Saturday, August 31, 2013


Normally, I'd title this something about a new semester or new school year, but this was such an eventful summer, that it more feels as if the newness of fall semester is more an outgrowth of my summer activities, rather than a new chapter.  Despite my intentions to be less busy than I was last summer, there were so many opportunities this summer that I struggled with figuring out which I should pursue and which to let go of.

I think I made good choices.  After a whirlwind tour for my birthday (friends, family, mountains, and spending my birthday covered in bubbles dancing to My Life with the Thrill Kill Cult), I taught a five-week course in Southern Women Writers, did research in the new Dorothy Allison archive at Duke, and spent a week in the redwoods of Santa Cruz, immersed in the Dickens Universe

There are way too many stories to tell to even begin telling them here.  However, the end result has been, weirdly enough, that I have adopted a lot of new, incredibly different, weirdly healthy habits after all of these adventures.  Before this summer, I tended to work upstairs, in front of the tv, staying up until two or three in the morning, and sleeping until afternoon if I could.  Since I've been typically teaching after noon, I could sleep as late as eleven on teaching days, even.  I'd go to jazzercise two or three times a week.  I drank three or four diet soft drinks a day, and ate a lot of sweets. 

Some combination of new environments and challenging (yet thoroughly enjoyable) schedules and--what, magic?--has had the end result of completely resetting my habits.  Since I've been home, I think I've slept as late as ten once.  Mostly, I get up between eight and nine, make some cafetierre  (which I think sounds much fancier than "French press") coffee, and start the day working.  I work much better now downstairs with music, rather than upstairs with television.  I have at most one soft drink a day, if that.  I'm working out five times a week.  And the only sweets I have now are part of my bedtime ritual--chamomile tea and two Biscoff cookies, and I'm ready for bed. I've very quickly pavloved myself into feeling sleepy after this nightly ritual.

I've had similar responses to retreat-like experiences in the past--I quit smoking after one, and made the commitment to finish my bachelors and go to graduate school after another.  It's definitely increasing my productivity, which I'm quite pleased with.  And which is a good thing, as the threat of the job market and finding fifth year funding is looming large at the moment--I need all of the productivity I can get!