Sunday, January 9, 2011

Dispatch from the future

I spent 4 years preparing to apply to graduate school, then another 6 years getting my degree and preparing to go on the academic job market. I also spent a good long while dreaming of what life would be like when I was married, and when I owned a house, and wondering where I would end up if I was lucky enough to get a job as a professor. Wondering what my "grown up" life would be like.

We moved here about 3 weeks before classes started, so I started going into work every day about a week after we moved. Then I spent the rest of the year with my head down just trying to get through the infamously bad first semester, dreaming of future semesters where the work load would never be as bad again. And it was bad. I would work through almost every single weekend, and was lucky if I had Sunday afternoon off. Every Monday I would wake up completely overwhelmed by the amount of work I had to do that week. I was prepping two new classes entirely from scratch. For my class on population studies I was writing approximately 15 pages a week, single spaced, for my lecture notes (or a 30 page double spaced paper's worth of material every week), and made 2 powerpoints to go along with it. For my other class, graduate level statistics, I was preparing a 3 hour powerpoint on statistics (usually 30-40 slides), and much of the material was stuff I hadn't really gone over since I took statistics myself about 6 years ago. And it turns out you have to know statistics really really well in order to know them well enough to teach to other people. I also had a number of "problem" students in both my classes last semester, which resulted in a lot of stress on my part, both because I dislike confrontation and because I had to learn how my school and department deals with a large range of issues.

This semester I'm teaching 2 sections of a class on the family, which I've taught 3 times already (so it's more a matter of editing my notes and updated material) and my other class is undergrad statistics, which is a matter of expanding my grad statistics notes and going a lot slower. So while my undergrad stats class still has significant prep involved, and while I'm stepping up to teach 3 classes a semester instead of 2 (they gave me a course release last semester to start me off), I'm thinking this semester will be a lot easier than last semester. Plus I don't have to learn all the administrative stuff you have to learn when you first start off in a university, since I learned it already last semester.

Meanwhile it's this odd I spent a freakin decade trying to become a prof and dreaming about where I would end up, and last semester trying to get through that bad first semester, but now I'm through it, and tomorrow I start my second semester as an assistant now I've arrived. This is the thing I've been dreaming about for a decade, and I'm finally here. On the one hand it's a bit surreal to be living in the 'future', what now? After so much time spent dreaming about a time in my life, the getting here is over, the beginning part is over, and now all I have left in front of me is the rest of my life. I feel kind of like a person who spends all their time and effort planning a wedding and doesn't think about what the marriage will be like. Not that I'm unhappy, just that I spend all this time focusing on applying to become a professor, I didn't really think about what a professor would be like. I mapped out my whole life up until applying for a professorship job, but now the map is useless cause I've gone over the edge of what's been mapped out.

And it hasn't really quite hit me before now that this can be and probably is permanent. That this job (unlike every other job I've had) is potentially a job I could stay at until I retire. I was so busy getting through that first semester and worrying about impressing my colleagues and worrying about just getting by and getting everything done that needed to be done that it never quite hit me that I could be here for the next 40 years or the rest of my life even. That even though I never thought I would end up in the south, I'm probably not going to ever move back to the northeast, because this is where I live now. And now that the whirlwind of the first semester is over (or has at least been temporarily paused until it starts over again tomorrow), it's starting to sink in a bit.

On the other hand it's a bit of a let down. A year ago I had this big blankness after graduation that could be anything. Now I'm in a job and a house where I could potentially stay for the rest of my life, and there's a pretty good chance of me doing that. So everything is kind of settled, and while I love my job, my colleagues are awesome, and my house is super awesome (and so is my husband which goes without saying) having everything settled is not nearly as exciting as my future being a big blank, if that make sense. But now that it's settled I can also look around a bit and start figuring out how I want to live the rest of my life.

It's a weird place to be.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

O christmas tree O christmas tree, I have an awesome christmas tree!

I'm supposed to be writing up a statistics syllabus right now, and am doing everything in my power to procrastinate. If there's anything more tedious than writing up a syllabus, it's writing up a syllabus for a statistics course. Or perhaps actually teaching the course...

So thought I would stop in and post a quick update. Sometime soon I want to post a longer blog post about piercings (putting this here to remind myself, since I keep having great ideas for blog posts for this blog and then forget them).

So here's a post about christmas and facebook and my secret life. This year we got a giant fake pre-lit christmas tree from my in-laws over thanksgiving. They are getting a bit older, and got themselves a smaller more manageable tree that they can drag up and down the stairs themselves. (We have yet to take our tree down- will probably do that this week- and I'm not looking forward to dragging it up to the attic myself)

I freakin love this tree. Last year we had a small table top tree, which was my first ever christmas tree. I don't know what it is, but having a lit up tree in the house just makes the house seem very homey and nice and warm feeling, especially in the dark depressingly long and dark nights of the winter.

We are building up our own collection of ornaments to go along with the tree. We don't have a lot yet, and we're specifically avoiding anything with a religious theme. I really want to get a flying spaghetti monster ornament like this one. In fact, I really want to buy or make a FSM tree topper like this one but alas money is a bit tight right now, so that may have to wait a bit. So this year we used one of the dog toys- a purple stuffed octopus- and we got a tiny christmas hat for it, and that was our tree topper.

These are my two favorite ornaments:

One is a blown glass ornament that I got at a music festival last year from a glass blower friend of mine. The other one is from new mexico or something like that, and has pictures of houses with windows that light up. In the top corner you can also see one of our dog ornaments that looks like our dogs.

So a few days ago I put up pictures of our christmas tree on facebook. Got lots of comments from my non-jewish friends and of course not a single one from my jewish friends. Radio silence.

Over christmas I put up a facebook status update about B's family's traditional christmas-even dinner of all appetizers, and I did have a comment from a still-frum friend from high school who said something about how that is a cool tradition and she has to incorporate it into one of her family holidays, like maybe for one of the nights of Chanukah. I thought that was really really cool of her, and it made me like her even more than I already like her. So few frum people from my former life would say something like able to not judge that I'm celebrating christmas, and still find a way to connect to what I'm saying.

A couple of days ago I noticed a few of my friends were suddenly friends with this dude I went to middle school with who I was friends with way back in the day (I assume he has recently joined facebook). I mostly went to all-girls schools until college, but for 2 years- 7th and 8th grade- I went to a co-ed school because my parents got pissed off at the previous school we had gone to. While I was there I was friends with this guy. The summer after high school I went to live with my cousins in Israel for a couple of months, and he was on the same plane as me, and we hung out for pretty much the entire flight (which I was on by myself- he was with his mom). That was the last time I saw him.

So I friended him on facebook, and I immediately had this little moment of panic- like OH NO he is going to see that I posted a picture of a christmas tree! He's going to KNOW that I'm not religious!

It's funny really, cause who really gives a crap if he knows? I haven't seen this dude in like 15 years. I'm probably not going to talk to him very much on facebook if he accepts my friend request. If anything, I should be more worried about the dozens of relatives that I'm friends with on facebook, cause I might actually talk to those people again in the future.

I spent so many years keeping secret that I am not religious anymore, that it's like I have this automatic reflex to hide anything that doesn't make me seem religious. I agonized over posting the pictures in the first place.

I'm not ashamed of the fact that I celebrate christmas- I think it's a really awesome holiday. If B's family didn't celebrate it, I probably wouldn't have ever started celebrating it myself, but now that I've celebrated four christmases I think I would keep up the tradition no matter what- I love the tree, I love giving gifts to people, I love the lights, and I love the family time. I don't hate getting gifts either. :)

When I was a kid I always was so jealous of the people who celebrated christmas...not because I wanted presents or anything, but cause it was this huge cheery mid winter holiday, with beautiful lights everywhere, that almost every person celebrates, that pervades everything, and that seemed pretty awesome as a kid (actually, as an adult, it's still awesome) but I was always told that it wasn't for me, and that I couldn't participate. Even if I said I liked someone's christmas display, my mom would get this sour look on her face.

Well now I get to do what I want. But there's still that part of me that wants hide it, like it is shameful. I'm sure some smart ass frum commenter would say that it's my "jewish neshama" or some BS like that. In sociology we call this "Socialization" - that self internalized feeling of guilt you get when you break a norm. And I sure am breaking a huge frum norm by celebrating christmas. I used to get that same feeling when I ate non kosher food, and later when I started eating on kosher meat, and again when I first ate bacon, when I first ate shrimp, when I first ate crab, etc. The feelings all faded with time. Maybe the the weird twinge in my stomach that I get when posting facebook pictures of my decidedly non-frum life will fade with time as well.