Monday, January 3, 2011

The black sharpie

Post-it flags, sticky notes, color-coded ink pen systems, and digital reminders: the office supply and organizational gadget businesses have my money. They also have much of my time as my poor husband can attest: I spend at least an hour shopping for a new day planner each December. It is a nerdy pleasure. I pour over the layouts, the organization of days, the weekly versus monthly options. Eventually, the husband finds a nice floor sample of a piece of furniture and perches patiently while I mumble about hours broken down by the 15 or 30 minute intervals and binding options. For the past six years, I give up and order a calendar online that better fits my desires. This year was no different. After the futile trip to Office Depot, I placed my order online and waited impatiently for the new calendar to arrive. The simple joy of a well-structured week can emotionally uplift me, as I have noted before when discussing the struggle between balancing the researching, service and teaching sides of faculty life. For me, structure and scheduling provide a clear way to manage these competitors for my limited time. So, it was quite an exciting moment when my fresh calendar arrived today.

Fresh. That is the way I see the year ahead as I turn crisp day planner pages and ponder if I will use pencil or blue or black or green or purple ink this year, if I will mark off meetings and classes with arrows or boxes. Nerdy though it may be, I can't help it. I love the feel of the blank pages and the simple possibility of it all...

That is truly what the new calendar represents: possibility. I approach this 2011 day planner with reverence and with that wonderfully engaging mixture of opportunity and optimism that marks a new year.

...until the evil black sharpie, that is.

The permanence of the thick black line, the bleed through to the other pages, the impossibility of change: a black sharpie is trying to take over my day planner. There is a nagging voice in the back of my mind that is screaming "Protect your time! Tenure review is coming soon! Permanent black sharpie required!" And despite the plethora of ink options, the voice is screaming for research time to be outlined in black sharpie marker this semester. It urges a rapid reply to any committee meeting request that dances too close to the thick black lines to be, "I'm sorry, I cannot make the meeting."

Before thinking that you should call for some type of psychiatric assistance for this inner dialogue (for which I thank you but politely and of sound mind, decline), do know that my mental argument for the new calendar reflects the stress of an approaching semester: what projects are looming, what needs completed, what MUST be done. It is all a *hopefully* normal manifestation of my feeling that I did not get enough done last semester and that time is sliiiiiiipppppppping away.

Whether the black sharpie is used literally or figuratively (and let's just admit here that no way is a messy black sharpie darkening the pages of my fresh new day planner no matter how that inner voice rages), I am claiming the semester ahead as one full of optimism where my research time WILL BE a priority. I will embrace that time, I will respect that time, and I will maximize those hours. With that commitment in mind, I turn back to the blank, beautiful pages of the day planner and ponder the possibilities and opportunities ahead...perhaps I'll wait just one more day before I enter all of the classes, meetings and tasks for the upcoming term!

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