One of the great joys of academic life, it seems to me, is the opportunity for fresh starts. New semesters and new academic years offer such great promise, such hope — and, whether that promise is realized or not, there will always be another start, not too many months away.
I usually try to do a little clean-up in my office at the end of the semester, but several snow days and a very busy schedule made that hard this December. I finished my grading and locked my office door before Christmas, not returning until just last week. Last May I had the same problem, without the snow: a packed schedule of summer institutes with university faculty made it impossible for me to do the normal deck-clearing at the end of the year.
So things were in a pretty sorry state this January when I returned to my office. Luckily, I brought reinforcements with me. My daughter Mariah, still on break, came in with me for a day last week and a day this week and helped me tackle the mess. I’m sure she was far more ruthless than I would have been, clearing away detritus, reshelving books, and generally making things far neater than I’ve been able to do for quite some time. While there are still more file folders out on the desk than she would like, the books are all in order, the papers neatly stacked if not filed away, and a few years’ worth of random paperwork is headed for the recycle bins. Walking into the office today I have a sense of openness, of expansiveness, and of preparation for the semester.
Now if she could only do the same thing for her younger brother’s room at home…