2016 was in some ways a good year for me. In terms of my academic work it felt as though I leveled up, inching closer to emerging from the cocoon of graduate school. This was, in part, just a matter of time passing, but it also seemed more substantive. I started thinking about my work differently, seeing it differently, and had some successes. I can grow and improve my craft more, without a doubt, but I (finally) felt a substantive difference. On the other hand, I was frequently stymied in every attempt to take the next step, which makes me think that this sense of growth was little more than feeling comfortable within the limits that I had already reached, but I will write more about this in another post.
I also got back to teaching in the fall of 2016, working for Western Civilization (up to 1715). This meant both leading discussion sections and giving a series of guest lectures. There were ways that I could have improved the lectures, of course, but on the whole the teaching went as well as it ever has, and the evaluations bore that out. The improvement came from a variety of sources, including simple practice, but also that I felt more comfortable in my subject expertise than I had in other semesters and that I am getting a good sense for how to craft a through-line for students when teaching new material. This last was important because I taught classes on everything from the Roman Republic to the Hellenistic World, to the Renaissance.
For the most part I also managed to continue playing basketball, lifting weights, and running on a regular basis. I did not manage to push my running distances to any great lengths, but I was pleased that I was able to do it at all. Similarly, I kept up most of my self-improvement goals, including that I started using Duolingo to brush up on my German and to learn Spanish and Dutch; I currently have a 115 day streak.
However, I had one significant problem with 2016: anxiety. I have long had issues with anxiety and depression, and my anxiety issues, manifesting in elevated heart rate, shaky hands, and an inability to focus. Most of these have to do with my work or, more precisely, my ability to continue working past this school year, but certainly events outside of my immediate circumstances are feeding into these issues. Beyond working on applications and doubling down on my work, one of my goals for 2017 is to spend more time doing things like meditating in the hopes of remaining even-keeled.
In reality there was a lot more to 2016, such as moving in August and using almost every available opportunity to travel, but I am all over the place right now, so now for some 2017 resolutions.
The eternal, nebulous, unquantifiable
- Continue learning to let go of things that are beyond my control. Most things are.
- Be more patient and charitable with people I know and tolerant of distraction (while working to limit them)
- Smile more often.
- Continue to exercise, maintain or improve health and fitness.
- Take more time for mindfulness exercises
The concrete and quantifiable
- Write more often, here, there, and beyond. Some specific (but not a complete) list of quantifiable goals:
- Defend my dissertation and graduate!
- Finish a draft of my (now begun!) novel
- Complete and send off (4) articles to academic journals
- Apply to review (2) academic books
- Find one non-blog, non-academic site to publish a piece of writing, either fiction or non-fiction
- Keep up my non-academic reading, but continue to expand my horizons, meaning:
- Read at least (52) nonacademic books. I have succeeded in this two consecutive years, but between a tendency to read long books and having a lot of other tasks, setting a higher goal would be irresponsible.
- I read (8) books by women in 2016; in 2017 it should be more than (10).
- I read (7) non-fiction books (not for academic purposes) in 2016; in 2017 I want to hit (10).
- Conquering the kitchen: develop (2) of my own bread recipes using flavors or ingredients that I do not usually use.