Saturday, April 11, 2020

Random bullets of still glad to be here

Here's how things are going so far:

First of all: yes, I'm grateful for being able to stay home and for having the supplies I need. Yes to all that.

But like everyone else right now, I'm distracted, unable to concentrate, and feeling exhausted.  If I wake up at 3:30 a.m., well, that's it for the night's sleep. This is so even with studiously ignoring all the dystopian fiction and plague novels being relentlessly pushed on Twitter (why? WHY?).

What I have been able to do is keep things going in the administration part of my job, although I've been spending a good 35-40 hours a week on it. That's far above what's in my contract, but it's what's needed to get everything done. Teaching is second, and research right now a nonexistent third, although that's the majority of what I'm supposed to be doing.

The problem is that administrative tasks are something that people notice only if they don't get done. It's invisible work. It's not valued. It's also exhausting to explain how systems work to people who aren't interested and ask the same questions over and over. With my collaborators, after three years I quit trying to get them to participate in a common system that would save us work because they said they wanted it but then ignored it. With administration, that's not so easy. I would like to "unhand that man," but then there would be real consequences.

Here is the covid-related part of this: the best part of being in administration is the connection you get to make to people, but if you're not doing that, it seems thankless in addition to being time-consuming.  I can't quit in the middle of this crisis, but I can think that there are other ways to live once it abates.


gwinne said...

Yup. It's been MUCH easier for me to do admin type tasks than anything else for exactly these reasons. I got an email from a student who basically thanked me for being there in the midst of crisis (i.e. the 'how are you doing' emails I send to the majors/minors). It takes very little time/concentration but the payoff can be large. Now talk to me about my book ms...

I don't get the pandemic reading/watching either. Give me LIGHT.

undine said...

gwinne--you get it! You really get it! Short amounts of time individually but huge amounts of time in the aggregate, but it's worth it because the payoff can be large.

In different times, I have waded through dystopian scifi and gruesome books because they were necessary as part of projects I was writing, but to do that voluntarily? There's a whole tweet genre devoted to "this terrified me" or "check out this grim memoir" or "I was left sobbing for weeks after reading this." And they're recommending these! My silent reaction is "you read it. My nightmares are bad enough in normal times, thank you very much."

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I do not AT ALL understand the dystopian stuff. I don't like it even when everything is going well. It's one reason I'm a medievalist: the fiction tends to end happily, at least in terms of the original audience's beliefs (i.e., the hero may die, but he goes to heaven, definitely and for sure, so all is well).

I'm getting more admin tasks on my plate, and they are definitely easier to knock off than the thinky work.