Well, that was a longer pause in blog posts than I intended. Goodness. I think the last time I posted was nearly a month ago. I certainly didn’t plan to be post-less for so long, but, well, life and work and various and sundry “things” conspired to keep me from sharing my thoughts in this space.

And wow, I missed it. Even if I am just putting these thoughts out into the ether, and no one is reading them, there is something cathartic about writing posts about what is on my mind. It’s different from what I write in my personal journal, and I am finding that I really value both.

All of that to say, it’s good to be back. And today it’s going to be a hodgepodge of randomness, because it’s Monday, technically a holiday here in the US, and I honestly don’t have a more thoughtful, composed (ha, I almost typed “composted”) post in my head. So, here we go…

  1. Work stuff. Oof. The last post I had here was right before the end-of-semester grading frenzy. We are on a hard deadline for that so I was prioritizing that for several days. Fortunately, my students’ papers were pretty darn good (points to me for building a lot of feedback into the writing process) so there were fewer papers that made me shake my head and despair for the future of my profession than in past years. πŸ˜‰ Tomorrow marks the start of the summer session, and I’m super-nervous about the course that I will be teaching for the first time. Ooof, again. Let’s just say the person who taught it last year was not, um, forthcoming with information/support/resources. I basically reconstructed what they did by downloading and reviewing the files and the course website. The first class is tomorrow afternoon – so here’s hoping it goes well. (I do still need to do a more in-depth read of the articles assigned, too…) We also have several PhD students at time-intensive points in their programs, so I have responsibilities related to that, too. In other words, summer has started but other than not having any standing meetings (hallelujah, since they’re mostly on Friday afternoons, something Kae can sympathize with now…), it’s pretty much the same pace as during the academic year. Not uncommon, but let’s just say that last week’s break was desperately needed.
  2. And on that note, life stuff. Specifically, travel and vacation stuff from last week. It was wonderful to see my parents and get some down time during the all-too-brief transition from spring semester to summer session. We spent time on the (very windy) beach, I read at a speed I can only maintain when I have no other responsibilities (I did read the hardback version of Codebreaker, about the development of CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing and the women who made the discoveries and connections needed to support its development in… 2.5 days. It was nearly 500 pages. When I’m passionate about something – and have the time – it’s good to know that I can still be the reader that I “used to be” before life took over…). I got more quality time with my parents than I had had for years. And then, well, there were some downsides. I got a skin infection related to the health issue I’ve been having for several months now. And then, my dad’s “allergies” turned out to be… COVID. So, yeah. I see my parents for the first time in a year. And one of us gets COVID. Sigh. This meant that I wound up sleeping on the couch (not super-comfortable, but at least it let me get horizontal) for three nights, so that my dad could isolate and my mother was not sleeping on the not-super-comfortable couch. Let’s just say my hope for deep, restful sleep was squashed when he tested positive. Fortunately, he is much better now (his symptoms were relatively mild), and neither my mom nor I seems to have contracted it. I’ll know for sure when I test later today. (Fingers crossed, as that would complicate tomorrow’s class a bit…) (OK, edited to add, overwhelmingly negative, which means my immune system actually functioned properly for once! Woohoo.)
  3. There are other life stuff things, but moving on… I have a crazy long list of personal to do’s to go along with my work related ones and can I just say that while writing them out helps (classic brain dump style), it is really overwhelming to look at everything, all at once. Also, I haven’t updated my work to do lists in weeks and I’m dreading doing that. Whine, whine. I am grateful to be busy – otherwise, I would be bored – but some days it’s just overwhelming. I know we all have these challenges, so I also know that I’m nothing special when it comes to long to do lists. πŸ™‚
  4. We are finally – FINALLY – having more seasonal weather here. It’s supposed to be hot as blazes here today, then more normal the rest of the week. Well, except for the severe storms. Tomorrow. Likely when I’ll be walking from the parking ramp to my class – because that’s how it usually goes. πŸ™‚ Despite the more normal temps, though, I am feeling distinctly under-inspired regarding any plants/herbs for my mini balcony. I usually at least TRY, but this year? I’m just…. not into it. The idea of getting some potted herbs, repotting them, putting them on the balcony… it’s pathetic, but it just seems like a lot right now. (I think part of the reason I feel so pathetic is that my dad is like super-gardener-man, and… while I love it? it’s not a key part of my identity, the way it is for him. I’d rather be reading, thanks.) So maybe, in the interest of not adding *one more thing* to my to do list, I’ll just… skip it this year.
  5. I have so many blog posts clogging up my brain… so I hope to show up more here in the next few weeks. It’s going to be an interesting summer – 2 more trips, both involving family; teaching a new course; getting 4 manuscripts out the door; and prepping for another busy academic year ahead. Already. Ha. Oh, and while I *thought* that our work meetings were all going to be virtual? As in, I thought it had been decided? Um, yeah, no. Apparently it was too far down the agenda for the last governance meeting of the year, and so now, the decision will be made by 4 people. We were all able to weigh in – and nearly everyone voted in favor of virtual only or hybrid – but I worry that 2 of the 4 people will hijack the process because they are strongly in support of in-person meetings. So until I hear otherwise, I’m going to fret about this. Of course. It’s me, I fret. It’s what I do. Fortunately, one of my closest friends at work is one of the four, and so a) I know she will speak up on my behalf, and b) I also know that she will tell me what the outcome is as soon as she knows. But still. Unnecessary and dumb stress. (Also, seriously, who wants to sit in a crowded conference room that never has enough seats on a FRIDAY afternoon at 3 pm? Particularly when we have experienced the joy of online meetings for the last 2+ years? Sighhhh….)

I hope you are all well. I have missed this space, and interacting more regularly. May was… well, it was kind of a cluster, to be honest. Here’s hoping June smooths out a bit? Maybe?

Aiming for this: “I will be calm, I will be mistress of myself.” (Thanks, Jane Austen…)

An ordinary life

***Thank you all for your absolutely lovely comments on my last post. It took a lot to post that, and it took a lot out of me, to be honest. Reading your comments, and the support your offered me, made such a difference. So thank you. Again, I am grateful beyond measure for the community we have built. <3***

I’ve noticed a bit of a theme in the quotes and passages that I have saved in the last few weeks… the idea of striving for an ordinary life. That not all of us are meant to be extraordinary, shining stars, brilliant points of light in the Universe.

No, most of us on this earth will live perfectly ordinary lives.

And that is perfectly fine. In fact, it may even be better than being pressured to become extraordinary, and then to stay that way. At least, in my opinion.

Because, really, what is wrong with living a (mostly) ordinary life? I think most of us want to be fulfilled in our daily lives, to feel like our time here on earth is worth something, that it contributes to the long arc of human history. But you can do that while living a lovely, ordinary life. You don’t have to be exceptional to make a mark on the world, or to touch the lives of the people you encounter throughout your life.

There is some comfort, for me at least, in being one of the masses. One of the legions of people out there living ordinary lives. Obviously some ground rules apply – treating others well, not committing crimes, etc. I hope that for most of us that’s obvious – and easy to achieve. But if you treat others well, if you live your life on your terms without hurting others, or infringing on others’ rights, if you make some contribution to society, take responsibility for your actions… you may be living an ordinary life, but you are contributing to the collective good that keeps our society and our species moving forward (at least for now).

I’m ordinary. And you know what? It feels good to be ordinary. Removing the pressure of being “the best” (for me, especially, in my work life), and knowing that my ordinary life and work ARE contributing? That is enough for me.

“But the more I grow as a human, the more ordinary feels like the most true, most relieving, most human kind of life to find ourselves in… I think we lose sight of our humanity when we prioritize winning over everything, success over contentment, the Next Big Thing over feeling at peace in what we’re doing, followers over connection, and a continual upward trajectory over being present with what we already have/do/are.” Lisa Olivera

I’ll have no trumpets, triumphs, trails of glory.
It seems the woman I’ve turned out to be
Is not the heroine of some grand story.
But I have learned to find the poetry
In what my hands can touch, my eyes can see.
The pleasures of an ordinary life.

Judith Viorst