“I have succeeded, at last, in shaking off the ailments of one of the most troublesome terms I have yet had.”
As I read that line I immediately understood it. Lewis goes on to explain that his ailments are quite literal—a squashed finger, the flu, a swollen gland—but the phrase “troublesome term” resonated with me deeply on another level. This entire semester, I have been completely, incredibly, irredeemably busy.
Because of a shift in teaching schedules and family needs, I took on a huge course load–about double what a typical full time university load normally looks like. I was ready for the semester to begin. I had every book and article read with copious notes, I had every lecture written, and I began the term with most of the administrative work complete. And still, I have worked from dawn to late into the evening almost every night. The schedule has been relentless.
One of the reasons the semester has been exhausting, beyond the sheer number of work hours, is the nature of the work. Reading and lecture prep are actually the most fun and rewarding aspects of teaching life. But that work was mostly complete before January. Instead, my days and nights were filled with reading 1st year composition papers. It was a great topic (“Is God or religion viable in the modern world?), most of the students improved dramatically, and there were some genuinely exciting papers. But there is great weight in the task of going word-by-word, line-by-line through hundreds of assignments to simultaneously address semicolon usage and argumentative logic. It was nearly overwhelming.
On top of the course load, and a semester where I have seen more than 1500 assignments, is this research career I am trying to build. During this semester I also finished an article, submitted it, checked the proofs (when it was accepted), and worked on the revisions of another article. I have not written much—you can see my hopeful lament here—but I have blogged intermittently and presented my research. This semester I have also applied for a PhD, and after great preparation, have interviewed. While these pressures aren’t “sorrows,” I can say, like Paul, that, “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches” (2 Cor 11:28).
But, I see the light approaching. The spring is coming, and I am steadily working my way through paper. I have only 60 assignments left to mark—and they are mostly pretty good assignments—so I am starting to emerge. Another 7 or 8 days of marking and a week of administrative work and my life returns to normal rhythms. I no longer feel an allergic reaction to the keyboard, and the backlit screen I stare at for hours on end is no longer ominous.
And as I sit at the end of this exhausting cycle, I am already starting to look back at the semester fondly. I love my work—even the correction of semicolons and the curious poetry that is freshmen logic. I love to teach, and it is the teaching that enriches my research and writing. So while I am tired—in the bone, shoulders slumped, near-the-edge-of-sickness tired—I will miss this most troublesome of terms when it is over.