Lots of things were different this year.
- I turned 40, a cultural milestone, especially for women. Already I can feel the hot breath of perimenopause on my skin.
- We bought a house this summer, our first. It’s lovely, if already kind of scruffy around the edges in the ways our residences tend to become. (220 pounds of dog generate, it ends up, a lot of dog hair, and the garden is huge.)
- I sprained my ankle really badly in late September falling down the stairs of our new house, and I used crutches and a knee scooter for the first time in my life. Learning to use crutches at 40 is pretty miserable, especially when, like me, one is more than a little out of shape.
- I took a new job and have made it my own. I adore the people with whom I work, and I am eager to go to the office every single day because the kind of work we do is really interesting and important. Alas, I also have learned more about human resources than I ever cared to know. (Next up: learning more about delegating.)
- Because of the new job, I’m home later in the afternoon or evening than I used to be. I’m so grateful Fang long ago committed to being the work-from-home, PTA-type parent.
- My son turned 10, another milestone. He also earned his second-degree black belt and is turning out to be a bright, balanced, and intrinsically motivated kid. I’m one proud mama.
- I lost an aunt who I thought might outlive me. She had always been my healthiest relative, and her illness and passing has grounded me further in the here and now and made me reconsider my own health and fitness, especially since I had to show up to her memorial service on crutches.
- I experienced a major attack on social media that made me experience the world differently, at least for a while, and reinforced some ideas I have about whiteness and masculinity in Idaho.
- I flirted again with Quakerism, attending a couple meetings for the first time in years and writing an article on teaching and mentoring for Friends Journal. I deepened my belief in the primacy of nonviolence, especially with regards to the epidemic of gun violence in the U.S.
Even though much was different this year, I wasn’t sure how I was embracing difference or making a difference until recently, when my efforts began to pay off in ways large and small.
- I’m not necessarily at liberty to say exactly how my efforts at work are making a difference–and doing so might make it seem as if I’m tooting my own bureaucratic horn–but I will say I’ve been working hard to get administrators and faculty thinking about priorities in undergraduate education, with a particular emphasis on the accessibility (in every sense of the term, including disability and affordability) of course materials and where the university invests in its technological resources. I’ve been speaking up and pushing back in an attempt to move undergraduate education forward. A lot of this work has involved, appropriately enough, talking about difference among students.
- In the last couple months of this year, I’ve been trying to emphasize work-life balance, which seemed out of whack when I was primarily a faculty member. I’m fortunate to rarely have to take work home with me–much of what I do can wait until the next day–but I have often mulled over work challenges in my head when I’m at home rather than attending 100% to my family life. I hope to maintain the little momentum I’ve built up there with Fang, the boy, the dogs, and domestic life.