Sunday, February 20, 2011

This, Too, Shall Pass

Overall, I have to admit to greatly disliking the title of this post. While well-meaning people have occasionally told me, "Don't worry, this will pass" in the midst of the Bad Times, all too often folks have used this sage advice to quash a good mood by reminding me that yes, yes, this is all swell, cotton candy and ducklings, but it's transitory, so don't be fooled into believing that it's Real.

Pffffffht, I say. But they're (sort of) right, which is a tough pill to swallow.

Exhibit A - yesterday was sunny and warm, with just a whisper of a breeze. My jonquils are in bloom, which for me is always a certain sign of spring. So I strolled around the yard planning my fantasy garden ("and the blueberries will go there and I'll put tomatoes over there . . ."). And then I remember that spring doesn't come in late February to North Carolina and that those crocuses and daffodils are quite likely to get smacked by another frost.

Exhibit B - the schedule for the national conference that both FryDaddy and I are scheduled to present at is up and it looks fabulous! The conference is huge, since every other year, the national melds with one of the regional shindigs (and this is one of those years), and the real challenge is deciding which panels to attend, since so many interesting ones are scheduled opposite one another. Then I get dinged by the Nameless Ones who snark that popular culture isn't a "real" academic field and sooner or later, my school will figure that out and cut off the funding faucet.

Exhibit C - my classes are chugging along nicely, with students engaged in actual conversation about the material, whether that material is nonverbal communication (what's that shirt say about you?), science fiction films and the Cold War, or Romeo & Juliet. It's a bit of a struggle to keep up with the grading and keep my energy level up, but there are tangible rewards for putting in the effort. And then I'm hit with the "what about next semester? What are you doing to keep textbook costs down? But everyone needs to use the same one, but we don't want to step on your academic freedom, but, but, but . . . "

Sigh. There are days when I am convinced that Opus was right, but my area is engulfed in a total lack of dandelions at the moment.

Then I remember:

Rebuttal A: Spring will come. So I need to make plans to tear up the ground in about a month and get ready to plant my own garden. Don't worry so much about what others may do with theirs and know that crocuses and daffodils will come back next year anyway.

Rebuttal B: What I do does matter. (Joss Whedon would remind me that, in fact, "If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do," but that's a discussion for another time.) I work hard to research and publish interesting, thought-provoking work, all while teaching a course load that would make a tenured Ivy League prof weep. And if I take the time to listen to the dogs bark (how much have they published, by the way?), I'll get distracted from the work at hand, which simply will not do itself. Go to the conference, present my work, nose around the Alamo, listen to the ideas of others, and come home with new methods, texts, and recharged batteries.

Rebuttal C: My job is to teach and enthusiasm for the subject and for my students is one of the biggest arrows in my quiver. (Or maybe it's a bolt. I like the idea of using a crossbow. Wow - I really do need to get out more!) It's okay to nod and smile and live behind my own eyes sometimes.

There. I feel better now. It's true - no matter what it is, joy or despair, it will pass. So take comfort in that or savor it, whichever is most useful at the time.

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