Monday, April 27, 2015

A flex too far

Yes, it's true that in trying times of rapid change and strategic retrenchment and decreasing revenue streams and enrollment challenges and [insert alarmist academic jargon here], it is incumbent upon all of us to be flexible. But, as a colleague succinctly pointed out to me just now, "Sometimes if you bend too far, you end up breaking."

I had just been at a meeting where it was made clear that one solution to a curricular problem is for certain people (e.g., me) to "just be flexible while we work this out." Over the years I've proven my ability and willingness to be flexible, to stretch beyond my area of expertise to cover classes or to teach at odd hours to meet students' needs, and I've even developed whole new courses on very short deadlines when that sort of flexibility was called for. So I guess I'm an expert on flexibility, but flexibility has its limits and I may have found mine today.

I'm reminded of a tree felled by the resident woodsman over the weekend, a tall, strong, hardwood tree that had weathered its share of blows and needed to be brought down before it hurt someone. My husband took chainsaw and axe to the hardy trunk, inserting wedges to ease it toward the creek, and when all was ready he just put out his hand and gave a really hard shove. Anyone coming along at that moment would have been impressed--that man just knocked down a big tree with his bare hands! But they didn't see the earlier cuts and blows that had softened it up and made it ready to break.

I'm not that tree--at least not yet--but I've weathered enough blows that's it's impossible to predict which one might just knock me right over. I may bounce back from today's crisis only to jerked in an entirely different direction tomorrow, but at some point I'm going to stop bending over, and when it happens, you'd better stay out of the way.


Anonymous said...

Your words are a constant source of inspiration. I hope during this time of stress and change--you know that so many are thinking of you and wishing you well.


Contingent Cassandra said...

Sadly, this seems to be more and more often the story in more and more places. Flexibility is good, but so are boundaries, and preserving one's strength for the long haul.

Besides, working things out usually takes longer than expected, and stopgap measures have a way of becoming the new norm.

Good luck with coming up with an effective response (short- and long-term).

Bev said...

Thanks. I think my problem is that when I commit to do something, I'm all in, body and soul, which makes those sudden shifts all the more difficult. But we will survive. Somehow.