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Nov 18

Falling toward a finish line

You know that sensation, where you’ve tripped, and you know intellectually that there’s absolutely no avoiding a major fall on your face, but that message hasn’t really reached your body yet, and you’re still churning your legs, trying desperately to keep them underneath you, as you stumble forward, forward, wincing and praying? That’s sort of what I’ve got going on here. I’ve got so many metaphorical balls in the air that there’s no legitimate hope of keeping them all up there; if I don’t drop any, by some miracle, it’s going to be the juggling of the slapstick clown in the ring, the one who makes everybody shriek as he bumbles his way toward chaotic disaster.

To wit:

  • I have fifteen days until I have to present a case study to my library politics seminar class, with another week after that until I have to hand in the paper itself. I have a ton of awesome material for it. I mean, I simply cannot describe how perfectly this thing has come together in the research, and yet now I’ve hit the point where there does not appear to be any feasible hope that the writing can match the research. There has to be a word, perhaps in the combinatorial German language, to describe the feeling of doom one gets when a teacher/boss/supervisor says, “This is going to be great!” It’s the academic version of “What could go wrong?”
  • There’s a final paper due on the same day for my other class, too, and we haven’t even begun to discuss what it’s about. (Then again, we had to submit our last exercise, on organizational budgeting, before the lecture on budgeting, so this is sort of par for the (management) course.) I have no idea how long its supposed to be, and, honestly, it’s only worth as much as any of the other writing assignments from the class, but I really don’t feel okay about putting it off until the last minute.
  • Besides those two papers, I have another two short papers to write, one for each class. One is due Wednesday, and the second is due on the same day that the case study and other major paper are. I’d pretty much pushed both of these to the back of my head, since they’re short and I can crank them out pretty quickly, but I got an email this morning reminding me about the first one, and it made my brain start screaming quietly to itself.
  • Eric just reminded me that I’m supposed to go “have an opportunity” to visit a library tonight to learn about their recent renovation projects. What fun! Seriously, interesting, but that’s one less evening of work opportunity I’ll get.
  • And that trip actually might not happen, depending on another email I’m expecting, setting the time for when I’ll be able to go into a local homeless shelter to do a focus group with the residents. That’s the final bit of research needed for my case study, and it’s potentially one of the most important parts, and it probably trumps an optional field trip.
  • My kids keep throwing more activities into the mix. Most of them don’t require more of me than to remember to get them there (and pick them up afterward?), but they buzz around in my mind and create a low level of “don’t forget!” anxiety. The ones that involve my participation beyond chauffeur-level are, sadly, not getting nearly the amount of excitement and attention they deserve.
  • My house? Sooner or later it’ll get finished, right?

So, the case study. This thing is pretty much my biggest focus right now. It started out as a critical examination of why there were no official outreach programs at our local library aimed toward those affected by homelessness, but it grew and evolved, and now it’s this fantastic revelation of how the library is doing amazing things here, with no budget for most of it, working with other service providers, and nobody’s even noticing and that doesn’t matter because that’s not the point. It’s about relationships and respect and cooperation and understanding, and I have so many stories and examples, and I’ve pretty much reached the point where I have to bring Kleenex along with my pen and paper to every interview because it’s a given that I’ll be fighting back tears at some point. So incredible. Yet it’s heartbreaking, too, these personal stories I’m hearing, and it makes me want to go out into the streets and grab people by their collars, shaking them and dragging them into the shelters to see and hear what I’m seeing and hearing. This Saturday at running club, I got into a lengthy debate with somebody from the other side of the political spectrum – the sort of debate I usually avoid, really, but I just couldn’t this time. Wound up tweaking my calf a bit, since the more fired up I got, the faster we went. That’s still a bit sore. Whoops.

But it’s three more weeks, and then this semester is over. Next semester I’ve got a couple more potentially tough classes, and then things should settle down a little through the end, except that I seem to have talked myself into taking a legal issues class taught by our new dean, and the syllabus does not scream “easy.” So there’s that. And once I get through that and the other couple remaining courses, I have to do a capstone project, and I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t bite off more than is reasonably chewable. That’ll be entertaining. Also, I think after Christmas I’m going to start working a few shifts of fieldwork at the local library, which is something I’m eagerly anticipating, but which will be a bite out of my available time as well. On the other hand, I’m going to view this whole experience as a slow ramp-up to working full-time. The kids might need the transition time; Sam has tried to call me while I was in class an hour away to tell me he’d forgotten his lunch, as though I was in any position to do anything about it.

Anyway, back to work I get. Taking a few minutes to write all this down was more helpful than wasteful, as now I can hopefully lay some of the stress aside and move on. Let the computer hold it so I don’t have to, right? Right.

Oh, and it's snowing, too. Choosing to put that at the bottom of the awareness pile.

Oh, and it’s snowing, too. Choosing to put that at the bottom of the awareness pile.

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