I can still see the cart picking up speed. It was some time in early 1998, and I had been an assistant professor at Georgia Tech for about six months. After work, I stopped to pick up a few groceries at a supermarket where the parking lot is on a steep hill. After putting my groceries in the car, the cart started rolling down hill. And I was so exhausted I couldn’t run after it–I just stood there staring as it picked up speed and went WHAM into some poor person’s car door well down the hill. A man in the lot glared at me like I was mad. I wasn’t insane–I was just tired. Very, very tired.
I retold this story to my excellent new colleague assistant professor Eric Gilbert, who sounded vaguely like he was about to cough up part of a lung. I was sick my first year as faculty more than I ever have been in my adult life. Stress does that to a person. Eric made me promise I’d post the cart story. For those of you who are nearing the end of your first year of teaching (or about to start this adventure in the fall): it is not your imagination. Being new faculty is stressful. The stress comes partly from the sheer amount of work you have to do, and partly from second guessing your every decision. Not just big decisions but even little remarks in the hallway to new students and new peers. (Did I just say the right thing?) Combine that with (for most folks) moving to a new city, a new home… yikes.
But, to repurpose a meme, it gets better. Hang in there! And if your shopping cart or your unread email accelerate away from you, know that you are not alone.
My phone and I took separate vacations this year. It wasn’t intentional–I had a granola bar in my pocket, and my six-year-old was intrigued and started poking around (any other treats in there?) and my phone fell out on the parking lot shuttle bus. We figured it out pretty quickly but there was no time to go back, and the parking lot staff found it and said they’d keep it safe for the week. My immediate reaction was “well, I can blog about it later.”
So now that I’m back, I have to report that I didn’t have any terribly profound revelations. My husband still had his phone, and I did check my email once or twice a day and take a couple work calls. So I suppose that explains why it was no big deal. But I do have a few small observations.
I don’t remember phone numbers any more. I wanted to call my mother to say “don’t try me on my cell–call Pete,” but I didn’t know the number. Luckily I remembered her email address, and she emailed the phone number back. I know teenagers have this experience a lot these days–I’ve seen the ‘lost my phone, need numbers’ Facebook postings.
I had no idea what time it was. I don’t wear a watch any more. I have a pretty good sense of time, and when I need to I check my phone. The combination of no phone and being out of regular routines put me in a kind of temporal-free zone. Which was actually kinda nice. I stayed up reading at night until… well, until I was tired. I have no idea what time it was.
Shopping in big stores was a pain. Pete and I marched off in different directions in Target and… wait, where is he? Uh, I guess I’ll wait by the checkout aisle. Having two phones lets us wander off and not take time to form and communicate a plan.
I didn’t miss Facebook, Foursquare, or Zombie Farm. Especially those last two. I don’t know why I returned to doing them when I got my phone back. And as for Facebook… I don’t know why I went back to that either. There are some people I enjoy keeping up with on Facebook, especially former students and family. And the rest of you… well, forgive me but I didn’t miss ya.
Lastly, I have a future scheduling snafu because I said yes to something without actually looking at my calendar. Having my correct calendar with me is an unequivocal win.
Maybe I’ll do this again some time, on purpose.