I’ve got this image in my mind of myself right now. I’m in the water somewhere and I am paddling as furiously as I can just to keep my head above water, like a labrador going for a stick in the lake. And as the waves keep coming for me, and I know that even in the lull between them, the next big one just might swamp me.
In the past week I had two different dreams related to water and drowning. First, I dreamed that I was in New Orleans and that the floodwaters were rising and rising, and I had to escape with all of my family, but that Spousal Unit got left behind. Then, I dreamed that I was swimming in the ocean and a wave came up that was a big as the house, and that I dove into it like you do to avoid getting smaked in the face with waves when you’re at the beach in the summer, but as I dove, I knew the wave would be too big. It was — it picked me up and then fell away beneath me, leaving me hanging in mid-air for a minute before I started to fall. As I was falling, I was thinking about whether or not I should hold my nose, dive in head first or feet first, but I knew that no matter what I did, it was futile. And then I woke up.
From everything that I have heard and read, the first year of teaching is the most difficult. Well, I certainly hope it doesn’t get any harder. I am so so tired. And it is only the third week. My classes are going really well, I think. The students seem engaged. They’re doing the work. They seem to like the subject and they generally pay attention when I talk to them and when they talk to each other. But I feel like I am paying a really high price for this success.
Yesterday I snapped at Spousal Unit at a dinner with some folk and really hurt his feelings. At the end of a long day of teaching and commuting, going out with people was the last thing I wanted to do, but felt obliged to help celebrate a birthday. Clearly, I should have stayed home. My stress was spilling out in inappropriate ways, hurting the person I care about the most.
I have a goal right now. It seems like such a simple goal, but it continues to elude me. That goal is to have one day of commuting — just one day — where in the hour it takes me to get to campus, I’m not in a total panic about whether or not I will be prepared for the classes of that day. Maybe it will happen this week. Maybe.
And as for the drowning, I think it is clearly time to get back into the swimming pool at the Y. To take the time to remind myself that I know how to swim. And that I love to swim, no matter how big the waves are.