Pause

Each week, because time moves simultaneously too fast and too slow, our boss has asked that each of us provide a brief weekly summary of what we did the previous five days. Mine is always short on details; at this point if you don’t know how much work doing a Course Design Institute is, then my itemized list of each activity and consultation isn’t going to make any difference. A more detailed, itemized list also doesn’t capture the affective and emotional labor that goes into this work: which faculty member was particularly anxious, obstructive, belligerent, overwhelmed, scared, or just technologically challenged. So I keep it short and simple.

This week, and for the rest of the summer (which is only really a few more weeks as the fall semester starts in mid-August), I won’t be doing any more CDIs. Next week, we’re going on an actual vacation, leaving work behind. This week, then, is blissfully calm, at least compared to what my weeks have looked like all summer. It is giving me a chance to look back over the past however many months this whole thing has been going on, and look forward to the fall semester. I have a chance to look at my to-do lists, my workload, and set my own priorities and figure out how to work best moving forward, think about what it is I want to do versus what I have to do.

Maybe I’ll even be able to read and finish a book again. I even have one about swimming that I’ve been unable to focus on. A book. About swimming. Me! Unable to focus on it.

I’ve recently started saying in meetings that it is a failure of my own imagination, or perhaps just burn-out, that is preventing me from seeing what my work is going to look like during the fall semester. I know I’ll be working on designing online courses – work that started before COVID and continues on unabated – but beyond that…Will there be workshops? Webinars? Consultations? Teaching circles? Tech support? We have time to plan, and we are being asked, what do you want to do, do you think needs getting done? All I can think of is: we need to rest.

My ADHD brain THRIVES in these times of uncertainty, where I can quickly react, pivot, adapt, but it is nonetheless draining. Work is work, even if it is work you enjoy and are good at. I’m hoping this week is a chance for me to pause and clear my head enough to start having ideas again about the fall, about the job moving forward, about my life moving forward.

And that’s work, too. I’m not sure how to represent that in my short list of “what I did this week.” I rested, reset, reflected. I caught up, took time, looked around, looked inward, re-centered myself. It is not wasted time, it is not unproductive time, but time needed to be productive moving forward.

I’m not saying anything new or particularly revelatory, but for many of us working in higher education during the pandemic, there hasn’t been any time to rest, to reflect, to pause. We are all working hard for our students and in many cases, for our own future employment. We have been asked, required even, to work to save our institutions from financial ruin, to ensure our students who do come back are as successful as possible.

This week, while I work, and next week, while I really rest, I am going to try and set those concerns aside, if only momentarily, in a much-needed pause. And I think I will be writing that in my weekly report to my supervisor.

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