Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Introspection time

I've been in sort of a weird mood lately. I've always done a fair amount of self-reflection, but lately I seem to have taken it to a whole new level. I've been super-introspective, almost to the point of withdrawing---from posting here, from keeping in touch with people, etc. Not that I've exactly become a hermit, and I haven't completely withdrawn or anything crazy like that, but lately I've really just wanted to spend time alone, thinking.

Part of this, I think, is mentally and emotionally preparing myself for the big life change that's about to happen. My due date is approaching. I'm excited, yet terrified. I'm ready, yet not. Almost everything is in place, yet I still feel vastly unprepared for this birth. I came to the realization the other day that I probably never will feel completely prepared for this birth, or for being a mom, and I have to accept that, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me. So a lot of the introspection has been around that.

Weirdly, the introspection has also spilled over into my work life. I've done a lot of reflecting on what I've chosen to work on during my sabbatical, what I've accomplished, and how that's been very different from what I set out to accomplish. The introspection, oddly, has also fueled this incredible burst of creativity in my work. The creativity burst is helping me find the energy to finish up some things and get them out for review. Today the creativity burst inspired an idea for another conference paper, which in turn can be combined with two recent conference papers for a journal article (which, unlike the journal article I'm currently struggling to get out, will not require a ton of work to put together, I think), which means that I could potentially have 4 things in the review pipeline at once. But the creative burst has a downside, too: there is so much I want to do in my research, and I know that my time is limited, and it's frustrating to not be able to get to all of it. Which I know is ridiculous: it's not like I'll never have time to do research again once my sabbatical is over. But I'm impatient. I see all these connections and paths in my work, and it's frustrating to not be able to follow them all at once. I don't want to prioritize; I want to clone myself and get it all done! :)

I've also been reflecting a bit on my department, taking advantage of my distance from the day-to-day happenings to think about things like department dynamics, what I want my role to be when I return, and department leadership. One thing I've realized is that I'm deeply unhappy with many aspects of our department's leadership. I've been trying to think creatively about how I'm going to deal with that when I return from sabbatical and maternity leave: whether it's better to work around it, with it, or confront it head-on and contribute to improving it. I don't have any good answers yet.

So that's where my mind's been lately.


Rebecca said...

Jane, I don't think you would be a conscientious person if you weren't worried about going through childbirth and being a good mother! My experience is that those are two things that you'll never be prepared for. Childbirth is scary and painful, but like billions of other women before you, you'll make it through it. And parenting, that's just something you're going to have to learn as you go. My only advice is to be flexible, forgive yourself when you make mistakes, and remember that children are very resilient.

I'm glad that you've been able to reflect on your department, too. It seems like that has been a somewhat unhealthy place for you and I hope that you'll be able to make it better for you, whether through making internal changes or making external changes. If you ever decide to make a really BIG change, I'd love it if you'd apply for a joint faculty position down here, because I think you'd be a fun person to work with and actually get to know in person! ;)

Jane said...

Awwww, thanks, Rebecca, for your kind words! Your advice on birth and parenting is the best I've received yet. I have to say that I've learned a lot, too, by reading blogs like yours that talk about both work and parenting young's nice to see how you and others manage to balance everything and retain your sanity! :)

As far as the job thing, I wish my introspection had brought more clarity as to whether I should put more energy into staying or going. I'm truly, truly torn. But I think that warrants its own separate post. (I may email you about the last part, since I am weighing my options at this point....thanks!)

Anonymous said...

Jane, for now, given all the changes in your life, try to ignore the department. Focus on your baby, husband, your health, and research. Write and publish and simply try to be 'nice' in your department...until you get tenure and then, well, have your say. Remember, there is no perfect environment no matter where you go. I have a rule of thumb: Given any room where at least twelve people are gathered, there is always one Judas or, at least, one idiot. Hang in there.

Jane said...

Thanks, Michael! I'm definitely trying not to focus on the department while gone (which is probably why I've been so relaxed this whole sabbatical :) ), concentrating on research and home. And the whole "no environment is perfect" is one of the things I've been thinking about when thinking about whether to stay or go---you hit the nail on the head there! Well, anyway, I'll definitely be addressing that in my "stay or go?" post. Which, I guess, I've now committed myself to write.

Rebecca said...

Ask away, Jane! Personally, I think even if you have no intention of leaving, it wouldn't hurt to have another option for the sake of bargaining power. :)