This week has been the hardest week so far in my first 8 weeks of professorship. I had a grant proposal due today, and two lectures to write on topics I’ve never formally studied. Monday was chewed up by a doctor’s appointment, meetings, and errands, and there were the normal distractions of grad students, office hours, and pumping. But mostly I frantically worked on the grant proposal. In -ology, we can ask questions that are general, but the experiments get done at a specific place. In this case, the place was specified by the granting agency. So I had to learn a fair amount about a place which I’ve never seen in order to write the proposal (and that’s probably it’s weakest point). But that’s not what I wanted to write about.
The hardest part about this week was how physically drained I was and how little I could do to make things easier on myself. I simply couldn’t fail to write a lecture. I had to say something for 75 minutes at 8 am twice this week. I couldn’t cancel my meetings with grad students, because they have timetables to meet as well. I had to hold my office hours – students are still freaked out about their midterm. I had to pump – Minnow would starve and I would be in excruciating pain if I didn’t. I had to drop Minnow off at daycare, go to her when she was crying in the night, and help her get back to sleep when she was restless from 4 to 5 am. I suppose I could have just opted not to finish the grant proposal, but too much work had already been done to make that palatable. Plus, this proposal is the best chance I have of funding a graduate student next year.
The things that ended up slipping were the things I do to take care of myself. I’ve hardly seen Minnow and Fish in daylight and not very much by twilight. I didn’t just give up blogging, but also really basic things like getting more than 5 hours of sleep, taking a shower, and even eating dinner. Those were the things that felt like they had the most “give.” But by giving up those things I sacrificed the things that my life worth living – time with my family, my health and happiness.
The low point of the week came Wednesday. I gave up my morning with Minnow to work on the proposal, and at the end of the day, pulling into the driveway, I realized that I had left all my pumped milk in my office. Not in a refrigerator, but just in a little chiller bag. There was no way it would last overnight, and I don’t have enough of a freezer stash to lose a whole day’s worth of milk. I had no choice but make another hour roundtrip to school, completely losing my only time with Minnow. I also lost my opportunity to eat dinner and driving home the last time I caught myself dozing off twice. Scary. But, hey, I still had a lecture to write.
Was this week an example of misplaced priorities? Or was the short term pain worth the (potential) long-term gain? Is it fair to put my body through that? Is it fair to put my husband and child through that? How do I keep this from happening again? Or is it just part of the academic lifestyle? Is it worth it?
Those are the questions that I asked myself last night as I sat up with Minnow from 4 to 5 am. But then at 6 am, in the shower, I got an idea for a research project that would be perfect for a M.S. student…and, hey, there’s a grant deadline on the 15th that wouldn’t be that much work…
So, the question of the day is, “Am I crazy?”
I’ll let you know when I’ve gotten some more sleep.