One of the places where I have traditionally been hardest on myself has been in expecting myself to not show physical weakness in front of my students or to allow my health to at all limit when or how I do my job. I started to make progress on this front last semester when I put formal limits on my availability in my office and via email after my doctor ordered me to. Well, today, I made even more progress on this front. Best of all, I didn’t feel at all guilty or like I had let my students or myself down afterwards.
In each of my classes today, I explained to them about my doctor changing my pain meds and that it would take between 2-6 weeks for them to start working effectively and that for at least part of that time, possibly a good portion of it, it would be like I wasn’t taking any. I promised them that I would give still them my best, but that I couldn’t promise them what exactly that would be. They all seemed understanding and showed concern, but not the pity I was afraid I was going to get.
I did, however, remidn them that things could always be worse for me on the health front. I could have Bieber Fever.
I think I need to re-focus some of my efforts on this particular goal. I have made a lot of progress on it, in general, but I have taken some steps backwards in the last couple of weeks. The real indicator that I need to work on this came today.
So, basically, there was a snafu in the schedule of one of my lit classes. I thought that it met at 2:00, when it really met at 12:30, which I discovered at about 2:15. That’s right: I no-showed the first day of class. I’m not sure if the error belongs to the registrar’s office or with me. There were changes to the other people’s schedules that they weren’t notified about, but it is also possible that I messed up.
However, even if I am the one that messed up, I was a wee bit hard on myself. I was convinced that I was going to get my class taken away from me, that all of my students would just drop, and that even if they didn’t they would all think I was an idiot for the rest of the semester. As far as what my colleagues would think? I didn’t even want to fathom it. The real issue though is that I was convinced that whatever befell me, I would deserve it, if not worse. My self-esteem and image of myself completely fell apart and plumetted. This evening, I have been more than a little black and blue from the job I did beating myself up.
So, I am taking this as an opportunity to work on this goal some more, remind myself it was just a mistake that could have happened to anyone, and keep in mind that my students probably don’t care one way or the other.
One my students said something to me this afternoon that really caused me to think. I’ve been having problems with my knees for at least 2 years (I’m bad about putting off going to the doctor becvause I always feel too busy) so everybody is used to me walking slow, but they’ve been particularly bad for the past couple of days(bad enough I added going to the doctor as a goal on here). One of my students noticed that I was having problems moving around, and I told her why. She told me I should go to the doctor and I told her that I can’t because I have too much to do right now and I have conferences with my other two classes this week, lots of grading, etc. All true, by the way. She responded by telling me: “I’m glad that you are that committed to your students, but when you set your standards for yourself that high it puts extra pressure on all of us because we know that we can’t do that.”
I’ve never even suggested to my students that they have to live up to my personal standards, but thinking about it I can see why they feel that they do. This problem must be fixed ASAP. This also got me thinking about who else in my life feels this way. I know that because of my reputation of being published and doing work that a lot of people find challenging that lots of people have told me that they feel intimidated around me, in an academic setting. It’s nearly impossible for me to wrap my head around that idea anyway, but I’d always assumed that it was for other reasons. It’s one thing for me to pay the price for my demanding standards, but somebody else: unacceptable. Obviously, as part of achieving this goal, I need to learn how to take care of me as well as I take care of other people, but this has added a new wrinkle for me.
So, as my first step of working on this goal, I’ve been reducing the number of hours that I stay at the office working. Prior to working on this goal, I had been staying in my office from about until Midnight Sunday-Thursday, and between 9:00-10:00 on Friday and Saturday. I just have ridiculous standards for what I expect out myself both in terms of the ammount of work I do and in terms of the quality of my work. I also feel like every semester that I don’t finish my dissertation that I’m letting my family down. I can’t stand that. Well, a couple of my friends at work have been trying to get me to stop putting so much pressure on myself. So I’ve been reducing my workload quite a bit, even having a couple of days where I leave at close to normal people hours. I’m also trying to accept what I get done as me doing my best and letting it go, that is defintely the harder part. After all, I can’t exactly work on my shyness goals if I’m in my office or if I’m punsihing myself for what I didn’t get done.
But, this weekend I’ve decided to take a break from everything. I have a good friend who lives in Nashville who invited me to come down for the weekend and I’m going. I’m really excited about having an entire weekend where I don’t have any grading, research, or writing to do. I might even feel like a normal person when I get back.