Innately, I’m a thinker and planner. As an academic, professor, researcher, author, editor, and entrepreneur—not to mention mate and mother—I’ve designed plans for all sorts of institutions and organizations. I’m also a coach in part because I love saying, “What I/we/you need to do is….”
But it turns out I don’t know how to rest. Recently, I happened on Alex Soojung-Kim Pang’s book Rest—OK, OK: “I admit I am powerless over lay productivity studies–that my obsession with happiness psychology and neuroscience for amateurs has become unmanageable.” Until Pang, I didn’t even know one needed to plan to rest. For all my knowledge as a teacher and scholar and as a professional coach, I have to learn how to rest if I’m going to restore my energy. Which I now admit, too, I need to do.
I was in the bookstore a few nights before Christmas to buy a Scrabble™ game. A friend had agreed to try out a new ziti recipe for me if I’d also let him beat me at Scrabble. I’m lousy at most board and parlor games, so I’m inured to losing. Stunningly uninspired to fight to win. The ziti was my prize, so getting whupped at Scrabble™, Shit Happens™, Spades, any game—well, yawn.
Once upon a time, I was competitive. I’d be like, “C’mon!” and “Bring it!” Once the poster child of high accomplishments, I am worn out. Folks, I am finally what not saying “No” often enough, what being one soldier of a tiny army raging against anti-Blackness, looks like. I couldn’t take on another task if I wanted, and in the haze of this malaise, I don’t want to. I’m shedding responsibilities like nobody’s business (that’s a pun). You couldn’t pay me to _____. If my life depended on it, I couldn’t _____. You get the idea.
And now I am even saddled with the work of planning deliberate rest, if I am to follow what seems the common sense—wisdom, really—of Pang’s book, Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less. (Note my critiques, though: Pang, who cites the restoration processes of numerous White, male creative persons, doesn’t seem to have met even one poor or Black person or working woman ever, and throughout Rest, mind-wandering is advocated more than mindfulness; notably, meditation doesn’t appear in the index.) I urgently need to return to the Elohee Center and Bald Mountain and our WellAcademic retreat in the worst way. And I’ll get back there next May.
Meanwhile, I am resting and wrestling with Pang’s concepts of “deliberate rest” and “deep play.” Pang defines the latter as sustained rest in scheduled creative activities involving physical movement such as sailing, skiing, landscape painting, foreign traveling, or mountain climbing. Uh-huh, my new hobbies might be more like finally creating a household budget we can stick to and dragging a Black woman friend with me to join the local group meditation center, to recover from over-exertion, to rehabilitate.
Deliberate rest takes the less costly form of planned, conscientious, significant time away from whatever constitutes one’s work, again rest being a conscious and active goal. Pang offers one example in Charles Darwin’s afternoon walks of several miles, around his own back yard, after his morning labors. Now that I can do.
And I need to, to regenerate not so much to rejoin the too-tiny righteous army but to be able to remember how awful depletion and over-commitment feel. I need deliberate rest now because I am in fact joyless. For my many self-care rituals have proved inadequate against the number of heavy stressors I’ve faced recently. My habits of daily meditation, regular massage and reflexology, acupuncture, sufficient sleep, an 80% vegetarian-Mediterranean diet, investment in hobbies such as reading for pleasure simply haven’t been enough to sustain the physical and emotional power I believe define me.
So, I must rest. But first, I must learn how to rest.
Until next time,
By Joycelyn Moody, JMoody's Musings
Last Sunday I met a radiant sister Black professor who teaches at another university in town (I’ll call her “A” to protect her anonymity). A thrilling oddity in San Antonio (seventh largest US city), where the population of African Americans has remained a constant 4% since I moved here over a decade ago. Sister professor, possibly a new friend. Unlike me, though, this other professor is also an Associate Dean. That position adds a whole other level of stress.
Still, Dean A cast a pleasant, vibrant demeanor. When she mentioned having served her institution for over 20 years, my research background and the many, many conversations I’ve had with other women of color in the academy kicked in: she’s undoubtedly suffered from the toxicity of injustices and “interlocking systems of oppression” that relentlessly plague academic sisters. Our conversation proved me correct, unfortunately.
My first inclination as a way to sustain connection with Dean A., to help her cultivate a wider network of not only Black academic women’s support but also minoritized educators of all ethnicities, and to envision her having the extraordinary experience I’d had recently among WellAcademic retreat participants: I invited her to attend our 2019 retreats for women of color faculty.
More than anything, what Roxanne and I want for those we encounter—as WellAcademic coaching clients, as retreat participants, as newsletter subscribers, as readers of our blog posts, in on-campus workshops—is to share our unique strengths and gifts as feminist scholars of the African diaspora. As our mission statement announces, we have dedicated our own professional lives to providing others, especially academic women of color, with enriched productivity through reduced life stress.
Meeting Dean A last weekend, I immediately imagined her as an ideal WellAcademic retreat participant, someone who’d almost certainly experience some of what I had in early October 2018.
When Roxanne and I held our first retreat on Bald Mountain at Elohee, I performed two roles: (1) WellAcademic coach and (2) retreat participant. In preparation, 14 retreat participants signed up for 20 to 40 minutes of private coaching with me. At Elohee, heart after heart opened to mine in trust, humbling me. I’ve flattered myself a creative thinker, tactically intuiting when to go deep and rapid fire versus when to work more contemplatively and long-view. Moreover, I’ve savored my research into self-improvement, rereading and applying it through Black feminist theoretical lens.
During my WellAcademic coaching sessions, I felt rejuvenated by the individual connection with clients seeking to regain their paths. At the same time, I gained a new solemnity, a serenity, about my skills while coaching clients. With them, I was experiencing both dynamic personal growth through the incremental “Breakthrough Sessions” Roxanne had crafted for us—then gently led us through—and developing the precious intimate group bond emerging in our sister circles.
We’d accepted Roxanne’s call to Elohee for insight and renewal, for sisterhood and rejuvenation. Having participated in numerous workshops with my astounding business partner before, I knew the other participants and I would inevitably have an extraordinary experience. Whatever the others expected, my own expectations were truly exceeded. The difference lay in the fact of community: while Roxanne was our indisputable fulcrum, magic lay in our collectivity.
I doubt many of us anticipated the powerful experience we’d create together.
Almost each retreat participant arrived with trepidation about WellAcademic’s deliberate timing at institutional midterms. Most divulged the challenge of permitting herself to break away for her own revitalization just when others feel free to demand more from us—make-up midterms at students’ convenience, belated committee meetings on chairs’ timetables, and so on. Even retreat participants “on leave” arrived almost panting, as if we’d run the distances from Cincinnati, Madison, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Miami, doubled over by the demands we make on ourselves and we face (or face down) from others who claim power over us.
I’ll close with two short lists.
What I expected:
What I gained/Hadn’t imagined receiving:
Until next time,
It’s actually still midsummer, but for those of us on the academic clock, time to break away is nigh. A change of scenery, however you can seize it, can bring a vital breath of fresh air. So before your semester starts or kicks into full gear, I’m thinking new inspiring, invigorating scenery is in order.
What do you need?
For starters, a public library card. I live in San Antonio—a vast metropolis with a wide network of public library branches, but maybe it’s not exceptional in its offer of digital and virtual as well as print texts including pulp fictions. Check ’em out. Next up to get a new view: a fit-enough body. (More on physical needs below.) Disposable income doesn't hurt, but you probably need less than you think. Essential requirements: self-trust, curiosity, an open heart, appetite and wanderlust, more humility than judgment, a supple—not obstinate—attitude. Just generating that list starts a tug in me.
When to go?
As far as I’m concerned, we're already running late. Anyway, it’s always time to go. This disposition is insane for a number of reasons, starting with I have the worst sense of direction of anyone you know. Like really, stepping off an elevator, for example, you know how one direction leads into the hotel lobby and the other to a dead-end mirrored wall? I invariably walk into the mirror. You can bet on it 99 percent of the time. It’s sad, really.
So, you would think my wanderlust would be like lukewarm. No. In fact, I’ve recently returned from two states in Brazil—Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais. It was my first trip to Latin America—which is saying something given that I currently live three hours from the Mexican border and I grew up on the Gulf of Mexico. It was an extraordinary experience, to say the least, one that’ll take a long time to process what I learned in both formal and informal professional settings. Expect to hear more about it here, from time to time.
I went to Brazil to participate in the annual symposium of the International Auto/Biography Association of the Americas. A small conference: about 70 artists, educators, and other intellectuals gathered to speak the same language; in our case, not Portuguese but life writing. A thrill to catch up with long-time colleagues and to meet newbies to our circle. Abstracts shared loud, expanded from the print iteration.
Back to the body. Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais reminded me vividly of accessibility limits in New York City my vertigo and I negotiated there last June. So, whatever your ability level, I advise calling ahead to make sure your needs are accommodated at each planned site; scope out transportation options beforehand; don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to make your visit stress free; and scour the web for relevant reviews.
Can’t get to Brazil or out of town at all? Here are five budget-friendly scenery-changing possibilities.
1. Public library card: books on travel, travel writing, transnational and decolonial literature.
2. Outdoor FaceTime. Call a friend who lives in a different climate or region. Check out the interior of a friend’s new home in a distant city.
3. Evening and/or Sunday drives: Sweet Lorraine (my newly irrevocable spouse—gulp) and I drive the 45 minutes to Canyon Lake and eat bad fried food at a seaside café. Sometimes we silently—intuitively—make a pact not to talk much the whole way there and maybe back, too. Glorious time and space to daydream, follow one thought to another. Sure-bet return: harmony and equilibrium restored.
3. Ditto for a short drive into Texas Hill Country vineyards. Boo and I both sample just enough wines to be able to drive home unless the mood strikes for an impromptu overnight.
4. Like your library card, most cities and towns offer public transportation to local museums.
5. Some public transportation routes will also take you to a nearby nature preserve, a city park, or a tourist attraction (think roller coaster or Ferris wheel if a carousel doesn’t shift your gears fast enough).
Looking ahead to fall travel, I’m crazy-excited about our upcoming WellAcademic Fall Retreat. I know firsthand the rejuvenation that comes from breaking away with other writers and thinkers. Good talk, good food, peace for reflection, stunning scenery all await. Come join us!
I’d love to hear about any of your happy travels. Please share in the comments below.
Until next time,
For the longest, I had a teeming stack of textbooks and school papers on my nightstand. Think Harryette Mullen’s enchanting Sleeping with the Dictionary. Then, motivated to write earlier on work-week mornings, I removed all stimulating electronics and books from my bedroom for better sleep hygiene.
Gradually, though, I relapsed into bringing in a book or two for night reading. Not inclined toward self-flagellation (well, maybe, but not concerning books), I’m accepting my bibliophile tendencies (euphemism for nerd, or in my case, blerd). Still, I’ve disallowed all work-related books, and paring down can be good. Seems like it’s always all about the balance.
I know a lot of y'all reading this love a good book, too, so I thought I’d share my musings about what’s been on my nightstand—and what’s still there as summer arrives.
Still there: Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women—you could say I’m a Gay fan. (Hey! That’s a pun. Didn’t intend that, at first, I swear.) Signed by the author, too, after a reading at BookPeople in Austin last July. Fans, eat your hearts out. (But err-- Dr. Gay, if you’re reading this, I was the very cute, Black baby boomer, gushing, purposely at the end of the line.) Thus far, I’ve been fascinated by these particular, and particularly, Difficult Women, so I’m still slowly savoring a story on a random night. Generally, I like to have short fiction on hand, precisely for their conciseness. Who doesn’t love a vivid world that wraps up in less than an hour?
I also thrill to quizzes—the kind in women’s magazines and the New York Times that assess the health of your sex life, physical body, productivity, family relations, like that. I’m proudly not yet married, but for nightly browsing, I nonetheless bought John M. Gottman and Nan Silver’s second edition of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. It’s full of all manner of soft-to-severe interrogations for couples. My Not (Yet) Wife, a clinical psychologist, looked on with both rolled eyes (which, by the way, Gottman famously cites as a death knoll in romantic relationships) and soothing words: “Buy it if it’ll make you feel safer, dear.” Of course, I quizzed her ad nauseum on our last two-hour drive to the beach in celebration of our 22nd anniversary. What better way to ….?
A close friend who died a year ago was always trying to get me to read Zadie Smith. When it first came out, I got halfway through Smith’s White Teeth when Smarter Me sweetly assured Good Student Me I didn’t have to finish reading a novel I wasn’t enjoying, even though, or especially since, I’d devoted so much time to it. But after my friend died, I started listening to an audio version of Smith’s more recent novel Swing Time about Black British Gen X women. Highly recommend, especially for readers who enjoy mentally leaving home, as this contemporary story makes transatlantic and diasporic migrations across multiple continents and into the psyche. On my night stand, I had a library print copy, to take in all the details—visual as well as verbal—one misses with audiobooks. Word to the wise: an audio version runs about 14 hours.
Finally, Claire of the Sea Light might prove a quick-read for most, but I’ve been so wiped out by the time I hit the hay each night, I’ve hardly managed to read two paragraphs before dozing off. I closed this Edwidge Danticat novel with more insight into the ways we make decisions for others, often unwittingly. More insight into how we compel others in our sphere to confront and grapple with the proverbial action-reaction-consequences of our own lessons. Luminous, to steal an adjective from the cover blurbs. Claire’s story is set on the Haitian coast, where she is only seven years old. Yet Danticat’s affecting novel surveys primarily adult decisions and the entanglements they activate. Kinda (positive) spoiler alert: Claire of the Sea Light ends happier than other fiction Danticat’s won prizes for. Still, it’s African diasporic feminist teachings are breathlessly powerful. I’m glad I read it. Who knew I am such a sucker for “elsewhere” explorations.
Claire retired, my night table presently holds only a coloring book and Difficult Women. Soon, though, I’ll have my turn with the local library’s copy of Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, and the copy of Lonely Planet Rio de Janeiro I ordered for a summer conference should arrive soon. (Yeah, that’s me boasting.) But wait. Would the latter count as a schoolbook? All about the balance.
Until next time,
At a Dean’s mixer last month, I asked one of my favorite colleagues, Ben*, how he’d spent his summer vacation. He told me he wrote a book. He got up every morning by 6, hit the CrossFit gym by 7, and was in his cubicle in the university library by 8. He wrote until he didn’t feel like it anymore, usually around 5 or 6 pm.
Ben told me the cubicle was stark, ascetic, and I conjured up a monk’s cell. No photos, no mementos, nothing but a bookshelf and a desk lamp. Our library has a Starbucks and a cafeteria where he probably ate lunch. Sometimes he’d go stir crazy, he said, and other times he’d take a nap, but mostly it was just him, his Mac, and some books.
I marveled. I was awestruck. Could any minoritized women pull this off? Could I?
I knew Ben as a hard worker. We’d sat together for Faculty Senate meetings; we’d sat together at a campus writing workshop. Once, at a different mixer, we had each been invited to present on our distinctive research projects. I’ve envied his fantastic discipline, and I believed wholeheartedly that he could write, had written, a book in just under four months.
Me: Had you started at all before May?
Ben: No, nothing in writing. Just mulling over the topic.
Me: Did you literally finish?
Ben: Yeah, well, I’ve sent the manuscript to my editor, and I’ll send off the bibliography when I’ve cleaned it up.
Me: [Without enthusiasm:] Congratulations.
After, I polled a few women of color: was that kind of situation possible for them? Could they write a book in four months? Each one laughed at me for a fool.
More than once, though, I myself have had time “off” to write a book. Every time, I faced the same dilemma I still face: do I continue my practice of giving to others more than I give to myself? Only once, as I’ll recall below, did I choose to ignore the onslaught of academic requests I frequently get as a Black woman called to service, even before tenure. It’s the dilemma many of my coaching clients have expressed.
My Love and I have each other, but neither of us has a wife. Ben does, though. For all I know, she’s a White academic, too, as he is, and maybe they’re equally sharing home care. It’s a safer bet, though, theirs is a traditional relationship with Guess Who doing the lion’s share.
My first and second “off” times formed 15 back-to-back months, and by the end I was supposed to have placed a (tenure) book in publisher’s hands. Turning attention to my millennial son over to his father, I started a summer fellowship over a thousand miles away: other Black lesbian academics were my community for the first time. As my fellowship required, I taught a group of reluctant undergraduates. Again, as stipulated, I wrote and delivered a talk about my book project.
Three months later I moved again—this time to Massachusetts for another fellowship. This one provided 12 more months “off’ (nine longer than Ben had). Once more, the terms of the fellowship required that I teach. I’d prepped to move, now I prepped for class. During my orientation, I was shown my study cubicle, a monk’s cell like Ben’s, plain walls, no windows.
How did I spend my time? The first term I taught a graduate seminar. I finished a few book reviews. Re-started my book chapter. Advised my doctoral students back home, some of them on the job market. I read and returned dissertation chapters. I wrote some overdue reader reports. I mentored my new grad students. I visited long-time friends in the area. I spent Christmas break grading seminar papers and attending the MLA convention. For an edited volume, “off” work, I wrote my own chapter, hell to draft.
I’d sold my car back home, and I biked everywhere until I was snowbound. I joined a heaven of Black queer intellectuals. I mentored the grad students among them. I pined for a lover I’d just left; miraculously, she greets me now with kisses every morning. I wrote and gave an open lecture to the fellowship sponsors, the campus community, and the public. I worked in my apartment. I never went back to that cubicle again.
By the time I left Massachusetts for my home in Seattle, I had come out to my mother as queer, and I had drafted two of the six chapters of the book I was supposed to have finished. And yet I had worked very hard across the 15 months I was “off.” The tenure book would come a few years later.
As I said, though, I did write a book once. Six years later, I was awarded a one-month fellowship. My son now on his own. This time, too, the site was outside Boston. All April, I researched my second book in a nurturing archive. I renewed my Boston friendships. I lived in a scholars’ residence.
In May, I left New England for my parents’ home in Kansas City. On May 1, my mother became my wife. As a University of Kansas PhD, I was privileged with a small corner room in the satellite KU Alumni Library two miles up the road from my folks’. It was just off the librarians’ canteen, and had windows on three sides. I arrived by nine every weekday morning, and I left when the library closed at six. My book project was the teacher’s guide to a 3000-page anthology of Black literature.
I started Weight Watchers in the second week of May, and by September, I’d lost 30 pounds. The rigor and regimen of my research program, and the counting of WW “points,” reinforced each other. I took a long twilight walk after work. No novels: I read grad students’ exams at night. I co-directed two dissertations. I read some tenure dossiers.
Mom did my laundry and bought the essentials. I took a cooler of salads for lunch. My parents marveled at their daughter’s discipline. I emailed my editor. She emailed me more. Once, I participated three hours by phone in a doctoral exam. I wrote more readers’ reports. I drafted a syllabus. I laughed with my son, in love with his two –year-old twin siblings; his father’s by a later marriage.
Somedays, for a change, I walked four blocks uphill to a community college to read in a girlfriend’s campus office; she was away for summer fun. My academic community afar checked in. I lunched with a grad school friend; she still lived in Kansas.
Yes, I was lucky and gifted beyond belief, but do believe me.
All spring and summer, My Sweet Thang saw house after house, buying our first home back home. She paid the earnest money. When we spoke to the lender, I was in Kansas, braced for a tornado.
Back then, paper was king, and just after Labor Day, I came home to nine pounds of paper proofs. My family and I sang to the new baby birthed at last.
Jubilant and skinny, I went home to a house I’d never seen.
How can a woman of color write a book in four months? Single, mothering, partnered, someone to maintain quotidian duties. Tenured or not, she should, as I did not, expect a lag in her professional responsibilities. Even when she wants to, she won’t ignore students. She will still assess the tenure cases of minoritized faculty around the nation. Our author will need a good library a few blocks close, and another regimen, for balance. Exercise and good food. She will need her own room, and someone else’s funds, plus a wealth of health. A wife would be good, but slovenliness is fine. She will need good luck. Perhaps a coach. A community who calls. She will work very hard—on the book and much more. She will love herself more for her efforts.
[*Ben is not my colleagues real name. ]
Until next time,
My WellAcademic co-founder Roxanne has encouraged me for months to write a blog post on the apps I use to manage my daily life. She and I are thinking women in the academy, and corporate worlds make apps that are beneficial to us and other academics.
When I’ve advised some of the apps described below to my coaching clients, they’ve generally appreciated them as professionalizing tools. They’ve assured me not everybody online, using Facebook and other social media, already know these apps. Their enthusiasm, and Roxanne’s pushing, has led me to this post.
First off, let me note that I (do my damndest to) protect the passwords to all my apps by one I hold sacred: 1Password.
After dressing in the morning, I write in my Five-Minute Journal App--literally only five minutes. Its best parts are that it induces gratitude and generosity and solicits “Today’s picture.” When I was moving house last spring, each day I photographed the rising stack of packed book boxes, then once moved, the steady dwindling of boxes as my partner and I unpacked. (A process still underway.)
Some mornings, I choose to meditate rather than write. I have tried a variety of free guided meditations available on the Internet. Among the most interesting and helpful: Headspace and Calm. Meditation Studio is my favorite, well worth the subscription fee. There’s no MacBook version yet, only phone and notebook for android and Apple products. It has soothed me for over a year now. I appreciate 10-minute directive to “Honor Your Strengths.” Or one of its other mini-meditations in collections that break into topics like “Stress,” “Anxiety,” “Pain,” “Performance,” and “Relationships.” There are also specialized collections for “Moms,” “Kids,” “Teens,” “Veterans,” “Quarterlife,” and “First Responders.”
Meditation Studio's pauses run anywhere from 2 minutes to 60-plus. I’m just trying the “Zen” collection—who knew?! And every night I drift off to a meditation of the “Sleep” collection options to fall and stay asleep.
Obviously, and happily, meditation is a big part of my life even though I confess I mostly sit for only several minutes at a time. My iPhone Health app tracks how long I meditate each day, which I mention less to acknowledge my OCD than to affirm that meditation is least of all a race or something to race through.
Speaking of my OCD, I relentlessly check my computer usage with RescueTime (that’s replaced Toggl). I need RescueTime’s numerical assurance I’m kicking butt in the academic sphere. Just as nerdily, I consult ToDoist, then join my Writing Sisters in Google Hangouts.
My Mac devices provide me access to Time Out, a gem that reminds me to take a 15-second restorative eye break, then later a 10-minute stretch break. Remember: hitting the skip bar defeats the purpose! (Thanks, David Cook Martín, for this tip years ago.)
Also during my writing session (with all other apps turned off—ahem), I track distracting thoughts like what to add to my grocery shopping list in Google Keep. It’s a very versatile app, so I use it now and again to take a gratitude break (e.g., to pause when I want to go off on a colleague). My partner and I share our Google Keep account, too: easy peasy when she does the grocery shopping –yay! Notes in this free Google app can be transferred later to Google docs or kept in Keep for months. Conveniently, my students generally complete assignments in Google docs, or we swap documents in Dropbox.
For longer notes with links and photos, Evernote has an extraordinary range of tools. It even has a scanning feature that saved me on a recent trip when I needed to send a signed document. If you’re willing to try only one app from this list, choose Evernote. Like virtually all of these apps, trust me when I say this one is not difficult for Luddites and novices to learn.
I still feel like there are suspicious geeks building software to make the computer user miserable, and I’m still put off by too many tabs in any one app and yet, after Keep, Evernote is my go-to. For a monthly fee, you can run it on all your tech devices and share it with family members. And also, as with most apps cited here, you can grab a really decent free version.
Hmmm, what more? Quite a few actually; I’ll post others on WellAcademic in the coming months. I’ll close by naming helpful traveling apps, because we academics are traveling bunch, whether to give talks or attend workshops. Akin to the safety SurfEasy provides, What’s App keeps my phone charges down while I’m out of the county.
By the time I reach my destination, I’ve reviewed my Tripcase itinerary and upgraded my Lyft link. No Uber link, of course, due to its abhorrent treatment of people of color, immigrants, and women.
During flights, I dive into the saved articles in my Pocket, my absolutely favorite app, and how I learned about most of the resources in this blog post. (All the others were Tips from My Sweetness, an entrepreneur and rabid user of technology). Pocket stores endless current short pieces about productivity tools, health, news, politics, happiness studies and positive psychology, and of course meditation. Or I listen to a book downloaded into Audible.
Once on land, I immediately open mapquest since I have a terrible sense of direction and get lost in a closet (said the lesbian blogger: haha). In my hotel room, I make a concerted effort to do a little yoga before I order room service or step out for fresh air and a stroll to a nearby wine shop.
Well, that’s it: apps from a quick sweep of my iPhone and a peek into the nerdy life of JMoody. If these apps interest you, happy downloading!
Final note: I did not receive any compensation from the apps I share above.
Until next time,
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,