My students have come to roast me during class because I apparently introduce every book, author, and article in class as "my favorite." Which is true; they really are all my favorites. At the beginning of classes, I like to introduce a "quote for thought." They'll range from a quote within a science fiction book, or an excerpt from a random article I read, or an Instagram post or tweet I liked. Last week, I brought N.K. Jemisin's "Broken Earth Trilogy" because I had used the following quote (which I screenshot from my slides):
It was the perfect way to start our week of "Research Foundations in Higher Education" with our adventures with phenomenology, narrative inquiry (and speculative storytelling), and portraiture. And the Broken Earth Trilogy really is one of my favorites— as my class has very lovingly pointed out. And I find this absolutely hilarious because I had no idea I did this for a while. And now I keep qualifying every book and author with, "I know I say everything is my favorite, but y'all, this one is really a favorite." And I stand by it. These are many of my favorite things 💖
The first week of October is done, and with that, the 7th week of the semester in year 2 as faculty. I'm not sure where the summer went, nor where the beginning of fall went, but here we are. And here I am, in a very different stage and place in my life.
The first year of faculty life was a lot, as my reflection about the first-year dossier indicated. The best way I can describe last year, within the larger context of the (ongoing) global pandemic and continued racial violence, is that I spent most of the first year thinking I was bad at my job and deeply convinced that I wasn't cut out for faculty— that I was in the wrong profession. How did I come to this conclusion? I'm too sure, but by the first set of course evaluations (which were brutal, as all the literature has confirmed), I knew that this was not it. And so I spent the rest of the year feeling as though I was continuing to fail, was being set up to fail (as I did indeed fall into many of the traps Women of Color faculty experience at predominantly white institutions), and that no matter what I did, I couldn't improve the conditions, my position, and so I felt like I kept failing.
The summer was important. I spent time away from what became a personal and professional sinkhole: my home. During that first year, I spent the entire time in my apartment, taking every meeting at home, every crushing moment of writer's block at home, crying after reading my course evaluations at home, all of it... at home. Home was no longer sacred; home was no longer restful; home was the painful reminder I was bad at my job. I bought plants to distract, invested in hobbies to try other things, and redecorated often. Spending a summer away was exactly what I needed to regroup and reframe who I was going to be moving forward.
The second year is different. I did not realize how much I had missed the physical classroom (while still recognizing the inaccessibility it forces). I have an office, which I very much enjoyed decorating. Yes, I put plants in it. And I have distance— literal, with my hour commute each way that gives me time to enjoy a podcast, listen to some songs, catch up with a friend. But the biggest reason why the second year feels different, is because I know I want to remain a faculty member. To be clear, I am not magically a better professor this year; I am more or less the same (although, like I told my students, I am WAY more funny and charming in person). However, I've reframed last year as growth and also changed my stance with the job. I do want to be and enjoy being faculty—perceived failures and actual failures in all. I didn't make the wrong choice, and that even if, hypothetically I did, I'll have learned a ton to better prepare me for whatever is next. And, I do think I am marginally better at the job this year (which make sense), and that maybe I actually can do this job in the ways I had always hoped.
Oh, I'm also happier in this second year because I also stopped working 7 days a week. I know, I know: neoliberal capitalism and grind culture at its worst and I very much folded into it, but I also strugged in teaching two classes on Mondays so Sundays became work days, and Saturdays had already been writing days. Thus, I quickly evolved into a system where I was working every day. I no longer do that. As I tell my students often— in part, as a way to manifest it for myself— I have a robust life outside of academia; we all should.
In a year, I read somewhere around 100-200 books. I don't have a TV and I use reading as a form of escape, and I especially like reading outside of academia. It also helps with improving my writing :)
When I'm trying to concentrate, I like having background music that's super dramatic. For some reason, instrumental music is instrumental (pun!) in helping me concentrate. Most of the songs are Korean-drama OSTs (original sound tracks), w/ a few classical music scores in the mix!
I don't categorize anything other than my "random round-ups" because it takes too much work (insert laughing emoji).