountable. I worked M/T but Wednesday….that day was mine. I told myself “you shalt do as little as possible and only things that you want to do” and I actually listened to myself for once.

I:

  • watched tv until 1 p.m.
  • worked on a new holiday wreath for my front door
  • ate a real breakfast
  • drank more coffee than I needed
  • played candy crush

And it was wonderful….

I did not answer email, do any work, fret over the things with which I cannot control, or much of anything work related on Wednesday or my break as a whole. I took the luxurious gift of time and did what I wanted for several days.

I spent Thanksgiving with friends. Not having to prepare a meal was a nice change and my pioneer woman green bean casserole was the only slaving over the stove I did all day. I finished my wreath. I played more candy crush.

Friday, I went to the mens basketball game. I love college basketball. Let me repeat: I LOVE college basketball. It’s my favorite.  I went to lunch with a friend of mine and I even gave into the hype and was at Walmart at 8 a.m. to get the amazing deal on the iphone. Yes, I gave into the commercialism because the price could NOT be beat…and I love it. Many thanks to the kind employees of the store who let all of us come back throughout the day to activate the phones instead of standing in the line because the computer terminals were all backed up. I went back after the game to no line and was out the door in less than an hour with a new phone and some groceries with my bangin’ gift card.

Saturday, I had a list of things I wanted to get done in preparation for my upcoming family meet up. Baking and some pre-cooking, decorating my house because I love Christmas, putting up my fresh mini tree, and finally: cleaning up the house. While the list is mundane, I find great satisfaction in tasks like this. The results are often immediate and there is no one trying to micromanage my productivity. I ended the day with a meal out with a friend and returned to my couch.

Sunday, my cognitive “nnnooooooooo!!!” began with yoga in the morning, food prep for the week, laundry, and the Hunger Games movie. I came home after that ready to shoot an arrow at the imaginary dome but decided against it and made a huge meatloaf that was supposed to be meatballs but was too lazy to roll meatballs.

Why do I share my days with you? Because we often struggle to find that balance of any sort due to technology and our own inner voice that says things like “work more, publish more, shouldn’t you be doing_____?” and we forget that we do have a life. Even if it’s time with our couch, loved ones, enjoying nature, reading a good book that’s not academic, sitting quietly for a few moments each day, and taking the time to take good care of our physical and mental selves, we neglect ourselves first.

I begrudgingly opened my email Sunday night and answered the ones I needed to in order to get my calendar in order for the week and those who were waiting on me. The town began to wake with the 30,000 students returning and the next two weeks will be a race to the finish.

I cannot be anything but thankful for a few days of respite from the grind, some quality quiet time, and most of all: doing what I wanted to do for a few days. While we have the luxury as academics to often create our own schedules and conduct our own research it still can feel stifling from time-to-time trying to live up to the expectations of our students, our departments, and our own expectations. For a few days at a time, it’s nice to have the luxury of only being accountable to ourselves, even if it becoming the queen of our couch and sweatpants.

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