Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Living in the "ish"

I asked a colleague how things are settling out in her troubled department and she said, "Oh, we're fine....ish." She paused a moment before adding, "I'm trying to make peace with living in the ish."

Three of us from different departments sat over lunch today and shared stories of living in the ish--trying to make plans in the midst of a budget crisis, staff cuts, curricular changes, and a shifting pool of students. Living in the ish means delaying writing syllabi for classes that might get cut because of low enrollment, scrambling to find people to cover classes and committee assignments for faculty who have suddenly left for greener pastures, being ready to teach the students we have in the courses we can fill even if they're not quite what we expected.

One of us at the table is a survivor of the previous budget crisis 15 years ago and is thus a veteran of living in the ish. "You have to find things to celebrate," he said, "and you have to make time for the things that make you feel fulfilled."

Canoeing, gardening, long walks in the woods--that's how I'll cope with living in the ish. Also, my spring course release for research and my summer work on this big writing project have left me feeling so jazzed that I've resolved to apply for every possible bit of research support on offer, from summer research stipends to course releases to NEH grants. If I can't count on teaching the things I love to teach, I'll make my own fun in other ways.

Not that I'm worried about losing my job. As I keep reassuring people: my job isn't going away, but we'll all have to make changes in order to survive--and as long as it's not clear what impact those changes will have on curriculum and course offerings, we'll be living in the ish. But we're fine. Really. Just fine.


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