Sunday, January 1, 2012

A year

As you can see from that picture, it is a beautiful snowy day here in NW WI. I am writing this retrospective in our new cabin. A place we had not even conceived of owning one year ago. But here we are. Hubby and I. Here I am. Now on the cusp of returning to academic life. I started this blog a year ago as a way to process and document my year of sabbatical. A year rich in experiences and ruminations.  You never know how a year will unfold. You just have to be ready for anything. I think I was.  My sabbatical was a gift and a gift that I believe I never took for granted.  Today I will ruminate over my overall themes and goals. There will be more ruminations, but this will suffix for now.

Balance: I am definitely better at this now. Definitely. But of course being on sabbatical and achieving better balance is easier. The test will come when I go back to my regular commitments in my academic life. I learned this year how to delegate only a certain amount of time a day to work. Even in my throes of writing, I hardly ever worked more than 6 blocks of 50 minutes a day. During those 50 minutes I was totally in the flow. But when my time was up (I actually set a timer), I left my writing to attend to something else that I cared about.

Almost every day of sabbatical I cared for myself in ways that I had not done before: especially in exercising, planning my meals, resting and sleeping. Finding better balance also let me to find my cook within and to read some unexpected books. Even to watch some movies. I was my number one priority.

Life is short. There are some things that I am involved in that I feel I make a difference or a contribution. I hope to continue these endeavors. Through my sabbatical, I also learned that there are many things that I was involved in before where I do not really make a contribution  or are just too complicated for anyone to make a contribution. I will be stepping away from these kinds of things as much as I possibly can, for my own health and well being actually.  We all have to do things in our professional life that we do not especially like. I aim to fill my days with activities that I like and where I feel I can make a difference or a contribution. Life is just too short.

Organization: Definitely better here, too. My offices and my study are all in good shape. Organized and basically neat. I did not get as far on my computer organization as I hoped. I have over 12,000 pictures and thousands of files. I still have 5 weeks left before I go back to work. I hope to do more here.

Downsizing: Physically I am down a total of 40 pounds all together. We lost our farm to fire which made it easy to downsize. But also sad because we could not choose what to get rid of. Throughout the year I steadily went through my parents things and our things, too. I gave bags and bags of stuff to thrift shops and threw out a lot more. Even our Christmas items were all downsized. Minimalist is becoming my new slogan.

And the 5Rs for my year of leave:

Reading: It is funny how I had a shelf of books to read and except for Buzz and Flow, I did not read one of my intended books.  Instead I read other books, with the most recent the biography of Steve Jobs which I found fascinating. I read a book about menopause (which I am squarely in). I read  Sarah’s Key and the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I read other books, too, but these are some of the more memorable ones. I read hundreds of research articles and other scholarly books, too.  I read something every day and loved it. Love reading.

Research:  I completed two research projects and began a new one. I really was excited to catch up with students that I worked with 6 years ago during my thesis study.  I was in countless classrooms and schools. I interviewed teachers, students and even parents. Loads of work to still analyze. So stimulating, exciting and inspirational.

'Rriting: I have one paper that will go to publication this week. I am co-authoring it with another scientist who called it “great.” That is quite an accolade coming from her. I am almost finished with the revision of my paper that won the award. I believe this paper is becoming very strong. I hope to finish it within the next two weeks and send it off, too. There are 4 other papers, too, that I wrote. They were all presented at conferences. They all need a lot of work still before they can move on for publication, I will get there with those 4, too. I have found that writing for me takes time. It is a process of writing, thinking, rewriting, and reading of course, too. I never kept count of how many hours I spend per paper, but I am guessing for the two that are going off soon for publication it is more than 200 hours, each. Writing is a mix of writing and reading for me, so it is not just 200 hours spent writing alone. Definitely time intensive.

Rest: I feel very well rested. One of the tremendous benefits of my sabbatical was resting and getting enough sleep. I rarely had to get up and be at a research site or teaching by 8 am. I was able to set my own clock most of the time and loved it.

Recreation: Oh, I recreated this past year. I am a cycling junkie, which I admit, and now have 4 bikes: a hybrid, mountain, road and lovely Dutch bike. I biked almost 1600 miles during my sabbatical. But biking is only a small part of my recreation.

I played. I swam. I canoed. I hiked. I walked. I talked and processed my day with my hubby more than I can remember in many years past. I played with my grandbabies. I cooked. I discovered that I enjoy cooking. I blogged and commented on countless blogs. I took long baths where I read research articles, the New Yorker and a plethora of books.

I watched a number of great films and basically no TV. I discovered pod casts. I had the gift of time to recreate (re-create) and loved it. Loved it.

Which brings me to the last rumination of this post: going back to work. I am looking forward to finding those certain students again. The ones that I feel "get it" or the ones that are scrappy and touch me in various ways. The ones who I can see make a difference in thought and action already. I am excited to meet up with students who I know are in this for the kids. All of those students inspire me to want to go back. They help me to do good work. I want to push my students hard and learn from them, too. I am not excited about the dysfunction that is rampant on my campus or seems to be. I am not excited about the coming accreditation and all that I have to do, which is a time and life sucker. I am excited to go back, knowing that it will not be that much longer that I do this work. Whether it be 1 or 5 or even more years, I know my years of academia are waning. I have discovered a full life away from academia and I intend to keep that part of my life full, too. There is more to life than work, even if the work that you do, you love, at least most of the time. Finally, privileged. That is what I am. Privileged. And yes, overeducated and over thinking, too. It has been a very, very good year, most of it anyway. I am privileged and grateful.

Thanks for reading. Have a great week. TFN,