It's that time of year again!

Oct 25 2010 Published by under [Life Trajectories]

In every semester there comes a time where things just get stupid. I am currently at that point.

I'm used to balancing all of the big things that come with this job and trying to keep all of that from leaking into my time outside of work. For the most part, I'm pretty good at that. I can stand there with one finger in the dyke while using the other hand to color with my daughter. I know when my deadlines are, I can get my teaching done, I can push science forward in my lab and I can get my writing and reading in.

Rather, it is the little shit that threatens to tear me apart in minor pulls in a gazillion different directions. Dealing with my 50 undergraduate advisees who suddenly all need to meet right now, writing reference letters for everyone who has ever walked into my office and a few who haven't, chasing down IT to fix an issue which has been lingering for a month, dealing with collaborators who seem unconcerned with the upcoming deadlines, performing my departmental, university and society service duties and the tens of other minor things that crop up every day. Slowly but surely, it grinds me down until I want to spend a weekday sitting at home in my underwear watching B rate action movies with the phone unplugged. The only problem with that plan, of course, is that the work doesn't get done when I'm not there, meaning there will be same shit to do, now with less time to do it in.

I also can't help but compare myself to those who have supervised me in the past and wonder how they never seemed to be overwhelmed or unable to just get things done at a rapid pace, no matter what else was going on. I'm sure they were at times, but they were always able to meet deadlines and turn things around faster then I expected. How? I have no idea. I'm struggling to meet all of my obligations and do the things I need to do to get where I need to be. There is no true balance, only things that take priority one day over the next, to the detriment of everything else. I know I'm not the only one feeling this way, but commiseration only gets me so far. I'll work through this just like I have in the past, but anyone who pretends like there are never days they think what it would be like to walk away from this job is either lying or a better person than I.

12 responses so far

  • KBHC says:

    So it's not just in my office and lab that things have gotten so hard? It is at least in part the time of year, because I'm hearing this from faculty and grad students in my department as well. We're all feeling the strain.

    I'm not one to sit in my underwear watching B movies, but I do wish I could hit pause on my week for a day to eat a hefty portion of chocolate cake while reading something, anything (a wireless router manual, the back of the toothpaste, even US Weekly) just for pleasure.

    Then I could go back to the IRB forms, email, teaching prep, grant reviews, grant proposals, manuscripts, letters of rec, meetings, book reviews, and who knows what else I'm forgetting. And, you know, make play doh ice cream sundaes with my daughter.

  • tideliar says:

    Cue disgruntledoc telling you "yor doin it rong" and how they could do it but no one will let them >:)

    Rather you than me Chief, you are a braver, and more organised ,man than I.

  • CoR says:

    This is when I either have a little crying fit on the weekends or hit the chocolate and wine, or both. Hang in there.

  • chemicalbilology says:

    Dude, I will commiserate (even though I know, as you say and I agree, that it only goes so far).

    I think that once in a while, it is still worth it to watch bad movies in your underwear all day, even though it means there's more to do later. It does something valuable for your brain even if it's not tangibly productive.

  • Pamiam says:

    I can totally relate to you. Luckily I work at an institution where professional advisors do the advising, but at my previous institution faculty did the advising so advising week sucks. I'll give you one piece of advice: if you are feeling overworked, then you are. What can you ditch? Here's what I ditched: letters of rec. I had every student I'd ever had slithering through my door asking for a letter of rec, when in fact I didn't know them from Adam. So I started saying no. Sorry don't know you well enough. Sorry, you're not going to get into med school with a C average. Sorry you don't want the letter I'd write. And for those A holes who were good enough but gave me a weeks notice, sorry, a week's notice is not enough. And for student for whom I wanted to do a very good job on their letter, I started asking them to write it because invariably, they'd do a better job than I would in my sleep-deprived state. I'd take their letter, punch it up, and then they'd have an awesome letter.

  • Sigh. I feel your pain. Pass the Doritos.

  • Zuska says:

    There is no true balance. All those folks in your past were doing a good fake job, or else had full time professional wives.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Both had wives with full careers. It is possible they just didn't sleep.

  • Chemprof says:

    Unfortunately 7 years in now, I have learnt that this feeling never really goes away but if you are lucky, you get better at accepting you will miss some deadlines and juggling many, many things. What I've also learnt is that whilst I thought that the people more senior that me had some secret strategy to cope and just get it all done, are actually just good at keeping together on the outside and find it just as hard to juggle everything. If was refreshing to sit in a meeting with a bunch of colleagues about a year ago and to learn that no one thought they were coping, but everyone else thought that all the others were doing a better job than they were. Perception is a funny thing.
    While you still care and worry about this, chances are you're actually doing a kick ass job.

  • gerty-z says:

    Is it a time of year? I really hope so, as that leads me to believe/hope that things will settle down at a different time of year. Because I am also feeling this pain.

  • BugDoc says:

    You are definitely not the only one. In fact, once or twice a year I do just disappear from my office and just hit the movie theater or the local pub with a colleague when I just can't face another fracas with the animal husbandry staff.

  • […] I can’t catch a goddamned break. And I know I’m not the only one. […]

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