Nichole Guillory, PhD - Mothering in Color
I am fortunate enough to be on a research leave I was awarded through a competitive process at my university. This leave grants me time away from university teaching and service obligations for one semester to focus on completing some long-neglected research projects.
Because I’ve worked a continuous loop of fall-spring-summer semesters for the last 14+ years, I still have not quite settled in yet to my new research leave schedule.
Faculty readers, I know what you’re thinking because so many of my colleagues have told me the same thing over and over: You’re going to LOVE being on leave.
I have been on leave for exactly 14 days and 10 hours as of this writing and I have yet to feel the leave euphoria that my colleagues explained and radiated. (I’m talking about you, Anete Vasquez, and the leave glow we saw when you returned to work.)
Mostly I’ve just felt tired, getting messages from my middle-aged body that it can no longer keep pace with the schedule I’ve been keeping for the last 14 years, sometimes by choice but more often by familial and institutional demands. Migraines. High blood pressure. Insomnia. My body is exhausted trying to manage these chronic conditions, especially with the more frequent episodes I am experiencing lately. My friends have heard me say more than a few times that (middle) aging sucks.
Before I move ahead here, I want to be clear that I still enjoy a lot of age (and health and class) privilege. I have healthcare benefits through a university system that so many others do not have access to that helps me to manage symptoms of what can be debilitating and life-threatening conditions for the under/uninsured.
What has been most striking to me in the early days of my new work schedule is just how physically fatigued I am. Add to this physical fatigue the emotional exhaustion that comes with being “on” all day every day because of (social justice) work, mom, and partner responsibilities (see my November 2019 Mothering In Color post “A Wish List for the Emotionally Exhausted”).
Now that the pace of my schedule has slowed considerably, I realize more than ever that I have been on automatic pilot, just moving from one responsibility to another, one set of projects to another, no matter what my body told me about slowing down, taking a break, or resting. I just kept going.
Whether it was professor-ing or mothering, I rarely, if ever, prioritized wellness. Clearly, this is not sustainable, and feeling this tired is a wakeup call for me. I have a twelve-year-old son who deserves more than I have been able to give. I cannot wait any longer to enact a more wellness-focused, and hence more (middle-aged) body-friendly, approach to scheduling my day, an approach that is doable not only while I’m on research leave but especially for when I return to my regular work responsibilities.
On Roxanne’s suggestion, I’m giving a name to 2020; it’s my Year of Wellness. I recognize the power in naming, especially in communities of color where naming is linked to being/becoming/calling into existence. Thus, by naming this year (especially in this very public way), I am conjuring a healthier year for myself and by extension my family.
I’m starting with only a few changes to my work schedule so that I’m more likely to enact these changes more consistently over time. I have other goals, but I’ll work on those later in the year.
I’m no wellness expert, but I am a determined mom who is tired of being tired. I write this post in hopes that naming my intention and committing to it publicly will push me toward more long-term wellness habits.
Wish me well!
Nichole Guillory, PhD, is Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at Kennesaw State University. She publishes on the experiences of women of color in the academy. She is mom to Nicholas, the love of her life. We couldn't be happier that she has agreed to pen the Mothering in Color series for WellAcademic.