Where I’ve Been and Where I’m Going: An End of Year Reflection

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“Don’t look now! He’s right behind you.”

Hello, dear readers! Hello! A most Merry and Happy Holidays to you and yours! Yes, yes, I know. I haven’t blogged in a month, but I have a good reason: LIFE. There’s been so many good and unexpected life changes that in all honesty, it’s left me breathless, exhausted, and unbelievably excited for 2019 . You better grab a cuppa and the left over holiday cookies, we have a lot to get through.

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Our beautiful Yulemas tree.

Are you settled in and comfy? Yes? Ok, so the last time we “chatted” I was finishing up the fall 2018 semester for Texas A&M. As you recall, I was able to move home to NYC because I agreed to teach three class asynchronously online; and that’s just what I did.

There are many issues with online courses, issues that need to be — but aren’t — addresses by colleges and universities. Building good online courses using Universal Design Standards so that they are accessible to all students takes a lot of time; conducting a good online course takes even more time. Needless to say, students tend to take online courses because they think they’re easier and less time-consuming, which is completely wrong. They’re usually shocked and angry to find out that online courses are usually much harder because they require the student to be self-directed and engaged in ways that aren’t required in traditional classes. Because it’s online, students — especially younger ones — can’t seem to separate a professional, academic platform that requires them to act appropriately, from social media platforms and Yelp. The latter encourages students to be flippant, aggressive, and rude. Why? Perceived anonymity. They are used to being “keyboard warriors” online.

The combination of all the work and the downright hostility of many students really put a damper on my enthusiasm for online teaching. I moved back to NYC to be able to do my research, something I haven’t been able to do because of the time-consuming nature of teaching online, the amount of students I have (70 in each online course), and the administrative duties associated with a full-time professorship. Furthermore, teaching, in general, requires a level of detachment and a thick skin … attributes I do not possess. I tend to be a super sensitive person who can’t deal with the level of viciousness in student evaluations. So, I submitted my letter of resignation: the 2018-2019 academic year was to be my last.

It didn’t work out that way.

Fall 2018 was my last semester teaching at Texas A&M, and honestly, my last semester teaching in higher education for the foreseeable future. I’m leaving academia.

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The New York Public Library Tree and Menorah, 2018. My most favorite tree in NYC.

I know this comes as a shock to many of you, especially since I always talk about how much I love teaching, pedagogy, etc. This full-time teaching gig at Texas A&M really opened my eyes to what academia truly is, something I was not prepared for or wanted. I went into this because I love sharing my knowledge and because I love research and writing. I wasn’t prepared for everything that went with it. I wasn’t prepared for the administrative work and the teaching to take over my life and push my research to the side. I wasn’t prepared to teach 200 to 350 students every semester with only one or two teaching assistants who were neither art historians (or historians), nor prepared to grade or help me conduct lessons.

There’s so much more to say about this and maybe I will in the future. I just don’t really want to explain it right now because I’ve been mulling over it for months. I’m done. This blog post isn’t meant to add to the growing body of academic “quit lit.”

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The Rockefeller Tree, 2018.

Instead, I want to focus on all the good stuff going on! I’m no longer employed at Texas A&M and I don’t have a job, teaching or other, just yet. After a very productive meeting with the admissions person for the Masters in Library Science at Queens College CUNY, I decided to apply for the MLS program for the spring semester. Library Science? WHAT?!?

You see, I’m not a “normal” art historian who studies paintings, sculptures, or architecture. I study prints, posters, and illustrations in books and periodicals. I study 19th century print technology. I study ephemera — any scrap of paper that contains a printed image. And this kind of stuff calls libraries, museums, and historic associations its home. I want to work with the object again … the stuff and things that the art historical canon deems as “crap.” In order to do this, I’m getting an MLS with a concentration in archival conservation and preservation at Queens College. I haven’t gotten my official acceptance letter yet, though I’ve had some positive news. Ahem. I’ll leave it at that for now.

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My kitchen “helpers.” Making Christmas lasagna.

What all this means is that I won’t be a college professor anymore and I will, hopefully, be working in an archives or rare books division of a library or museum in the near future. It also means that I’m back in school as of January 28 and writing papers, doing projects, and taking tests. Hopefully, there will be more time to work on my own research projects, especially if I can work them into what I’m doing in the MLS program. I’ll have normal hours again and that means I’ll have time to blog, paint/draw, knit, and sew. Heck, I’ll have more time for the gym and swimming!

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Smile everyone!

As for this holiday season … well, it’s been emotional, introspective, and way too busy. Our Yulemas gathering with our friends and our own Yule/Solstice celebration were the highlights of our season. Personally, my long phone calls with my sister were some of the most pleasant moments this month and I can’t wait to see her and her kids in a few weeks. We’re looking forward to seeing my brother’s kids — all in their 20s — tonight. Pizza and homemade cookies are on the menu. I can’t wait to hear what everyone has been doing since I last saw them this summer. The rest of the family, well, that’s another can of worms that I just don’t want to open.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to prepare for an exciting New Year and that means cleaning out my office, getting my new journal and calendars ready, and cleaning out my computer. This weekend we’re taking down the tree and holiday decorations, and I’m mopping the floors and putting fresh linens on the bed. I want to welcome this New Year with a clean slate!

Here’s to the end of this crazy journey and the end of an even crazier year. And here’s to a wonderful future and New Year!

 

  19 comments for “Where I’ve Been and Where I’m Going: An End of Year Reflection

  1. 27 Dec 2018 at 1:54 pm

    It sounds like a good idea to leave a situation that is not for you–i’m sorry it’s been disappointing. I love ephemera–from the Greek ‘epi’ and ‘hemera’, meaning ‘upon the day’. I LOVE that you are studying preservation, since I feel like there is a real need–I have tons of books etc. that get mildew or rot or mousepooped etc., and much of what I read online on how to address it is bad advice just made up or copied from other wrong sources. You’ll be able to do a public service by telling us the truth of how to save our good old papers and related things!

    I hope things get better for you–you’ve had a heck of a year. Would you be interested in me burning a candle for you as my (free) gift? It might help clear the cooties of the old and make way for the nice new–no pressure, but I felt like you might appreciate it. You can check out my website to see if it feels good for you, if you want–and I know this sound clickbaity, but you’re the only person I am offering this to, and I don’t know how to contact you more privately. You can write my email from the site with questions etc. if you’d like. i’m in the mood to do candles and have some free time today after finishing some earlier.

    Like

    • 27 Dec 2018 at 2:47 pm

      Yeah, I only wish that mentors and those already in the field were more forthcoming with the nuts and bolts of the type of work/workload to expect as a full-time professor. I also wish people were more frank and willing to talk about what they’re going through. And finally, I wish we were given access to alt-academic job options for PhDs. Way back when I was in the Masters program, all I really wanted to do was work in a museum. I lost site of that goal when I was finishing up and started teaching. All people told me was that academia meant that I would be teaching … and that I’d have to publish or perish. Daunting stuff. I’m disappointed, but not. I’m getting back to my original goals, and that’s a good thing.

      With that said, yes, I’ll take any good mojo that you’d like to send me. I do ask you to keep it open-ended though. I don’t really know what this new degree will bring, but I’m open to any cool opportunity that comes my way. 🙂 I need to listen to my gut and not other people, if you know what I mean.

      Thank you so much! I really, really, really appreciate any and all mojo you do for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • 27 Dec 2018 at 2:52 pm

        I always do them (and tarot readings) towards ‘the best outcome of it all’, so I don’t do anything like narrow it down to small actions or small goals like ‘so you get this degree’ or ‘get this partner’, since the big picture is not something I try to predict or guess. I’ll start it for you in the next few minutes, and it actually takes about two hours. Would you prefer a more private way to contact you with a little write-up? If so, you can send email address or whatever to me at my website email and I can write back to you later using it. I don’t keep a mailing list, so you wouldn’t get added to anything.

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      • 27 Dec 2018 at 5:08 pm

        I did finish the candle, and everything seemed to go well and no big stress or drama or odd events during it, so I take that to mean it all looks good. I hope you find it of some help. Please let me know if you do!

        Like

      • 28 Dec 2018 at 9:18 am

        Thank you so much Donnalee! I’ll keep you posted. As the old year fades and the quiet of January begins, I’m starting to feel more content and focused. This will only add to it, I’m sure.

        Liked by 1 person

      • 3 Jan 2019 at 1:38 pm

        I hope that all is well with you. Happy new year to you and yours.

        Like

      • 3 Jan 2019 at 2:47 pm

        And a Happy New Year to you!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Debra She Who Seeks
    27 Dec 2018 at 4:48 pm

    Your future plans sound very exciting! I’ve known a couple of people who did a Masters in Library Science and it has provided them with very satisfying careers. I love all those gorgeous photos you included in this post. Best wishes for 2019!

    Like

    • 28 Dec 2018 at 9:20 am

      Thanks Debra! Yes, best wishes to you for 2019 as well! I’m very excited about this new direction. 🙂

      Like

  3. 27 Dec 2018 at 10:23 pm

    I am excited for you!
    More time for sewing art and fun?! Heck yeah! I hope we will get to see some of this, hehe 😉

    Like

    • 28 Dec 2018 at 9:22 am

      Thanks my friend! The first step is for me to get out of this mindset of “go go go! Gotta get this done. Do this, do that.” I’ve been trying to undo the feelings of guilt that I get when I’m doing anything else BUT my “work” (teaching). I need to find the love and passion in everyday life again.

      Yup, I’m sure I’ll be posting all of my creations. 🙂

      Like

  4. 28 Dec 2018 at 10:13 am

    Very excited for you! I hear you about teaching online, although I still enjoy it overall (maybe one of the benefits to being contingent — no major admin, service, etc. expectations?). And I admit I’m super envious about the MLS plan 🙂 I’ve thought about doing that several times in my life but never really could get that going or … I don’t know … justify it? Like, at this point I feel like/my husband feels I need to have a reasonable expectation of paying work to start something like that. You have an advantage there in where you live, I think! Anyway enough about me. It’s so great that you figure out what wasn’t bringing you joy and how to refocus on what does. Go you!

    Like

    • 3 Jan 2019 at 2:51 pm

      Thanks! When I first started my graduate work I had absolutely no intention of teaching. I originally wanted to work in a museum, preferably the Education Department because I wanted to work with the public and actual object. As I finished up my Masters, I “fell” into teaching. No one really discussed alt-academic careers, so I had no idea of what else was available to me. The rest is history.

      I’m glad that I had a good, long chat with myself. I’m going back to the original plan, but not in the Education Department. I’ve had quite enough of teaching, at least for now. We’ll see what the future holds!

      Like

  5. Lainey
    28 Dec 2018 at 2:47 pm

    Honestly, this MLS plan sounds like it is the perfect fit for you! I know I only know you from your blog, but I’m super pumped for you to begin a new, exciting chapter that is right for you. I hope for the best, sending good feelings, and a Safe and Happy New Year!

    Like

    • 3 Jan 2019 at 2:52 pm

      Thanks so much! I’m optimistic about the MLS and working with archival objects/ephemera. I’m really looking forward to starting down this path … who knows where I’ll end up!

      Like

  6. 30 Dec 2018 at 12:07 pm

    If you get a job in the Rare Books section, I’m making it a definite point to come visit NYC one more time! With a side trip to Salem. Maybe Spooky Hollow, too. 🎃🖤

    Like

    • 3 Jan 2019 at 2:54 pm

      HAHAHAHA! Who knows where I’ll end up. I certainly won’t be buying a house in Staten Island regardless of whether I get a gig in NYC. We’d definitely move up to the Lower Hudson Valley and that means I’ll either be living in Sleepy Hollow or somewhere close to it. As for Salem, we lived there for two years and we can definitely see ourselves moving back to the area for the right job.

      Like

  7. 2 Jan 2019 at 7:12 am

    I can’t wait to see what this year brings for you. I think the path you are choosing now seems perfect for your career. I’ve had some free time last week and realized how little spare time one have, being a teacher. I can’t do normal things like visiting friends, having a buisness on the side of my work, because this job takes all my time. If it wasn’t for my holidays or amazing students I would quit instantly. So I completely understand your choice.

    Like

    • 3 Jan 2019 at 2:56 pm

      Thanks! Yeah, as I said in a comment above, way back in 1996 when I started my Masters, I didn’t intend on becoming a college professor. I had no desire to teach, but alas, I ended up doing so … and being really good at it. I’m pulling in and going back to the drawing board. 🙂

      Like

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