Today's post comes from Jana Smith-Elford, PhD Candidate in English at the University of Alberta.
We have reached the end of April.
My fellow Edmontonians understand that this is serious cause for
celebration. A horrible month of snow, snow, and more snow, interspersed with a
handful of sunny days of futile hope, followed by several more days of
soul-crushing snow is finally over. Goodbye flurries of snow, goodbye
horrifically icy roads, goodbye indoors-only playgrounds, goodbye cooped-up,
house-bound, over-energetic child.
This was my view just a couple of days ago:
But two days ago, the first day of May! Sunshine! Somehow, no more snow in
my front yard for the first time all winter! My daughter ran around our
backyard for the first time in her life! Climbed up the steps of the deck!
Chased a ball around the trees! In the matter of a couple of days, temperatures
went from the negatives to plus eighteen.
It kind of felt like when the page of the calendar turned to May, someone
pressed a giant reset button on the weather.
Lately I've found myself wishing I had the ability to press a giant reset
button on my life.
I just finished a long, exhausting winter semester: candidacy exams
(passed), language requirement courses (completed), and an entry for The Orlando Project
researched, written, and submitted. I've read additional texts suggested by
examiners at my candidacy, started writing my introduction, began to explore
more deeply the theoretical side of my project. I've helped train new research
assistants with Orlando, continued testing for a new visualization tool
developed by the project, and prepared to attend an upcoming conference on
vizualization tools. All good things.
But I've also been sick four times in four months: laryngitis, cold, cough,
flu (often multiples at once). My office mate probably feels I should just
constantly wear one
of these. In the month leading up to the candidacy, my dear daughter
had the norovirus twice, and consequently slept through the night only once
that entire month. I did a poor job of taking time off after my candidacy. I
visited a dear friend in New York sans baby, but brought work along with me.
I've found the cuts
to post-secondary education in Alberta to be demoralizing and
unmotivating. I've been plugging away for a few months, but I'm tired.
We've talked a lot here about how April is often an exhausting month for
women in the academy. Aimée wrote just last week about overcommitting
and disastrous ends of term. And Erin wrote
an inspiring post about attempting to reengage and reinvorate despite
term-end fatigue. But, with an absense of vacation
serenity (or with no vacation in sight), how do you maintain or
re-gain momentum? After many months of hard and fatigue-inducing work, how do
you reset your life?
For me, pushing the reset button has meant:
1) Not working when I'm sick. It took three-and-a-half
separate illnesses, but halfway through this last one I realized that I wasn't
going to get any better by going in to work, and despite how much work I needed
to get done, I wasn't going to do it well if I didn't take time off. My
productivity isn't helped by plugging away on one cylinder for several weeks;
it's better to turn things off and then restart on all four. Especially at the
end of term, when bodies are crashing and illness is rampant.
2) Taking care of myself. I decided to go to the doctor to check out
my vitamin levels to make sure I don't need to up my intake of any nutrients.
And I commandeered the car in our one-car household for a week so I could sleep
in, leave work early, and take some time to do some personal shopping.
Sometimes it takes a bit of effort to organize, but in the end it's important
and definitely worth it. After the big push to complete term-projects, we need
to take time to do all those things that we've been putting off.
3) Booking a weekend away at the end of term. I think sometimes a
real break is necessary--a break without work. It took me a few weeks to
realize, but I think it's difficult to get a real reset without being away from
my work, my house, and my child. My partner and I recently decided to leave our
daughter with her grandparents and spend a few days in Jasper. Yay! Now to hold
things together for the two weeks until we leave…
How do you reset after the end of term?