July 24, 2000
Volume 52, No. 38
First person: Gayle Doherty
Waxing on the lists of summer
Gayle Doherty is an associate professor of physical education at Oxford College
I have a friend who frequently expresses his envy for the cyclical nature of my job. He tells me he longs for the promise of renewal and redemption that I enjoy with the end of each school year. Many of my friends and family members express similar jealousies over the huge chunks of time I have "off."
I really do sympathize with my friend who covets the nature of my job, but I am quite frustrated by the people who keep making comments about my "vacations." Yes, I do get a change of scenery-no students, sometimes working at home unbathed and in my underwear if I want, planning and reflecting instead of doing. I find some welcome relief in these transitions, but the word "vacation" just doesn't apply.
In the past I have tried to correct these falsely perceived notions others have of my freedom, but I have decided henceforth to put this futile effort behind me. This summer I did not explain to anyone that my summer "vacation" activities began with a two-week teaching seminar, for which I read a notebook filled with readings about teaching. And that I tried to find some time after the seminar to sit down and remember and reflect on exactly how I would apply the lessons captured to my classes this fall, how I would view my colleagues in the future, and how I would attempt to share this information with my colleagues.
I didn't explain that, following a one-week camping trip to Florida, I began my other summer "vacation" activities which included, but certainly were not limited to, the following:
· conducting a search for a new faculty secretary for my division.
· training the aforementioned new secretary.
· communicating with all the people who will call me this summer to ask questions related to the evacuation of our gymnasium, which will undergo a major renovation beginning in August.
· calling people to ask questions related to the evacuation of our gymnasium, which will undergo a major renovation beginning in August.
· finalizing the 1999-2000 budget for my division.
· preparing the 2000-01 budget for my division.
· discussing and negotiating the purchase of new computer equipment with the college business manager.
· helping to create a new cleaning schedule for the physical education facilities.
· preparing for and reflecting on a professional workshop I will attend at Duke University this month.
· setting one of my dances on a dance company in South Carolina.
· beginning choreography for a piece I'm doing in collaboration with the Emory and Columbia College dance faculties.
· planning for the Oxford student concert.
· planning for the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at Oxford.
· reorganizing the musical accompaniment and videos for my classes.
· weeding out my files.
· increasing my knowledge and proficiency with computer technology.
· updating the information for the content of my courses and rewriting my class notes.
· reorganizing the syllabi for my fall classes.
No, I will not spend another fragment of my life trying to enlighten another person about the real nature of my "vacations." From now on, I will smile blissfully, nod and agree when such comments are made.
I will never again describe the many weekends and nights I spend on campus in rehearsals or in service to the college. I won't describe how I often pack my portfolio with homework after a 10- to 14-hour day and then repack it the next morning at 7:30 a.m. as I head "back" to work.
I will certainly never tell the story about the time I went to work at 8 a.m., did my regular day and then attended an Honor Council meeting that night that lasted until 4 a.m. I also won't explain how I went to the local Waffle House for breakfast at 4:30 a.m. and then returned to my office to prepare for the next workday with no sleep, no bath and still wearing the clothes I had on the previous day.
Instead, I will practice the art of perspective.
I will try to focus more on the people and creatures I love and who, amazingly, still seem to love me. I will work on my ability to say no. I will try to develop the skill of delegation. I will attempt to squash my compulsion to unload my job frustrations by relaying and simultaneously reliving every painful detail of a particular job situation or event in a monologue delivered to some poor, innocent and unsuspecting soul who just happened to make the unfortunate mistake of intersecting with me.
I will practice the discipline of identifying what I can learn from every situation and then storing the situation in its proper place: the past.
I will try to apply the concept of speed to everything I do; maybe I can accomplish more in less time. I will learn to discriminate between times when my best work is essential and times when I could probably just aspire to be adequate. And when I wake up in the middle of the night with a panic attack, sweating with the certainty that a manifestation of the Peter Principle is ruling and ruining my life, I am going to pick myself up and out of bed by the seat of my PJs. Ignoring the impulse to catch up on some of the work I didn't finish, I will force myself to do something drenched in frivolous-or maybe even decadent-fun.
f I can't sleep, I will party.
And if I can't be accurately understood, I will stand proudly in the
fantasy image others have: that I life my life in multiple periods of "vacation."