12 July 2011


There are only two weeks left in the course I'm teaching.  It's a good thing, too. I'm tired.  Actually, it's more than that.  I just feel like I have nothing more to give, at least in that class or as an educator.  

Colleagues tell me it's because I've taught a lot this year.  But I've taught more, and had more difficult situations, than I've had this year.  And the class I have now is great:  they're juniors and seniors.  In fact, two of them have only one more semester to go. Some are "traditional" college age, while others are older.  And they're all polite, respectful and even nice people.  Hey, they even gave me a birthday cake!

Yesterday, another instructor said the same things, almost verbatim, when I asked, "How are you doing?"  So I'm wondering whether it might have something to do with the season, or the fact that he's also near the end of his course.

My feeling of "running on empty" has, I think, something to do with the fact that I'm tired of school atmospheres in general.  Or maybe it's the other way around.  Whatever it is, I feel that whatever got me through all of those classes, all of those years, of teaching--and, for that matter, being a student--is something that's run its course, like some part of one's former body chemistry.  An old hormone, enzyme or something is depleted, or simply gone. What will take its place--or whether anything should take its place--I don't know.

Last semester, I had one class I wasn't crazy about.  I guess that isn't bad when you consider that I taught four.  But a lot of the students in that class--mainly freshmen of "traditional" college age--really were wasting their time there.  Perhaps if they were to return to school and take the class at some later date, it might be worthwhile for them.  And, if I were their prof, perhaps it would be for me, too.

They weren't bad kids, really.  They were, well, kids--in every way that word means.  They had no patience for the things they needed to do, but they'd waste time on all kinds of pointless and simply stupid things.  I guess in one sense, they are the way I once was, which is exactly the opposite of how I am now.  They--like my long-ago self--have only known the world in which they currently live, which is to say they only know of one life, and most of them only know one way to live it.  Yet they do not think of time as finite or the future is imminent.  They have some vague notion that the future is some very distant place at which they will arrive, but they have no idea of what it might be like.  If they have any vision of it, they got it from looking at images of people who are completely unlike themselves and about whom they really know nothing.  

I, on the other hand, stepped into a new life relatively recently, and understand that I have a limited amount of time remaining. Sometimes I lose patience with people who ought to know better--who include some co-workers and people higher in the chain of command--because I know I don't have time for bullshit.  It's a sort of survivor's mentality and, at times, it makes me seem intolerant and even abrasive to some of my colleagues.  There are some things about which I am certain, or at least feel entitled to have my own opinions, because of experiences I have.  Sometimes they--very condescendingly--try to tell me that it's only my experience and that I am perceiving it wrongly. Or they try to tell me I didn't experience what I've experienced, when they haven't a clue about it--or, in some cases, about their own experience. 

Perhaps it's dealing with people like that on a nearly daily basis that's wearing me down.  Mind you, not all of my colleagues or coworkers are that way.  But enough are to make any part of the campus a chamber that sucks out my energy.


Sophie said...

Something I hadn't thought of, the framing of mortality through transition.
When I first understood my diagnosis I was strongly drawn to people sharing a commonality of intensity born of major health issues, and consequently less engaged with others. Is this a part of the feelings you're describing ?

Justine Valinotti said...

Sophie: Early in my transition, I felt something like what you felt . I found myself drawn to, and thinking about, people with disabilities. And I felt less able to deal with "normal" people. I guess what I'm feeling now is a version of that: The people to whom I'm now drawn have had to, for whatever reasons, look at their own mortality and deal like adults with grief. That does make it harder, sometimes, to deal with people who are less mature in that sense, especially if they have reaped the privileges and rewards of adulthood.