On Academic Biorhythms

This year was peculiar at school because various calamities kept us in crisis mode all year. As we plod toward April, I find myself worn as thin as some of the most stressful times of my adult life even though nothing overly stressful stands on the horizon except for typical work responsibilities. Perhaps I could weather daily work more easily if the campus’s internal rhythm hadn’t been thrown off balance.

I never stopped attending school, after K12 was college, after college was grad school, straight through to work, and here I remain. My body never adjusted to the normal ebb and flow of time that most people follow. Academics are more attuned to the planting and harvesting season of a farmer, because education follows the agrarian pattern of taking summer off to work in the field, so the story goes.

This year’s schedule was off kilter in both fall and spring. We had to push school back a week in the fall due to some computer system problems, and we had to push school back another week in the spring due to rolling electrical blackouts. In the middle of these timing problems, we experienced a hurricane that shut us down for almost a week. These disruptions created an atmosphere that made it difficult to focus.

The school year, regardless of the specific start and end date, is a rhythm, one everyone feels at a cellular level as an academic. The stress an individual feels when preparing for a trip out of town or working a short week, well, that’s akin to the stress in the air all semester – except in a single week, you get a break, and you know the duration is brief, and you know you will hit your stride in the next week or two. For an academic, this broken rhythm takes months to recover. To have two back-to-back semesters in this fashion takes a toll.

My colleagues have weathered this challenge superbly and with great professionalism. I am grateful to everyone beyond measure. If everyone had had some sense of normalcy in our sunrise and sunset, we probably would feel more positive about the challenges ahead.

Louisiana is a difficult place for academics right now. To continue harvesting the agricultural metaphor, our land is being salted by an anti-intellectual, instrumentalist agenda. I am weary, and my internal clock needs to set itself aright.

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