At some point in the mid afternoon I posted a note on Facebook saying, "This day is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S." (That's an indirect Gwen Stefani reference, but a direct quote from The Office. Yes, I'm that big of a dork.)
It was a day of variety, that's for sure. Blood tests, student presentations, meetings with TAs, many many many responses to student emails evincing varying levels of panic, sangria and conversation with a colleague, some obligatory grading (barely scratching the surface there), a gallery opening. Side conversations via various communication platforms about everything from shopping to personality tests to personal theme songs. No real lunch or dinner to speak of, just snacks grabbed on the fly. The winter seasonal ale I'm currently sipping (Odell Isolation Ale, a favorite) is basically my biggest meal of the day. On the other hand, no real exercise to speak of, either, except a bit of walking around town (and up and down floors in my building). So it kind of evens out.
Aside from the whiplashy role-switching, it was a day of shifting schedules: appointments made and canceled, rescheduled and reinstated, deadlines as a moving target. I have built (some of) my career arguing for the need to embrace uncertainty, the risks of over-reliance on planning and structure, the importance of being able to adapt on the fly. But my dirty little secret is that I, personally, need to have some general outline of a structure, nothing too detailed or specific, but at least a blurry watercolor. Too much flux gives me heartburn of the soul, acid reflux of the psyche. Especially given the general context of overwhelm I'm operating in these days, I feel the need to at least pretend I have some semblance of control over, say, the next five minutes of my life. Today, the universe felt the need to make it perfectly clear that I do not.
Well before I had a clue just how crazy today would turn out to be, I was chatting with a friend about theme songs. He suggested everyone should have at least one personal musical motif, that would theoretically start playing every time they entered a room. (At least in their head, if not in a form audible to others.) His theory was that there should be a few different themes, even: one for dramatic moments, one for action sequences and montages, etc. I confessed that the only song I felt truly reflected my psyche is Alanis Morisette's Hand in My Pocket, which isn't exactly inspirational or empowering. Today, I totally had one hand in my pocket, while the other one was giving a peace sign, yeah. I clearly need to work on this before my biopic comes out.
Two positive highlights really stood out, and I'm trying to hold onto them as my lifelines anchoring me to a less-frightening reality than the one that exists inside my head. First, a student in my (very large, online) class came by my office to bring me a Christmas card. That was shocking enough, but it got better. She told me that she actually found my class to be life-altering, which is not something I hear every day. This woman is here on an international fellowship, and an established professional in her home country. This class, she told me, completely revolutionized her thinking about the topic and made her "a better critical thinker" (her words). Honest to god, if I'd ever been asked to express my deepest fantasy about the kind of thing a student might ever say about any class of mine, she pretty much nailed every bit of it. It was like educator porn. Luckily, most of what she said was also written in the card, so I don't have to wonder if I hallucinated this magical moment. It will make for perfect reading as an antidote to the, shall we say, less positive moments in teaching that are inevitable.
The other highlight was a super confidential conversation in which I got a lot of information about the cloak-and-dagger process of deciding my future. Really, academia sometimes resembles nothing so much as a strange cult or secret society, with arcane rules and customs, only some of which are written down, mostly just transmitted via whispers. There are a lot of rituals, and only initiates are privy to all the details. As a novice, I'm lucky to be able to rely on a trusted senior guide. What I learned today was both encouraging and humbling. Apparently, despite my many many failings, my constitutional inability to play the game by the standard rules, and my tendency to go off in my corner and do my own thing without regard to practical considerations, I have more support than I expected. Both internally and externally, and it's hard to say which is more surprising. I generally tend to assume no one knows who I am or what I do, and while this is a pretty safe assumption in the vast majority of situations, I guess there are people I've never met, or with whom I've exchanged only minimal words, who are aware of me and don't think I'm a complete waste of space.
So, in all the chaos of the moment, I got a bit of uncertainty reduction that helped make the rest more manageable. It's all far from over, but I'm going to work on seizing every bit of comfort and gratification that I can in the meantime. It's the only thing that can keep me (sorta, maybe, perhaps a little bit) sane amid the bananaliciousness that is my life these days.