Sometimes you can’t write the story until you know the end of it.
The new year start with great promise. I know for sure I have one on-campus interview, and I will have a phone interview ASAP. We are in Southern California, visiting friends and celebrating my son’s fifth birthday. We get out of Kentucky just as the severe weather is moving in, and the day we go to the beach, my son flops down in the sand to make a sand-angel. “This is the BEST vacation and birthday, EVER!” he declares. I slide back into California like we never left. This was where we started our lives together, this was where we started our family. No one wants to leave.
But leave we must. The semester beckons, as does the MLA. The few days we could devote to exclusively to family and friends are short-lived, and I turn around and get back on a plane to Chicago. I make choices, coming in a day later so I can be with my son on his actual birthday, missing the opportunity to attend a workshop on teaching world literature. It might be the first time I’m teaching world literature, but it is also my son’s one and only 5th birthday, and he is beginning to notice that he loses out on festivities because of the holidays and travel and the MLA. I choose my son.
The MLA is exhausting, as it always is. But I am excited, as well, sharing my good fortune on the job front. Mentally, I’m already shifting gears, away from straight literary studies and into pedagogy, a shift I seem to have been making for a while. But now I make it more consciously, attending pedagogy panels, thinking more about teaching and digital humanities. I have finally finished revising my dissertation into a book manuscript and will send it off soon after I get back from the MLA. This seems like a fitting end, the closing of one chapter of my professional life, and moving on to the next one.
I underestimate how much energy two completely new course preps take up, and while I appreciate my honors students and my world literature students, whatever energy I had regained from a restful vacation is quickly gone. The winter weather, as well, is unrelenting, and classes keep getting canceled, making it hard to establish any kind of routine or stability, both at home and in the classroom. I re-do the syllabus schedule almost daily, trying to find the time to introduce new, digital approaches when every other class is canceled.
I am an activist, a writer, a teacher, a mother, a wife, a friend, and a job candidate. All at once. We always wear the many hats, but sometimes, they don’t fit properly, or they can’t all balance on your head. Too much to hold up. Too much to hold in.