Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Do you ever feel as if you're just all full up? Of things to do, projects...and people, most of all?

I've been thinking about that lately, and I'm pretty sure it's what is at root of a major outburst of stress and anxiety late today. I feel like I have too many irons in the fire, and I have an anxious personality anyway, and so I'm very, very stressed. For instance, today I should have been concentrating exclusively on the conference paper that is inordinately stressing me out already - I don't have a whole lot of time left for that, and it needs tons and tons of work. (I know I always stress out about papers on here, but this one is by far the worst disaster I've found myself in, in years...I have confused myself, my thoughts are all tangled up, I don't know where I'm going...) But this is the list of substantive things my day included:

- Write and freak out over paper, so much that I felt myself getting physically sick and had to leave the house;
- Long meeting with grad student I am co-supervising as of September, and friend with whom I am co-supervising;
- Correspondence about another grad student of the five or so I'll be involved with next year
(What you need to know about these last two is that working with grad students at my institution is more labour-intensive than at any other place I've ever known about...so this counts as substantive);
- Work/discussions about major conference I'm co-organizing;
- Discussions of research network I'm going to start and mini-conference/workshop I'll organize as part of that;
- Notes toward book project (because the problem with the paper I'm writing is that I seem to be trying to make it into the whole book project, when in fact it's a tiny little conference paper that represents about 1/25th of the book).
- Reviewed and commented on M.'s Insanely-Big-Ass-Important Application for King-of-the-Academic-World position.

The one other piece of major work that's in my life at the moment (which I didn't have to touch today, thank god) is the book I'm co-editing.

So that's a lot of fairly major things on my plate for the next year. 2 books, conferences, very intensive graduate student supervision, and two major pieces of professional service. Ongoing "consultation" to another scholar. (He sends me lots of his work to look at, which is hilarious considering how much fancier he is than I.) And, oh yeah...running my program, since I am the only faculty member in it.

I know it is par for the course for some people. But it's not par for my course, if you know what I mean. And part of the reason why is that I feel like I am starting to know too many people, to be involved in too many networks. I don't think my brain can take anymore.

Do you ever feel that way? As if you are full, and part of that is full of people? How awful. I don't want to feel like I know too many people. But it's like that. Too many networks...of former co-grad students, of friends, of former colleagues, current colleagues, fellow conference-goers, fellow conference-organizers. Ans students!! Now that I've taught full-time for three years, I have a lot of students in my past. And a lot of them sticking to me, still -especially ones from Dream Uni; I've had emails from half a dozen of them in the last two weeks alone. Too many people. No more people! I will start to become a horrible customer-servicey automaton, and we can't have that.


Anyway. Do you know what I was also thinking about. I really, really am too insular in my own writing. I'm collaborating on several things - the edited volume, the supervision, the conference organizing - but when I write, I am entirely, entirely alone. I don't show my work to other scholars before putting it out there, ever. I mentioned to M today that I was feeling stressed, but that I could look at his Fancy App tonight. He offered to look at the paper I'm stressing about. Are you kidding?? No way.

But this is terrible. It means I am so locked-in. And it can only increase the stress I'm feeling.

Today I went over to a friend's house to deliver a key to my place (for she is coming to pick up Diamond when I am going away). She asked me if I wanted to talk through in detail what I am writing about, if it would help me. I thought, "self, this is a good idea. I should learn to do this." Could I even dredge up a single iota of what I'm writing about? No, I could not. I couldn't - even though I had been working at it for hours and days - tell her anything beyond the major "subject" of my paper. I drew a blank. It's bad. I'm too locked up with this stuff. It will make me crazy.


Psychgrad said...

I would like to be able to explain my research in an engaging and understandable way. I feel like I should write out a script for myself.

Sounds like you've got a full plate. It's good to be in demand with several projects on the go. How do you think you'll feel, mid-way through the semester? Will it all be feasible while maintaining your sanity?

Brigindo said...

I'm a classic introvert so I often feel too full of people. I also find that no matter how much of "my work" I have it is when I have too much of other people's work (student's agendas, colleagues agenda's, committee work etc) I start to feel full and overwhelmed and stressed. What I usually do is divide my To Do list between my work and others and I ignore others for a few days (sometimes all I can give myself is one day but then I say one day mine - one day theirs). It's not perfect but it helps.

Hilaire said...

Psychgrad - I've often heard the advice that one *should* write out and memorize a short paragraph explaining their work to the non-expert. I have yet to do it, but maybe I will in preparation for this conference, which feels like it's going to demand a lot in that way.

As for how I'm going to feel mid-year, with all of this plus teaching: I think I'm going to feel pretty darned stressed, if I feel this way right now and it's June and I am not teaching and not doing regular school-year activities!

But Brigindo, you offer a very good solution, with your "mine" and "others" lists. I think being better at making and sticking to a daily agenda for myself will help...

medieval woman said...

I think that saying, if not "no", then "only after X date" is a good thing to try. Seriously, when people approach you to see if you can discuss X, Y, and Z - if it can be put off, then do it. Like previous students - just tell them that you'll be back on this date and then you can discuss with them. It's a version of the Mine and Others list, but sometimes, you have to tell people that they're on the "back burner" list for a while (in a nice way) - you would never feel comfortable suggesting to others that they're not important, but just saying, "I really want to be able to give that some good attention and I can't do that until this date - can you make a point to touch base with me again then?" - they'll be totally happy with that. And if you can't find a way to convey verbally what you're working on, then maybe giving a written draft to someone like M is a good start. You can just print and toss it at them and say, "let me know what you think!" That way, they can read it and say, "here's what I take away from this" - then you'll be tlaking to someone who's already "filled in" to a degree.

Hang in there - I hope all goes well at the conference!

What Now? said...

I'm going to chime in with your "self" who says, "this is a good idea." Honestly, one of the best lessons I ever learned was to let go of my writing at the draft stage and let someone else read it. What helped was getting a red "DRAFT" stamp to label the paper before giving it to someone else; it's like it gave me permission to have written something bad, if indeed it turned out to be bad. That and internalizing Anne Lamott's insistence (in Bird by Bird) on "shitty first drafts" has loosened up the writing process incredibly for me so that it's now possible to be less insular and to feel less alone and pressured when writing.

But I don't mean this to be a nagging comment to add one more "should" to your list! Hang in there. And I like Brigindo's dual "to do" lists.