• Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Title

On crashing and burning in public

My previous post was perhaps not worse than a crime, but it was definitely a blunder. To go 0-for-2 in terms of mathematical logic in a post which excoriates other folks for not understanding mathematical logic, well ... some days, it just doesn't pay getting out of bed in the morning.

Looking back, though, I can see how I got to "should have stood in bed" status.

March 29, 2009
 
 

My previous post was perhaps not worse than a crime, but it was definitely a blunder. To go 0-for-2 in terms of mathematical logic in a post which excoriates other folks for not understanding mathematical logic, well ... some days, it just doesn't pay getting out of bed in the morning.

Looking back, though, I can see how I got to "should have stood in bed" status.

One of the characteristics of sustainability work that attracts me is its trans-disciplinary nature. Not just interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary, but existing in a plane perpendicular to those notorious disciplinary silos. At Greenback U (as at other schools), the path to success on the tenure track is defined by manic mastery of some small subset of information, which subset must needs exist within a single silo. That's one of the reasons the faculty route has never appealed to me (nor I to it).

As a jack (which is to say, journeyman) of many trades, albeit master of none, transdisciplinarity (yes, that's a word -- now) appeals to me. But having an assorted skill set is a mixed blessing, even for an administrator. Having varied capabilities makes it easy to say "yes, I can do that." (And mean it.) But, in the current economic situation, the question "can you ..." gets asked more often, or at least of fewer employees. And "I can" easily becomes "I will."

As a full-time administrator, part-time teacher, part-time farmer, part-time father, part-time husband, etc., my discretionary time was already somewhat limited. With increasing job pressures, what was a small positive quantity is now probably in the negative range. And even small time deficits have a way of grinding me down, faster than they used to.

The first thing that suffers is my executive function -- that part of my alleged mind which tries to keep the other parts out of trouble. Unfortunately, one of my executive function's jobs is time management, so that when it starts to go bad, "I can" becomes "I will" even faster and more often -- the point has tipped, and nothing good will come of it.

Then the verbal skills begin to fail. I block on words, titles, names, specifics that should (and typically, do) come readily to me. Crossword puzzles go unfinished (always a bad sign).

Finally, quantitative instincts go bad. Decimal places on backs of envelopes can no longer be trusted. The possibility that a "serving" might consist of multiple cookies goes unconsidered. (Not sure whether that last one is a mathematical or a verbal failure. Just another sign of intellectual exhaustion.)

All of this might simply mean that I've got to start taking more vacation time. (I do have a fair amount available.) But it's also fair warning that pushing on the end of a string day after day is an invitation to burnout. I can't afford to burn out, so I guess I better crash. In private.

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