January marks the time of year when I start to feel as though I am in a bit of a holding pattern. Even though it is far too early, now’s the time I being to think towards awards announcements (and recall with some horror the extensive amount of work I poured into the many applications I’ve got out there in the world). Just like airplanes circling above the runway waiting to land, I too get the sense that I’m hovering in a designated space waiting to see where I’m directed.
And what a waiting game it is. It seems as though grant results are announced a bit later each year, and while I’ve been technically on the job market since 2008 I still haven’t entirely figured out when to expect an email, letter, or–that holiest of holy grails–a telephone call. Two weeks? Two months?
Rather than wallow in what a friend and colleague calls the “Jebruary blues” I find myself thinking about how to productively channel this anticipatory energy. Given that it is the start of term and I have three classes there’s certainly no shortage of stuff that needs to get accomplished. But still, I have a tendency to let my mind wander to the next thing. Its bizarre (though not restricted to this profession) to think thoughts like ‘this time next year where will I be?’ and have the answer include any number of provinces or even countries.
In addition to working, how does one break out of a mental holding pattern? I mean, there’s only so much yoga I can fit into my day…
There are three things that I’m trying to infuse into my ‘holding pattern’ in an attempt to make that waiting game a fact rather than the focus of my waking hours.
First: I’ve been writing a little…and not article material either. Well, not yet. Another thing I constantly fret about is my academic productivity. But fretting doesn’t seem to get me very far, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to squeeze more time into the day, so I’ve started writing without focus. Free-writing. About a film I’ve seen, an idea I’ve had, books I want to read (or parts of books I’ve read–side note: I’ve just finished Rancière’s The Politics of Aesthetics–what an unexpected pleasure!) I don’t know what I’m going to do with this writing–maybe something, maybe nothing–but it feels nice to put fingers to keys or pen to paper and think for a few moments.
Second: I’m reading pedagogical theory. Teaching and lecture writing can consume one’s life (can I get a witness?!) BUT it is also the one guarantee in my day. Guaranteed I’ll be teaching at least one class, and while I’ve been doing this for a while I’ve decided to do a little meta-thinking about how I’m doing and what I’m doing in the classroom.
Third: I’m writing my Monday and Tuesday lectures on Friday. And then on Saturday I’m doing whatever I damn well please. Yes, I know, taking time off is important etc. etc. but it is hard. I’ve started scheduling it, and you know what? It feels like a lovely surprise.
So there are some of my tricks for breaking up the holding pattern, but I am certain that you have creative, fun, and inventive ways of dealing with Jebruary, so let’s hear it readers: when you’re in a holding pattern–whether you’re a student, on the tenure-track, on the job market, or simply working–how do you break out of the hover?