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What I'm Not Doing

A junior colleague of mine, not long ago, reported being asked by some senior faculty members how she had managed to participate in a faculty seminar last year. “What did you have to give up in order to do that?” they asked, not so much incredulously as dubiously, expecting to hear that her research had stalled out or that she had taught unprepared.

“Laundry,” she told them. “I gave up doing laundry.”

Academic life is all about trade-offs, and often trade-offs that revolve around time. As Henry Farrell suggested in last week’s Chronicle of Higher Education, part of what makes more traditional scholars so nervous about academics who blog is their often misguided sense that writing always trades off for writing — that if you write and publish informally, you must be doing that in time that ought to have been dedicated to writing and publishing in more formal venues. In fact, the trade off often comes from other areas of one’s life: recreational time, family time, sleep time.

But then, those things often get traded off regardless of whether one blogs or not. You see my list from yesterday; in order to accomplish these things — in order to teach an overload this semester, and in order to serve on a couple of graduate students’ committees, and in order to chair my program, and my intercollegiate program, and the faculty executive committee, and in order to attend conferences, and in order to attend to my long-distance relationship, and in order to keep writing through the midst of that, several other things have had to go. Things like:

— Sleeping enough. — Cleaning my house. — Grocery shopping. — Eating well. — Running.

Those last two are most depressing to me: my feeling of physical well-being is way off right now; I can feel myself actively sacrificing my health to my job. And even where the bodily attribute that I’m sacrificing is more aesthetic than health-oriented — I’m up almost ten pounds from where I want to be, due to the protracted post-marathon layoff and my crappy stress-related eating habits — I resent it nonetheless.

More health-oriented women’s magazines frequently tout the idea of finding “balance” in one’s life. The entire concept of balance is so far outside my experience that I simply stare at those articles with something approaching amazement, unable even to fathom how such a thing might be possible. But right now, this morning, sitting here having taken the time for myself necessary to write this entry, I’m recommitting myself to the search, at least.

And to running. Because, dammit, I got in much too awesome shape over the last couple of years to let it all fall apart now.


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