By Joycelyn Moody - JMoody's Musings
So, like, you might have noticed that My Girl Roxanne is editor of our WellAcademic newsletter and blog posts. [If you don’t receive our newsletter, sign up here.] Do I owe her big-time or what?! That’s another blog all by itself. Anyway, when Roxanne and I recently discussed our upcoming blog topics, I agreed to offer a post on digital apps; she thinks I use some pretty good ones to manage my life, professional and personal. I was OK with that focus.
But then a sister-colleague made the mistake of asking me if I thought she should add an academic promotion assessment to her already too-full task list through the end of the current term. Since the person she would be supporting was another Black woman, my friend really wanted to do it.*
I replied to my friend with a list of questions, including: How many dissertation students did you say you have this term? How many conferences are you committed to attending before winter break again? Like that. She emailed me back: Our friendship is over. Not really, but…
Right after I sent her that list of questions, I realized it might be honest of me to answer some of those questions for myself. She had probably suffered the same angina that arose in me when I tackled the questions. After recovering from my panic attack, I put off the helpful apps idea in favor of this one (sorry, Rox), because it occurred to me you would find the following helpful.
What luck my colleague asked me to help her think through this; how important community support is for us at every step!
On September 27, I gnashed my teeth and did the math on my own situation. In the interest of being totally transparent below, I need to confess I reluctantly include Saturdays as work days—despite constantly chiding my coaching clients to rest on each weekend. I will get back to having weekends as leisure next semester.
So, I asked myself the questions I’d posed to my sister-colleague:
My spring term begins on January 8 in 2018. Since my discipline’s biggest convention, the Modern Language Association, runs on January 4-7 this time, my winter break will end with finalizing my spring syllabus and last minute edits to my panel paper. I mean, it kicked in at some point that prepping for spring term was not already included in my –mostly self-imposed—obligations over the next few months. I moved on from hyperventilating to cussing when this realization set in. (Roxanne made me add the part about self-imposed duties.)
With trepidation, I calculated the sum of my commitments from September 27 through the start of my institution’s Spring term on January 8:
88 days until Jan 8th minus the following scheduled work days:
5 days Penn State sister-philosophers’ convention
5 NWSA (Int'l Women's Conv)
2 Grading finals (not to mention other grading days)
17 scheduled days
88-17=71 days to play with
From 71 days, subtract the following leisure days:
15 Sundays with My Dearest
5 Thanksgiving Break
5 Holiday break
25 leisure days
71-25=46 - the number of work days I have to complete my commitments before the start of spring semester on January 8th. Needless to say 46 is not nearly enough. Commence full-on panic attack now.
So, Moody, I asked myself, just how many of your remaining TWENTY-FIVE leisure days are you willing to give away before you’re back in the classroom, new syllabus in hand? What could possibly be worth giving up even one of your 25 off days before Spring semester starts? Is the sudden request truly essential service to others, truly so advantageous for your career? You really OK with struggling to find space for one more task?
My self-assessment was an especially difficult task for me to take on. Without Roxanne’s deft math skills and her gentle nudge, I could not have moved from despair to the satisfaction I feel in posting this blog. (Thank you so much, Roxanne!) Whatever your fears, I invite you to sit with a friend and do your own accounting: is there something you’re doing you can choose—without risk to your development and position—to eliminate from your list, to enjoy more rest?
About that asterisk at paragraph 2: Let’s acknowledge the dilemma minoritized women academics face when called on to contextualize another sister’s professional achievements. On the one hand, it’s hard to trust anybody other than another woman of color to name the scholarship in a righteous, intelligent way. We need each other to do the imperative work of explicating—making intelligible, legible—another sister’s years of research, her heart and soul. On the other hand, we remain so few in the higher ranks that we get called on to do more than our share of academic service. Unfair is just one word for our predicament. Self-restraint, well, I had a degree of control over that. Just consider the insanity of my list above.
Consider, too, my colleague’s heartache when I tacitly advised her to review her full task list for its alignment with her earnest professional values. As Professors with numerous additional institutional privileges, both she and I can choose (what) to perform. For my part, I’m ready to audit regularly my commitments, to ensure all of my academic services—graduate teaching, scholarly production, committee leadership—empower minoritized women, they’re services truly worth my time and other resources. Both my institutional colleague and I have the responsibility to preserve our energy so we can work in ways we desire. And we are no less responsible for taking time off to replenish the energies we give the world. AKA she and I, hell, all of us deserve to have a little, err, a whole lotta fun.
Until next time,