the Mammal Chronicles: July 2007

when it comes right down to it, ya lactate or ya don't.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

On living life now: a mid-life reflection

I turn 41 this month. Lately I've been pondering how I can manage to retire by 50. Why 50? Because that's the magic age when the state says I can retire, taking with me medical benefits and a very, very small monthly check. The monthly check would get bigger the longer I stayed, but the medical benefits are what's key: we can find somewhere in the country cheaper to live, but medical insurance for someone like me is nearly impossible to acquire.

The question is: how can I make the next nine years endurable? I keep telling myself: that's only nine more cycles. But something about that is inherently wrong: how can I just tell myself to grit my teeth and endure almost ten years of my life? How can I afford to waste that precious time being stressed and unhappy? The answer is that I can't. Retiring by 50 isn't inherently a bad plan, but in the interim, I need to make life joyful now. Here's how I am going to do that:

  • I'll have tenure (knock on wood) very soon. It's time to jump off the hamster wheel. I will focus on teaching, which I genuinely enjoy even if the load is a bit much, and trust that the other things I do just out of interest will be enough to get me my next promotion. Enough to get promotion at a teaching institution anyway.
  • I'll give up the idea that there's some sort of scholar I'm supposed to be -- that I should be doing a certain amount of research or kind of publishing. I may give up doing research altogether unless something really compels me.
  • I'll take sabbaticals when I can, and difference-in-pay leaves every few years. I'll make sure what I do on those leaves is something that I will enjoy.
  • I'll take summers off -- truly off.
  • When it's time to call off work for the day or the week, I'll leave it truly behind me. I'll kiss my daughter and read her a book. I'll count the fledglings in the aviary in the backyard. I'll take my husband out to the local diner for french toast.

That's the plan. I'll follow it to the letter. Especially that part about french toast.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

what do I want?

This Fall I apply for tenure, so this summer is pretty full. Add to that a new class prep for Winter, various duties for my interim administrative position and the application for my first sabbatical due in Fall (which wouldn't actually happen until the following Fall), and I'm pretty much overwhelmed with work. Sometime next year they will also begin the search for the permanent person to fill the administrative gig, so I really have to decide if I want it.

I had pretty much decided that I would want it if it took my base pay up a notch -- that this would make it worth giving up my summers at least for a while, but man, do I need a break. If I didn't take the position, not only would I be able to take next summer off (no more tenure to file for) but I may even be able to take Fall and Winter of 08-09 off on a sabbatical (well, you do have to work on a sabbatical, but I may be able to figure out something fun).

Can I keep it all up without that break? Do I want to? I dunno. I'm about to crack under the pressure at the moment. I'm so depressed on a daily basis this summer.

Last night I went to a concert in the park for two hours and ran around selling raffle tickets to help raise funds to repair a statue in another park. I had a blast, running up and down the grass tiers saying "1 for a dollar, 8 for 5!" and swigging on ice coffee. A little activity, community spirit, simple service, and my mind was temporarily off all the looming, tedious tasks.

But it was only two hours.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


I don't know that I'm a scholar anymore. There's just so little joy in it. Maybe I'm just in a slump now, but as I pore over articles and books for research, it is so tedious. And there isn't a new subject I'm fascinated enough by that makes doing research fun.