A few of your recent posts reminded me of something. You brought back to me the vivid memory of my typical “non-sabbatical” state of mind during this point in the semester. It is a feeling of gloom brought on by endless grading, too many demands on my time, crappy weather, and impending deadlines. Any excitement about the start of the semester has long since passed and there are too many obstacles ahead for any glimmer of excitement emanating from the end of the semester to shine through. I experience a brief “gloom phase” every single semester. Knowing that helps a bit, but it still feels like crap.
Being on sabbatical means I don’t have to experience it this year, but I am aware that gloom season would be right now for me and I think it’s right now for some of you. It makes me fantasize about a superhero (I picture a tweed cape) that could somehow fly around and relieve all of you stuck in gloom phase of your burdens. But what would that superhero do? I know when I’m feeling this way I know I need to relax. I need a break from grading papers, working on lectures, freaking out about some manuscript I haven’t touched in weeks, and the endless barrage of email. But an overwhelming sense of obligation keeps me from doing this. I’ve decided the only solution is for this superhero to provide valid excuses for imposed relaxation. The kind of excuse you can pass along to your students, Main Office Assistant, TA, GA, and/or colleagues without any trace of guilt and will force you to stop frantically working. This superhero is going to have to break some eggs.
What would our “gloom phase” superhero do? Bad things. Deliciously bad things. Our superhero would pull fire alarms before your class, release non-toxic but smelly substances throughout your building, and cause minor flooding. So sorry, class and office hours are canceled. University email systems are going have to go down in dramatic fashion. So sorry, I didn’t receive those whiny messages about how you have no time to study but do have the time to offer me nonsense extra credit work. Perhaps a minor fire needs to break out. So sorry, who knew the wiring on the Scantron machine was so bad? Jury duty might be required. So sorry, but I must attend to my civic duty. Crazy weather, vandalism, and all manner of suspicious activity might occur, leaving only a trace of tweed fibers in its wake. Shit just needs to go down.