Oh boy. This semester kicked my ass so hard. I knew, historically, that the second semester is usually much harder than the first, simply because there was less time to rest between the first and second semesters. On top of that, I also knew that I would have to prepare for a number of things: writing a textbook, preparing to lead in the organization and planning of an international conference, and doing research for Ph.D proposals. And these were just things that I was planning to do!
Stuff I learned:
- I can’t say “YES” to things all the time. A few years ago, I told myself that I would stop being afraid of plunging into things I had no idea how to do and just say “YES!” to invitations and opportunities. It’s turned out great so far, but I didn’t anticipate having to juggle so many balls in the air during the semester. There were points where my calendar was so full that I literally was jumping from one event to another, and moving from one assignment to the next. It felt like my brain was just forever “on” and I couldn’t find the off switch anymore.
- Sometimes, it’s okay to disengage. Having lived most of my life with a rather crippling case of FOMO (even before the term was coined), it was this semester when I began asking myself why I cared so much about things that I was not involved in, or I was not invited to. It’s strange to be both overwhelmed by the number of things I was involved in and yet wanting to be involved in more things. It was driving me nuts, and I had to learn how to take a step back and just let things go.
- Multi-tasking is not the answer. Because of the ad agency background and the content creation background that I have, multi-tasking had become a way of life. I was raised on a steady diet of hustling and keeping busy. But this was the semester that I learned that even these skills of mine had a limit. I was operating at half-speed because my energies were dispersed across so many responsibilities that I felt like a stretched-out piece of rubber by the end of the semester. I had to acknowledge my limits and learn how to pare down my schedule and focus only on the most important parts.
Stuff I liked:
- I was so happy to have been given the Writing for Young Adults class this semester! I had only taught it once before, but it yielded so many high-concept ideas and well-executed stories that I was excited to take a deep dive back into the genre and I was sincerely pleased with the level of engagement that my students had with the genre. I enjoyed the discussions and the workshop, and I really hope that many of them decide to pursue the projects they began in this class.
- My co-faculty, especially those I see daily, are still brilliant. One of the things I truly enjoyed doing this semester was the first Creative Writing Studies Colloquium that our Creative Writing program spearheaded during the middle of the semester. It was great to see a full house during both the plenary panel and the parallel sessions, and it was full of students and other writers supporting each other. I thought that the presenters and panelists were intelligent and insightful and really exemplified the depth and breadth of the concerns that writers have in this day and age.
- I was very lucky with the undergrad thesis advisees that I had this semester. I’m proud to witness their growth as student researchers and as writers, and I can’t help but be in awe of the work that they were able to submit at the end of the semester. I really hope that they continue to improve on their drafts and I hope to see their works published someday soon.
Stuff I need to do better:
- I need to find a way to deal with my frustrations. This semester, my temper was getting the better of me more often than not. I usually try to step back when I can feel the heat rising, but this semester was characterized by frustration more than anything else. Frustration that the usual things weren’t working; frustration at my own impatience; frustration at the world in general for breaking these students and making them little more than machines in the classroom when I needed them to be thinking, feeling human beings.
- I have to be more conscious about my health. The semester started out well enough: I lost close to 20 pounds on a diet alone, and I finally saw an ob-gyne for my PCOS and irregular period. I was trying to sleep by 1 AM (my usual bedtime was 3 AM, sometimes pushing towards 4 AM) during weeknights. But towards the end of the semester, the diet gave way to stress eating and over-caffeination; the regular ob-gyne visits tapered off; I was regularly sleeping less than five hours every day because of the sheer amount of deadlines that I was struggling to meet. And I could feel it. What I could easily shrug off at 25 was something I could no longer ignore at 35.
- I need to figure out what really matters to me. The thing with saying “YES” a lot and spreading yourself thin is that you end up forgetting what’s important to you. I barely wrote anything that was mine for the past six months – everything, except for maybe a story or two, was written for someone else. All of my words were meant for other people; very few of it was for myself. And I missed it. I missed writing and just having something that was mine, and my own, and no-one else’s. I missed the space inside my brain where I could just hide out and be quiet. I really need to learn how to reclaim that silence for myself once more.