Thursday, October 28, 2004

Sunshine on my shoulders

Things that made me really happy today:

* A "letter" from a really special former student, M.
I smiled at the name on the envelope. It's been ages since she and I last spoke, but we send emails and letters about twice a year. Today's envelope bore nothing but a scrap of torn wallpaper, on the back of which M. had written, "Cello, I bought a house! Here's the bedroom wallpaper — isn't it fabulous? Miss you! Hope you're loving [new state]!" Hee hee. I love that girl! And now I want to send her something creative for her new place. For the record, the wallpaper is far from fabulous. It's pink and green and purple and has raised, fuzzy stripes. It makes high-personality stationery, however!

• An early morning phone chat with my former adviser, E.
E. surprised me by saying ALL the right things about me needing to step away from teaching for a year "because you're not getting to use your full creative energies," "you need to stop getting exploited," and "you need to take care of YOU for a change." Oh, my. Those three assertions in a row might look a little melodramatic (especially the last one), but I felt such relief when she enunciated them. I also felt as if I'd grown wings when E. enthusiastically encouraged me to go forward with the couple of risks that I'd proposed for the coming year's publishing goals. During my grad school years (and during her own family problems), E. was my most harried and hard-to-reach committee member. But, today, she was beyond kind. I wonder if she knows how much hope she gave me....
(No matter the bad luck I had in grad school, I can't forget that I had three amazing women on my committee. One is a helpful hard-ass and one is an ambitious optimist. And then there's E. who has, of late, been both role model and spiritual guide. Yay! Go team! Thanks to them, maybe one day I'll get to carry their example forward.)

• Love punctuates the day
As I spoke with E. this morning, our Siamese cat lapped merrily at the condensation on my study window. In the window's damp fog, his tongue left row after row of tiny exclamation marks — all the better to coax in the rare autumn sun.


At 10:14 AM, Blogger New Kid on the Hallway said...

That's great, to get such wonderful feedback from student AND advisor! And I completely agree with E., by the way - I know there are concerns about someone not teaching if they want to get back a permanent job after that, but there is no point in wearing yourself down and not being able to do the things that you want and need to do for yourself.

At 3:06 PM, Blogger Another Damned Medievalist said...

One of my ex-students came in the other day to talk about how to get along with new agenda-prof. It was interesting trying to be professional ( I have all kinds of doubts as to agenda-prof's qualifications, but she has tenure) and also sympathetic. I helped student hash out possible paper topics for new prof, and told the student that learning to just suck it up and read a professor's agenda were also useful skills.

Whenever I talk to the advisor, I feel great about myself, except for the part where I'm both happy and sad. ADH is very jealous of advisor. Advisor tells me I'm really good at what I do, and that I've been an academic longer than I've been a spouse. ADH thinks advisor is encouraging me to do things I'm not really up to. Sigh.

At 4:26 PM, Blogger What Now? said...

So are you thinking of spending a year doing full-time writing? How does that work for you?

Sadly, I don't function well in entirely unstructured time. I find myself so jealous of friends at swanky schools who get pre-tenure sabbaticals, and at the same time I have to recognize that I actually get more work done if I'm teaching one class. (If I'm doing more than one, the writing suffers. Structure is one thing; being swamped is another.) But clearly this is about my own lack of discipline; I'm really impressed by people who have the discipline to be productive when left entirely to their own devices.

I'm glad for your positive feedback today--it's great when the authority figures/role models in our life say the very thing that we needed to hear!

At 7:53 AM, Blogger YelloCello said...

New Kid -- thanks for the affirmation. It's been nine years of teaching (taught every blessed year of grad school, even in the year I was on fellowship), so it's time for a "sabbatical" -- in whatever form I can get it.

ADM -- I know well that happy/sad feeling you describe. And I don't know ADH, but I hope he does not underestimate you.

What Now -- I'm exactly the same way with unstructured time. I get so much more accomplished writing-wise, when I have at least one other obligation on the side. My mistake so far in my career is that I've always tried to squeeze in six or seven obligations alongside the writing. But you're right -- I will have to find a good way to keep myself disciplined next year. Not having any money should help... (Joke. Bad joke.)

At 8:14 AM, Anonymous Mas George said...

Good post.


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