The first week of classes is always a bit of a blur for me. I love meeting my new students, getting my syllabi in order, catching up with colleagues — but, really, it’s so busy I can barely breathe. This semester the first week was busier than usual as I was helping my daughter get her semester underway  as well. I tried not to do too much for her—in fact, I’m quite sure I didn’t do too much—but there were still questions she had that I could answer, and then there was the whole passport issue.
Mariah got her last passport when she was 15. She traveled on it several times, but hasn’t had any need of it since she turned 20, so it had expired, as passports acquired before the age of 16 expire in only 5 years, not the 10 allotted to those of us whose looks don’t change as quickly (well, there are the newly acquired lines, the glasses, the grey hair — but we are pretending those won’t show up). Fine, it’s easy enough to renew a passport. Or so I thought. It turns out that even to submit the application requires an appointment (you all probably knew that, didn’t you?), and the processing time is such that it looks as if we’ll be paying to expedite so that she can travel over spring break.
Still, we got that all squared away, and the first week ended without too many loose ends hanging.
Now the fun begins. Now the classes are real: the students won’t be shifting in and out of them (although some places allow for a good bit of “shopping” at the beginning of the term, in my department that shuts down after the first week), they have their books and their assignments, and we’re off.
Now we just need to figure out how to do all the things we said we would. And so right about now is when I am starting to wonder why I promised to give a conference paper in February (February! I don’t have another break before then!), why I am giving another one in March, why I was hoping to submit an abstract yesterday (made it in under the wire), why I agreed to write all those graduate school recommendations … well, you get the idea. Now is when it gets real.
I love the potential of the new semester, the clean new notebook, the redesigned website, the promise of the new syllabus. It feels, actually, as if I’ve just renewed my passport and made a plan for some foreign travel. But now I’m actually on the plane — there’s no turning back. I have an itinerary, and I think I speak the language reasonably well, but there will be surprises and probably even a few catastrophes before I return to the starting point. And that’s the whole idea, both of foreign travel and of new semesters. May your semesters — and, for that matter, your travel — all go well.