Monday, July 10, 2006

I Won't Have Time to be a Schoolgirl

I love the beginning of the school year. The way the air changes from hot to cool, the turning of the leaves, the brightening of the sky. When I was a child I would get very excited right before school started. I salivated over "back to school" clothes, book bags, books, and drank in the scent of freshly sharpened graphite. When I was five years old I had a little red corduroy skirt with suspenders that I wore with a blue and white striped turtleck, along with tights and buckled t-strap shoes with little leather tassels. I also had a fringe, and hair that curled up just above my shoulders. Damn, I was cute. This outfit epitomized my "back to school" romance. Apparently the thrill wore off rather quickly though. By October, when it was time to have our school pictures taken, I rakishly tied a vivid purple and orange silk scarf around my shoulders like a cape and refused to take it off, telling everyone that my mother had insisted that it was Not to be Removed. To my memory, that is the first time I deliberately lied to my mother. Of course she found out at the end of the day, and I repented. But the picture, depicting a triumphant five-year old Muse in schoolgirl-superhero guise, is now regarded as a family classic.

Sometimes I wonder if one of the reasons I'm an academic is because I couldn't part with the thrill of going back to school in September. Of course we never get to wear our "back to school" outfits for the first two weeks because it's always deathly hot.

But I'm worried I've lost that "back to school feeling." My semester begins early. Too early. It starts on August 23, and I will begin teaching on August 24. Plus there is some sort of emergency/disaster/pandemic contingency plan, also known as BFCP, or "Bird Flu Contingency Plan," in place that basically means I have to write up detailed syllabi with lesson plans for the entire year and turn them in to the Dean at the start of the semester. And don't get me started on Labor Day in the South (or lack thereof). Classes will be held. We will labor on Labor day, which is a federal holiday that prohibits work. But apparently not at my school. All of this means that I will be doing teaching prep from now until August 23 (or 3am on August 24). Which means, as a friend told me last night, "It Starts Now."

Goodbye postdoctoral schoolgirl, and welcome Professor Muse. I will miss the schoolgirl. Not to gloss over her own trials and tribulations (she was a serious scholar, after all), but the real work starts now. The tenure clock starts now. I won't have time to go gallivanting about reading whatever interests me, turning articles inside out, and sleeping late in the morning. I won't have time to wait on sending out articles and book proposals, or to let ideas and pieces of writing stew for a while. I won't have time to fly halfway across the world whenever I want to, just to see people I miss. I won't have time to daydream. I won't be sprightly and perky and flirtatious and enthusiastic because I won't be getting very much sleep, though I'll do my best to make myself presentable. Still, I am thrilled to get started because oddly enough this is what I've always wanted.

Watch out for schoolgirls, though. . . There is a new one taking my place, and I rather expect she'll shake things up just as much as I did. I wish I could give her some advice, or stay a little longer and see her safely settled in. But I don't have time.

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