…and already I feel so very, very tired. But happy. I’m glad to be back in the thick of things.
Today’s supposed to be a writing day, but I had an early morning meeting, followed by an hour and a half spent at a health care facility getting poked and prodded and giving the world’s longest personal health history (long story — may blog about it later), and then I called my sister to tell her some news, and now I’m too tired to do the hard writing. So I shall write this blog post and then do some grading and service-related work and that will do very nicely today, since I actually already met my week’s writing goal anyway. So there! (Woah, I just turned into Dr. Crazy there — I *never* use the verb “shall.”)
Anywho, I’m now three weeks into my first semester back from sabbatical and I have to say: I’m actually happier than I was during sabbatical. Tired, but happy. Seriously, I do not do well mentally in the slough of despond that is the isolation of sabbatical (or dissertation fellowship or whatever), at least not when it’s a whole year long and I don’t have a major project to *finish*. Don’t get me wrong — I got a lot accomplished over sabbatical. I did the major chunk of the initial research for the still-inchoate second book (or whatever — it might not turn out to be a book, exactly, but it’s big) I’ve started; I edited most of my half of a co-edited anthology of primary texts and co-wrote its introduction; I drafted 15 pages of an article (ideally one I should’ve finished this past year, but which I’ve put off until this year and next summer to finish); and I read three books in the field of historical English linguistics to help make me a better teacher of Old and Middle English linguistics courses, and maybe more prepared to teach History of the English Language if we never get a line to replace our retired historical linguist after the VAP line we currently have runs out. Oh, and I also did a lot of preparatory reading for the brand new early medieval lit class I designed because I had never previously read all of The Tain or Grettir’s Saga, etc. I did not get as far in my plan to re-read my undergraduate classical-to-renaissance great books syllabus (in prep for *another* new class next year), but I did at least re-read The Iliad, the Homeric hymns, and all of Sappho’s poetry.
So, I got stuff done. But. Even so, I felt like sabbatical kind of sucked. I think I might have done all of those things more efficiently with just a semester off. Or maybe not — it did take me almost all of the first semester to remember how to organize my own time, and planning and preparing for the six-week research trip to England took a lot of time. But still, I’m a lot happier with a lot of different tasks on my plate. And I’m even making more headway on a couple of other writing tasks than I was making on them over sabbatical. (Good thing, too, since they’re due in November and December — though I can get, and will probably need, an extension on the November deadline.) Check out the meters I added over in the sidebar of my homepage. The first one is the one I’m working on now, so expect it to grow this semester more than the other one does. The second one is the one I made headway on over sabbatical, but then stalled out on; however, as it’s related to a talk I’m giving in the spring, it might start to grow a little, too. I also joined ADM’s and Notorious’s awesome bloggy writing group to help spur me to keep up the progress on number 1.
I think that I’m just a lot happier with multiple tasks going on at once, and with the adrenaline that juggling gives me. As tired as it makes me, it works for me better than the quiet contemplation of a year of reading and research. However, *perhaps* if I’d had a discrete (but large) project to *finish*, I would’ve felt better about sabbatical My second dissertation fellowship year was a *hell* of a lot more productive and satisfying than the first, but that’s because I had the dissertation all mapped out and just need to write the damn thing down. I had a writing group of sorts, then, too, with the screenwriter across the courtyard from me. (Have I never told you that I spent my grad years in Melrose Place? I kind of did — different address and no pool, but movie industry “aspiring types” and plenty of drama. Beside the screenwriter across the courtyard and the costumer downstairs, one of my neighbors was this actress.) Anyway, the screenwriter guy decided that one page of my dissertation was about ten pages of his screenplays, and so we’d each try to write at least that much every day. Some days I’d come out with ten pages (really!) and he’d be all like, “No way! I’d have to write a whole script to keep up!” Hells yeah!
So, in short, I like structure, and sabbatical didn’t give me any. I tried to *make* some for myself, but it never felt right.
Sabbatical was really good for me in some ways, though: in addition to the work I did get done, and which I couldn’t do during the school year (e.g., do manuscript research in the UK), the break from teaching alone did wonders for my morale and the teaching part of my job. And it gave me a clear break from being grad director, since I wasn’t around for students to say, “I know this isn’t your job any more, but could you just…” And man, was I burnt out from being grad director! Teaching, too, though I think that may have been colored a lot by being grad director. I like my professional distance and compartmentalization, and as grad director (which also means instructor of the intro to research course for the first year grad students), I saw some students way more than I might have liked — in class, in my office, in their exams. Too much! And that’s true of the easy students as well as the needy ones. As the person teaching Old and Middle English, which a buttload of grad students take (both courses) to satisfy various language-related requirements, I still see a lot of the grad students, but outside of the bounds of the course, they are not my problem any more. And since this is the first I’m meeting them, I also don’t have any history with them. Clean slates are *awesome*.
But if I had to do it all over again — or in ideal circumstances, anyway — I might have waited to take sabbatical when I had a clearer long project to finish, some more concrete, anyway, and I might have taken only a semester. Oh well, something to keep in mind in another seven years, if they haven’t done away with sabbaticals altogether.