Day: January 25, 2021

Random Bits of Starting a New Semester

♦ Teaching in person this coming semester. Looking forward to interacting with students, feeling bad for them, and let’s face it, myself, too, in the light of incessant saliva-based testing that is now required in order to access any building. In the fall we didn’t have anyone get sick in class, all positive cases were traced back to dorms and frat houses, so while I support free and widely available testing, this seems like overkill and has been causing a lot of stress among students, faculty, and staff because many samples get rejected as discolored, containing bits of food or mucus, people not being able to provide enough saliva, etc. It’s a mess.

♦ There is a special kind of loneliness that comes from widespread long-term stress. Everyone’s reserves of good will, patience, hell, fucks to give, get depleted. People can barely hold themselves together and have nothing to spare for anyone else. If one ever needed an explanation for why so many people in the US were lonely even before the pandemic, this heightened stress should make it clear. You can’t connect when no one around you has anything left to give.

♦ I am facing a busy grant-writing period (well, busier than usual). Oof. But, I suppose this is a good, normal kind of oof.

♦ The university is vaccinating people on campus who are over 65. When you think of it, this is a somewhat nonsensical statement. Students are obviously not in this category, and 65 is retirement age; most staff will have retired by that point. There should be very few people in the over-65 bracket on campus. But  plenty of professors teach well into their 70s and 80s. I thought I’d be one of those people, that I would never retire. I don’t think that anymore.

♦ This is something I noticed even before the pandemic: Very few of my colleagues have anything to say about new books, or movies, or shows. Nobody reads or watches anything. There aren’t talks of museum exhibits or concerts, either. I would even welcome chatter on sports! The young ‘uns work nonstop; I do remember the insanity of tenure, so that’s warranted. But all midcareer colleagues work nonstops, too; it’s unclear why.  Maybe they’re still enjoying it more than anything else in the world? Maybe they’re still chasing something? What is this strange place where everyone (but me) seems compelled to work all the time? How did I get here, and why? Should I flee, and, if yes, where to?

♦ There is a special kind of loneliness that comes from being surrounded by people, some of whom are not supposed to know you, the rest of whom don’t give a shit to know you. At least, with the first kind, you can pretend that, given the chance, they wouldn’t be the second kind.