Everyone says the first year of any new job is the hardest, but really that did nothing to prepare me for what these first few months have been like.
My typical schedule goes something like this: I push my way into rush hour traffic while blaring BBC Radio 1, which I turn all the way up so that I can ignore the four jerks who will attempt to ram my car in an effort to quickly wedge themselves into the traffic, which is at a standstill.
Then I get to my office to grade and attempt to form a coherent thought before class. Some days, I steel myself for ignorance, resistance, apathy, boredom, and willful misunderstanding of the directions I spent years working into my syllabus. Others, I can barely wait to go into the classroom to discuss an important text or issue, as I think back to the first day I learned about Thoreau or Dickinson or Faulkner.
Then the tedium takes over. I sit through a meeting about a meeting, which usually ends in a discussion of splinter meetings I try to avoid getting sucked into. Someone needs someone to sign up for something on a Saturday morning, on a day late in December, which will last for 87 hours without a break. Anybody? Nobody? Come on.
I attempt to work on my research and am stymied by something. An inability to concentrate. A lack of resources. I research anyway. I can't help it. I open an email about a conference I applied to and then ignore it. It's too much to think about. I thumb through the calendar and try my best to remember why I decided to sign onto this or that project. I can't. It has something to do with tenure though; I'm sure of it.
If I'm lucky I catch dinner with a fifth floor friend. If not I eat in my office--leftover soup that is cold in the middle.
I'd go home but there's another meeting at 8 PM that goes until 11. I stagger home, tripping on a mountain of comp papers, and crash into bed, only to awaken bleary eyed to a cruel alarm clock that goes off four minutes later. I wave to the man I'm positive is my husband and begin the cycle over again.
I eventually learn secret exits out of the building where I work. It dawns on me that some papers may take a while to grade and that's ok. I figure out, slowly, how to ask for help. I apologize to the family I never see and stuff down the guilt that accompanies living in another time zone. I say no to people I like being around to make time for a dinner date with my husband (the person I like best). I get sick from the exhaustion. I make time to walk the dogs. And I stop to thank God I have this job, these friends, this life.