Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pragmatism

The first official week of teaching my own courses for the first time ever has come to an official end. I am no longer gracefully carrying someone else's teaching load for them to the tune of less than $2.00/hr, while haphazardly attempting to dodge through the pitfalls of being a rockstar graduate student at the same time. I have an office, a nice one, with my name on the door. It's a nice office, with nice green plant, a great desk chair, and carpet. Just today, I happened to notice that my name has been added on the office locater sign thingy for my department. (And, yes, I even thought about taking a picture for my mother.) And, much to my amazement, the students awkwardly continue to call me "Professor", even when I awkwardly insist that they please call me by my first name.

For what it is worth...(and believe me, it is not worth a whole lot in the bank) I can say that for the first time in my life I am in a state of eternal bliss in my professional life. Beyond teaching, I am researching. This weekend, I will get down to the business of putting all of my research in order for a paper I am scheduled to give at a conference in March. This is good.

I admit that I spend more time in my office than I do at home. This is partially due to the fact that my "home" at the moment is a rented room in a very large and somewhat banal living environment. Case in point: my house mates happen to be a married pair of psychologists, whom I have not seen for days. We have a tendency to more or less creep around each other in a very awkward, yet-always-polite fashion. Tomorrow, for example, will be the fourth day in a row that I have not laid eyes on either one of them. Because they own the house, they routinely bring in my mail and make it a point to speak to me only when necessary. For example, I have been told to only use the "cold only" function on the washing machine until further notice, due to a rotted hose issue. Because I am barely living here and non-clairvoyant to boot, I like that they are good at communicating things to me like this. This is good. On the other hand, there are nights when I long to throw a good dinner party, or simply cook dinner for myself, but I am fundamentally thwarted from doing so by the continuous build-up of dirty dishes and filth that resides in their otherwise beautiful kitchen. In many ways, my life is as pedestrian as it was when I was living in the refugee camp just a few months ago. The only difference worth noting is that I have a small space in the refrigerator. Again, this is good.

So, I am working. I am spinning. If I am not sleeping or working, I am planning cheap meals and hitting the gym because it is free. Unlike the rest of my faculty member friends, I don't mind working out when the students are there. Really, I could care less. Last night, a student beside me turned on the TV, and I happened to catch American Idol while I was on the elliptical machine. For someone who hasn't owned a furniture, much less a television set in years, this was a highlight to my week. It seemed like a nice way to pass the time. As one can imagine, I have a lot of time here. A lot of time, indeed...

Of course, where the glass is half full, it is still half empty. Also for the first time in a long time, I am having trouble sleeping. Real trouble. It is starting to worry me. Part of me wonders if it is the living situation I am in. Part of me attributes it to the generalized stress I have been under for several months of turbulence and so many changes. Of course, none of this is helped by the fact that I am currently experiencing the coldest freaking winter of my life. And finally, none of it is helped by the glaring fact that I manage all of this quite well until the moment when the beautiful man I am "seeing" from so far away, says, "Come to the movies with me this weekend, what do you say?" It is in these moments that I suddenly look around and find myself in a dire state of limbo between time and space, in that interstitial vortex between staying balanced in the moment while longing to know how this moment will materialize into the frost-covered glass of my future.

I keep pressing my nose up against the snowball, and all I see is fuzz. And insomnia. I have this temptation to let limbo I am lumbering through to transform itself into a cold sweat of fear for having made the right decision and possibly the wrong decision all at the same time...

"I know that we're going to work out," he assures me on the phone every day these days. Knowing that things always work out as they do, I inwardly smile and applaud his optimism. I look around at the tiny room I have rented for the meantime, and note the hollowness that I feel at the end of the day when the students have left my office, when my eyes can't hold another ounce of reading, when going to the gym for the third time just to stay busy seems overly sadistic. I remind myself that my reality at the moment is the reality of optimism, of shouting my intentions to the Universe and focusing on my goals with all of my might. And so, in response, I shrug my shoulders and say a little prayer for some kind of salvation from the struggle. I put pragmatism back on the table and gently place optimism back where it belongs--in dreams...in sleep...in mid-air...

This is hard, I quietly admit from my haze of insomnia. All of it is hard. I must...be more gentle.

4 comments:

Kate said...

You may very well be in need of a Namaste explosion. It can be a gentle one, a happy one, but I too experience those times when I can't sleep, and life seems to tick like a bomb that refuses to make sense, and they usually end in a big old BOOM.

I love, love reading your blog. Thank you for it, genuinely.

VJ said...

Very interesting N. I'd be hesitant to recommend any of Big Pharma's solutions to your sleep problems, (there's just so many), sometimes it's just too cold/warm/light or noisy for sleep. I have periodic troubles myself, and I just work until I'm so tired that it's usually not too much trouble. Then there's the BBC on shortwave, which was an old standby. Morning edition usually does the trick too, but by the time I'm getting their morning feed, I've only got a max. of 4 hours of sleep ahead of me! But it sometimes stems from underlying 'hidden' issues too.

I know long distance relationships can work, I've seen it done & done it myself. I think they're actually getting easier what with the wonders of modern communication. Eventually the optimism will pay off and you can be together.

But yeah, I don't miss the sub min wage for lecturing. It's a wonderful life, as long as you're a hermit and don't mind the poverty amidst all the plenty. Cheers & Good Luck! 'VJ'

Anonymous said...

I say, move. When I moved out of the room I was renting in a house where I had a similar kind of awkward "I'm trying to stay out of your way" relationship with the woman who owned it, and into a place with people I liked (and then eventually into a place of my own), my life got better and better.

Restaurant Gal said...

I get sleep issues. I have them most nights. Most nights I push through them. But I would agree your living arrangement may not be the best. On the other hand, moving or not, the rest will still be hard, as you have said. Now gentleness, that may well be the key. Thank you for sharing a notion I needed to hear right about now.