I’m grinning as I write the title of this post, thinking of Joey from Friends: “How you doin’?” (As Rachel replies that one time she’s drunk in Vegas: “I’m good, baby, how are you?”)
It’s been almost five weeks since sabbatical ended and I returned to work. The first two weeks were surreal. I found myself narrating everything I did in the third person: “Julie is now heading to the reference desk. Now Julie is going to teach a class.” It was disturbingly hilarious.
Things have felt more normal the past few weeks – my short answer when people ask is “I’m good baby, how are you?” Everything is also impossibly new. The biggest part of the transition back to work has been seeing how much I’ve changed. (My workplace has changed, too – more on that below.) I worried when I went back that I would fall into old patterns of doing too much & for the wrong reasons. (I blogged about those patterns a few weeks ago.)
It’s still early but I’ve successfully tested the hypothesis I shared in that same post on August 13:
I have some plans and ideas to put in place when I return to work, ones that I hope will establish a healthier relationship with my workplace. Basically, live like I – and my plans, dreams, writing, life outside work – matter. Because they (and I) do.
So yay me! The intentions I’ve put in place have been shaped in part by the circumstances at work. I don’t think I’m airing the dirty laundry by saying it’s a tough time for higher education in general and libraries in particular. We are short of funds and staff, due to complex – and not easily solved – circumstances.
There’s a theme that keeps emerging – as I talk with colleagues, as I review my own career plans, as I read reports and reviews of my library from the past few years – in lean times, our energies go toward providing the services we are able to provide in the best way possible. We don’t have the time or energy for new initiatives, at least not on a broad level.
As my library goes, so go I. It’s been a fascinating few weeks, colored by some darker moments, including health issues, parenting challenges and the death of a well-loved cat. Maybe it’s just the stage of life I’m in now, but these feel like lean times, too. Maybe we’re always near that edge.
I’ve often seen work as an adversary this past year – the jealous spouse demanding all of the time and energy I’d rather devote to my writing and the rest of my life. Now I’m glimpsing how work can be a supportive partner, reinforcing the importance of recognizing my own limitations while also providing opportunities to fulfill my responsibilities as best I can.
So I’m doing fine. Couldn’t be better. Today I haven’t barred the door of my office and curled up on the couch to watch Friends reruns. But let’s just see how tomorrow unfolds, shall we?