Monday, January 16, 2012

Two Words


I love our friends over at University of Venus, they have such good ideas! In December they invited participants to join the in reverb. You can find the description here. Ever slightly behind, I found this challenge in January and have only made it through the first prompt. I have decided that I will try to move through the prompts a few times a month. Here's what I came up with.

Prompt: Encapsulate the year 2011 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2012 for you?

Work n. 1. Physical or mental effort or activity directed toward the production or accomplishment of something.
The past decade has been hard work. From graduating UNC in 2001 and flinging myself—with neither plan nor agenda—into the Kootenays, to moving to Montreal to do my MA, to moving to Alberta to do my PhD and all that entailed, to struggling to launch my career (and keep it afloat on the waves of recession) and moving to Nova Scotia. 2011 was especially full of work though because I felt as though I was finally getting my legs under me in terms of my career, and that meant I was able to devote an immense amount of time and energy to it. However, I noticed periodically that I often was devoting effort rather than—what?—efficiency? Genuine time to think? As though putting in the hours, no matter how I put in the hours, was all that mattered. I can’t even relax or rest if I don’t feel I’ve “done enough,” though I realize I haven’t really had a clear idea of what that means. I was working for work's sake.

This theme was true not only of my career—teaching, writing (especially), conferences, collaboration. It was true of my yoga practice as well. 2011 was the first year of practicing five or six days a week, which was in many ways an excellent decision. It has fundamentally changed my life if in no other way than that I have to go to bed earlier (my practice is very very early in the morning). I have a better sense of how my body feels, and of how my mind is as well. That said I’ve tended in this last year to muscle through a practice regardless of how I notice I feel so that I get enough done. What is enough? Enough exercise so that I don’t obsess about the bad effects of sitting in a chair in front of my computer all day? So that I can get my leg behind my head one day? I initially began practicing yoga as a means of quieting my mind, but as I grew stronger and more confident in my poses that little voice that says 'do more!' got louder and louder. It is a fine line, it seems, between being consistent and hard-working, and being aggressive and stubborn and detrimentally exacting, for me, at any rate.

Work is unavoidable--and I certainly don't want to avoid it--but it can become a road block between me and the rest of my life. Academia rewards relentless work, or at least that's the mantra I've been telling myself. Though I don't foresee a reduction in my work in the near future (quite the opposite, actually) I do want to refine and reframe the way I conceive of and approach work.

Quality n. 1a. An inherent or distinguishing characteristic. b. A personal trait, esp. a character trait 2a. Excellence of a kind. b. Degree or grade of excellence.
A year from today I would like the word to be quality. Quality of work, quality of life, quality of effort.

How about you? What word encapsulates your last year? What would you like this next year to say?

5 comments:

  1. 2011 was the year of stress--comprehensive exams, the dissertation proposal, running a peer-reviewed journal, a massive house renovation and its pressure on my personal life, a summer spent writing and conferencing non-stop, and me responding not with energy or enthusiasm, but with anxiety.

    2012 is going to be the year of calm--I've cut back on activities that were good for my CV but not for my mental heath; rediscovered my love for my dissertation topic; started running, doing yoga, and journalling regularly; begun reading books that I want to, rather than have to, read; committed to cutting myself, and the people around me, a lot more slack. It seems to be working. I want to be happy because being productive makes me happy, not productive at the expense of happiness. Learning how to be an academic without anxiety--without the pressure that I claim is coming from without but is really just coming from me, without psyching myself out, without second-guessing myself--is what's going to get me there, I think.

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  2. Oh my goodness, you have described my year and me to perfection. THAT is a wake-up call indeed.

    Thanks for the post!

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  3. @ Melissa: what great reflection, what wonderful aims! Thank you for sharing your two words.

    @Elizabeth: it *is* kind of a wake up call, isn't it? Thanks for saying so, I often worry that I verge far too deep into the realm of the confessional for an academic blog, and yet these things are so intertwined with the job that I can't seem to separate them out for very long (& wonder the point of fully separating them).

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  4. "What word encapsulates your last year? What would you like this next year to say?"

    Yes - as in "Yes, of course I will."
    Maybe - as in "Maybe. Let me think about it and if I really want to."

    :)

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  5. After showing us a challenging pose we might work towards, my yoga teacher reminded us that practicing yoga is not about ambition. I took this to heart and un-ambitiously signed up for a second round of beginner yoga.

    I am not sure what 2011 was for me, but 2012 will be adventure. The adventure of graduating university, moving to a new city, finding a challenging (read: not customer service) job, taking the next step in my relationship and many other scary, grown up, exciting things.

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