Today is the first day of my semester. In an hour or so, I’ll put on a smiley face and begin the trek into campus. This may be the first time in my academic history that my anticipation for the fresh books and new ideas and conversations that accompany a new class list is liberally mixed with dread. Liberally. I’m kind of exhausted just thinking about it.
And it’s my own fault, if fault can be said to apply to an emotion. My attitude towards education—it’s a wonder, it’s an adventure, it’s not a job—caught up with me last semester. I love what I do. Even now, when I really just want to pull the covers back over my head, I love what I do. And when—as sometimes happens—a paper is recalcitrant or a book isn’t enthralling me, my method has been to let it rest and come back to it later. Because later, it will be easy– the book will catch my interest, the words will start flowing, the ideas will percolate. That’s all perfectly logical, I suppose, but last semester I learned that my flexible do it when it feels right approach isn’t, perhaps, terribly prudent. And so I wrote about fifty pages of academic-speak in a few of the most stressful days I’ve had, and I feel like I’m not quite over it yet. Like I nearly sank to the bottom of the deep end, and now I really don’t want to push away from the edge.
I’m grasping for calm this morning. I’m feeling a bit panicky. I know that it will all be alright. I know that I can do this. I know that this is foolish. But there is a fat, trembling bubble of stress fighting its way up my throat, strangling out all I know.
I rarely write from the center of a problem. I prefer to have the answers neatly bookending the question, to frame a difficulty in such a way that minimizes any insufficiency or fallibility, that makes trouble a momentary blip in a beautiful life. It makes it less personal, less painful.
It is also, often, a little facile. It’s too easy. But today, I don’t have an easy answer to this. I’m not sure how to avoid a repetition of the dreadful marathon of stress that was the end of last semester. I can’t fix that right now. I don’t know what is needed or how to do it.
But I do know that I need to stop stressing about the end and do what is needed today. That starting right might not make the end painless, but it is better than starting badly.
And so– once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.