Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Showing Up

 This morning, I slept in, then lay in bed delaying the day as I tried to imagine a balance between what I want to do and what I should do. Lucky enough to have a lovely, long weekend that includes Thanksgiving with people I love, I’m nevertheless aware of the ticking clock accompanying the papers and end-of-semester tasks awaiting me. 

As is often the case, the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other often brings perspective. Once I got up and started my day (with the mundane task of laundry), I realized that I was (once again) overthinking and overcomplicating things, and that realization made the answer easy.


I can do that.

The post below was written about a different break four years ago. My daughter is no longer in college, but will be at the table for our celebration tomorrow. There’s no beach trip planned, but I will spend plenty of time in our sunroom, inspired by so many screened-in porches at the beach.

And those papers? Some will get my attention and others won’t as I make sure the most important priority guides the next few days.

Showing up.

Happy Thanksgiving.

pepperminting via Pixabay
When I was a freshman in college, fall break wasn't a thing -- at least not at my school. The first break longer than a weekend came at Thanksgiving and one of my high school friends bet me that I wouldn't make it until then -- that I'd need to come home for a weekend sometime between late August and late November.

Never bet a Jersey girl that she can't do something. She'll either correct you (I could do that if I wanted to) or set out to prove you wrong. In the case of the Thanksgiving challenge, I won the bet.

Sometime before I graduated -- or maybe it was when I was in grad school -- Bucknell instituted fall breaks, a decision all of us appreciated. Ironically, many years after my own freshman year, my daughter ended up choosing a college that didn't have a fall break either. Her freshman year, she decided if I could make it until Thanksgiving, so could she. So, like me, she saw her parents at Parents' Weekend in October and kept herself busy every other weekend between late August and late November.

Now a senior, she still doesn't have a fall break, but I do. This time, I'm on the other side of the desk and I have hurdles to clear in the form of papers and midsemester warning grades. I also managed to end up with not one, but two writing deadlines mid-month and this sundry collection of tasks stands between me and fall break at the beach like a succession of unwelcome dominoes. I have only myself to blame, since every single domino was my idea in the first place.

Yesterday, I was feeling the crunch. Unlike the pleasant crunch of leaves beneath my feet (which we've yet to feel here in Central PA as we had temperatures in the high 80s as late as last week), this time crunch makes me grouchy and leads to me doing things like yelling at my computer screen because MS Word is somehow displaying all of my formatting and I don't know how to make it go away. (I eventually figured it out).

I thought I was alone in this (the dominoes, not the yelling at my computer) -- that everyone else was somehow more organized and on the ball than I. But then, this afternoon, I sat in a meeting with a small group of colleagues as we tried to plow through a task. A little more than halfway through the meeting (which wasn't that long to begin with), everyone ran out of steam. We pooled our resources, wrapped early and scattered to our various tasks, the clock ticking toward our deadlines.

Apparently something about misery really does love company, at least in this case. It's nice to know that on this beautiful, dare I say perfect fall afternoon, other instructors are huddled over laptops, papers and lab reports, wishing for a deadline that's just a little bit later than the one we've been given.

Engin Akyurt via Pixabay
This morning in my first year seminar, I had my students pause to take in the orientation slide on which I announce assignments -- the one that had nothing on it except the discussions we were having in class today and Friday. Together, we sighed at the beauty of the blank expanse of space that usually contained assignments and readings. We knew they'd be back after break but, for today, the slide contained nothing for them to do except show up.

And, for the next several days, that is my task. I simply need to show up, ready to read, grade, calculate and, if necessary, warn that the second half of the semester will require a little more effort than the first.

When I put it that way, it doesn't sound so bad. And it sounds a lot better knowing that, even though I can't see them from my vantage point, my colleagues are showing up, too.

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