Saturday, August 23, 2008

the evaporation of summer

The end of freedom is definitely in the air, and that's something you particularly notice while living in a college town. The traffic on the roads has visibly picked up, you can hear the gentle strains of the mating call of the wild frat boy whenever you step outside, and there's a general sense of anticipation mixed with healthy amounts of fear and drudgery.

Yes, fall semester starts on Monday.

It's always a time of contrasts for me. There are ample opportunities to meet new people, and even though I'm no longer really a part of my doctoral program, I've already started to get to know some of their fascinating new members. Even amongst the established BG veterans, there are increasing levels of contacts and camaraderie...perhaps we're all finally starting to get over losing new friends to jobs and other programs, and we just crave connection. Socially, I feel really good, which is frankly amazing, considering the scores of friends who have left this town, moving onto "elsewhere" and a new chapter in their lives. Most falls, I feel their absence, but the possibility of new connections is, right now, my strongest social sensation.

There is also a new semester of challenges on the horizon. Monday, I walk into my classrooms for the first time. For many of my students, I am the first university teacher they will have, the "welcome to college" sign in their lives, and this is indeed a heady feeling. There is so much to teach them, so many preconceptions to eliminate, so many new intellectual discoveries to facilitate. While I know by experience that not all will make it, I am looking forward to seeing how much most of them will grow.

And I did get a lot accomplished this summer. I've had an unprecedented level of scholarly production...2 reviews, 2 articles, and a start on the book. I've got to travel...the brief sojourn to New York truly being a highlight experience. I've got to see departed friends return for visits. I hosted two wonderfully fun parties, and each yielded unique memories.

There are downsides, though. My health has ground to a bit of a halt. I started off the break by swearing to get out, be active, and I committed to a morning walk and an afternoon bike. Then my knee started to give out. The knee brace helped with that, but then, of course, a heel spur in the other foot that hadn't bothered me in years decided to flare up and just will not heal (perhaps exacerbated by my need to shift my weight to that leg). Now I've been forced back to immobility, and when I do go out, I get to repeatedly answer the admittedly good question of how someone who never runs can possibly get runner's knee while simultaneously trying to decide which method of limping will be the most effective.

And although I did more writing in a summer than ever before, I still didn't come close to finishing my research agenda. My book, although I wanted to have it to the press by the end of summer, has miles of work remaining. Instead of polishing a rewritten manuscript, I have a plan, a bunch of notes, and some stream of consciousness rants that still await incorporation. Now I am facing a heavy writing load and deadline on top of teaching 16 credit hours.

It's a time marked with possibilities and impossibilities, the mixture of the rush of hope with the fear of failure, positives and negatives. After all these years in the academic life, you think I would've gotten used to this feeling by now.

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