Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Put this in the "Con" Column

There's a lot of reasons why I like being a professor. (Ha! I'm a professor.) I like the hours. I enjoy the interaction with my students, and watching them improve over the course of the semester. I enjoy talking and thinking about writing and literature.

But I've discovered a large downside. It is not a good idea for me to have the kind of job where I work at home. This past weekend, I made myself completely stressed out about work. I wasn't stressed about anything at home—only about grading essays and writing up lesson plans. So instead of having a relaxing, enjoyable weekend, I continually felt the knot in my chest tightening as hours slipped by and my work to-do list remained undone.

Eleanor—bless her fabulous little heart!—actually slept in on Sunday until almost 9:30. This should have been an occasion worthy of parades and celebration. Instead, I laid in bed from 8 o'clock onward, refusing to get up because I was afraid that creaking floorboards outside her door would wake her. But I didn't fall back asleep; I just spent an hour and a half winding myself into a tight little ball of nerves, thinking about how if I had gotten up for my run at 7 o'clock, like I meant to, I could be done and ready to start our day's activities.

Instead, I didn't really leave for my run until 10ish, and we didn't head out to buy pumpkins until noon. By the time we got back, we had to make dinner and get Eleanor to bed. That is how I ended up finally getting to work about 10:00pm, and staying up until 5 o'clock Monday morning to slog through everything I needed to have done for this week.

I know that spending the entire weekend making myself anxious about work was not helpful. I would like to believe that it was a one-off, because I had so much to prepare for the time we'll be on vacation and immediately after coming back. But part of me thinks that, if it weren't that, it would be something else. Maybe, now that I know what classes I'll be teaching next semester, I can start worrying about getting those syllabi and assignments figured out.

It makes me long for a job that only exists while I'm at the office. And even if my office job was stressful (and it was), it all ended when I walked out the door at the end of the day. Now, I am constantly bombarded by the need for lesson plans, grading, and creating quizzes and essay questions.

I'm not very good at drawing boundaries and knowing when to quit. Just stop thinking about the job and relax. Because if I had just stopped worrying about work and enjoyed the weekend until 10 o'clock Sunday evening, the same amount of work would have gotten done, but I would have been a lot happier.

Maybe it gets easier with experience? Or, at the very least, you end up with a stack of lesson plans to fall back on.

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