Bound By Semesters

21 Mar


Up until a year ago, for most of my life — except for about a year and a half — I’ve either been in school or worked in one. My life has been defined by the undulations of the semseter — the frenetic energy at the beginning, the two week lull, midterms, another lull, and finals. Everything I did was bound by time — my heart would start beating faster anticipating the frantic energy in August and wouldn’t slow down until December when I would crash from the intensity of the previous 3 months. The other day I realized just how strange it was that, while for most people I know it’s the beginning of the semester, yet for me it’s the same old routine.

I guess I’m finally starting to recover from working in academia.

It’s been a difficult journey, leaving the university teaching life. Nine months out of the year would be super-intense. So much so that on the weekends I would crash out on the sofa with a good book and forgo a more active social life for what I thought was a greater good — my career. Well, time flew by and I was left with little, save for a ‘case’ of really bad burnout. So bad, in fact, that even though my (now former) professional organization is meeting this week, I could care less. So bad that I now no longer have anything in common with most of the people I went to grad school with who stayed in the field (which are few, since the English language teaching world is a tough one.) I took one step off of my career path and now not only am I totally going in a different direction (don’t quite know where yet, but it doesn’t matter these days) but even my sense of time has changed completely.

I no longer care about Spring Break or when holidays begin. Working from home everyday flows into the next, one into the other. It might seem boring or that time is slipping away from me, but in fact the past two years (almost) have been the most intense and maybe even conscious years of my life since I came back from overseas. Each day seems the same, but actually it’s different. I’m not tied to a desk or a class schedule designed by someone else. I don’t have to hold office hours or listen to students trying to change their grade. I don’t have to wake up super-early or work on the weekends grading piles of papers. I can control where I go and when. I can rest when I need to (a lot, 15 years of teaching was really exhausting!), take breaks when I want, and teach only as much as I have to.

It’s a relief. And in fact it feels like I have just woken up from a long dream where I spent most of my time sleepwalking through my life.


11 Responses to “Bound By Semesters”

  1. phoenix March 22, 2007 at 8:09 am #

    Coming from an academic family, I can thoroughly relate. I was attached to an academic schedule practically from birth -my daycare was on the college campus- until I graduated from college myself. Several people have suggested continuing education, and while I loved and still love many aspects of academic life, a decade or so later, I’m not itching to go back. It’s a very different world, a bit difficult to explain to muggles, sort of like living in the south is hard to explain to Yankees and Non-americans. Or explaining California to any non-Californian. 😉 But I digress.

    My mother, a college professor, recently retired, and I swear it’s a bit like she’s come out of hibernation, or is shell-shocked in some way. You’d think being in a college enviroment would put her on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the world but in fact it’s like she’s experiencing things for the first time, like a teenager. As her daughter, it’s been an interesting experience to say the least. Her relief has made her an entirely new person. You are not at all alone.

  2. Rina March 22, 2007 at 8:35 am #

    I popped over from a nice comment you left on my blog. First off, I love the diversity of your craft work. You have a great eye for color.

    Second, I appreciate reading about your situation. Even though I’m barely about to finish my Ph.D., it seems like I’ve been in a university setting forever. I’m at a major crossroad right now, wondering whether to go on an academic or nonprofit track, mostly disillusioned with academia these past few years. It’s a bit scary, since all my doctoral program friends are looking for high-flying academic jobs, and my friends from my master’s cohort (from another program) are eight years into their professional careers. Anyway, I just wanted to say, thanks for sharing, and good luck to you.

  3. geckogrrl March 22, 2007 at 5:40 pm #

    Thanks so much for your really nice comments & for reading my ramblings about academia! It is kinda a funky environment — on the surface it seems really chill (long holidays, your own schedule) but in reality it’s pretty competitive. My dad also had worked in a college for something like 30 years and that was actually part of my decision to leave it — he became much more alive when he left. (Good luck on your doctorate, Rina — I hope you find a great job!)

  4. Em March 22, 2007 at 6:08 pm #

    First off, thanks again for the great advice you gave me regarding spinning. And now a second thank you for reminding me that academia isn’t all fabulous conferences and happy-go-lucky knowledge sharing. I finshed my MA in English Lit last summer, and was tremendously burnt out. It’s been quite hard adjusting to a 9-to-5 life, especially since I had thought that “PhD to Prof.” was my one and only career choice, but I’m not really regretting it. I look at academia with a lot of longing, and some anger, so it’s kind-of encouraging to read about someone who’s happily left it behind, even after achieving the full-status (that I haven’t).

    May I ask, what you are doing now? (other than knitting & spinning!)

  5. geckogrrl March 22, 2007 at 6:19 pm #

    Hey Em! I also thought I’d be in academia since 9-5 doesn’t work for me at all. Right now it’s hard because I still feel fried. But I got a job as a freelance writer for a website that pays the rent and another job training teachers to teach ESL on weekends (every couple of months or so). So the income isn’t totally steady, but I can follow my own schedule and develop another skill (writing) that I never had time for (always taught it but never really got to do it enough). There are tons of writing jobs available for web content and I think that is where I’m headed to next (and I teach one yoga class a week too…) It’s a toss-up between being happy and having money (although I wasn’t making much more teaching univ. kids..). I guess happiness won out!

  6. Sally March 23, 2007 at 10:01 pm #

    Wow, I feel you. I went straight through my BA and MA, and am now going BACK to get my teaching certification so I can teach high school French. Woo hoo!! There is a big difference (obviously) between teaching high school and teaching at the university level, and I don’t believe my job will be quite as stressful. However, congrats to you for reclaiming your life and your sanity.

  7. geckogrrl March 25, 2007 at 9:40 pm #

    Thanks for sharing and your comment, Sally! HS French sounds like it’d be fun to teach and from what I hear about HS teaching (esp. more academically-oriented courses) people really love it. (and, believe it or not, HS usually pays more & has much better benefits…)
    Good luck getting your certification!

  8. myhobbyisyarn March 26, 2007 at 2:47 am #

    I, too, am just adjusting to no semesters,since I finally graduated! So what did I do? I applied for a job at a university :). It’s nice though. Your spinning looks really pretty on your header.

  9. Sacha March 26, 2007 at 4:49 pm #

    I’m just going back to university after many years, but working full time AND taking harp lessons. It’s not easy! I feel like time is slipping away right now, but I really want to earn a degree and play music.

    Too much to do with so little time! Congratulations to you on getting your life back. 🙂 Everyone needs time for themselves.

  10. geckogrrl March 26, 2007 at 10:02 pm #

    Thanks for your comments! (The lure of the university is strong, I find myself called back every now and again too!) =)


  1. Blogiversary… A few of my favorite posts… « All In A Day’s…. - February 17, 2009

    […] Bound by Semesters (in which I reflect upon leaving teaching) […]

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