happiness is a warm blog

It’s a sunny, cool Sunday morning here in Manchester. The weather up north is not as warm as it was down in London, and that’s just fine with me. I’m working on fulfilling Laura’s suggestion regarding local pix. A local coffee shop features a free, 30-day trial of their WiFi service, allowing me to check in periodically. I had ethernet in my room in London, which is why I was blogging (and reading online) more.

Yesterday I became the last person in the world to buy a copy of the (so far very enjoyable) Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell. I also saw Batman Begins. My verdict? Best. Batman. Ever.

You know what? I feel good. Although L is currently several thousand miles away, and we will have spent a total of eight weeks apart this summer, I am made quite happy by being in the archives, reading otherwise inaccessible materials, and writing rough drafts that will (with any luck) appear as articles and/or as a book.

Happiness is not something I’ve blogged about a great deal. And happiness runs the risk of being boring. I believe it was Tolstoy who first observed that “Happy bloggers are all alike; every unhappy blogger is unhappy in his or her own way.”

This blog began in my second semester in this tenure-track job, partially in response to the anxieties I felt as an assistant professor, the uncertainty I felt about how much I was allowed to say in my then-new role. Since that time, however, my confidence has grown, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that my attitude has changed. Initially, I wrote here under my real name, and then I switched to a pseudonymous model at the beginning of this calendar year (although I know that many of you know who I am, and that it’s not really that hard to figure it out if you are determined) when I felt like I needed to express some of the anger I was feeling at how things were going in my professional life.

Of course, the image that I imagine I present to others via this blog and the image that others take away are often worlds apart. At the MLA 2004 blogger meetup, Dave said that based on my blog he thought I was really happy. And recently, an out-of-town friend remarked on how well things seemed to be going for me.

All right then, G. Stop bemoaning the things that bother you (even if you mostly only do so to yourself).

So at the risk of sounding like Pollyanna, I present you with a list of positive things about my job:

  • First of all, people: students and colleagues.
  • My students are amazing. I love, love, love them. This past semester I taught a graduate seminar that was an absolute pleasure. Sometimes I cannot believe I get paid for this. And, although it’s immodest to say so, I get pretty consistently good teaching evaluations, sometimes unbelievably good ones.
  • I like my colleagues very much…for the most part. There are conflicts, of course. Some of them I love with the same intensity of feeling I have for my students. And they like me, too…for the most part. My department colleagues are supportive of my research and of my teaching, and my annual evaluations have been consistently generously positive.
  • Teaching
    • I am able to teach classes I really enjoy teaching, and I have taught three classes pretty much of my own design on issues realted to print culture and orality & literacy.
    • I have an enviable teaching load: two classes in each semester.
    • Class sizes are reasonable.
  • Research
    • When I was hired, I was given a fairly substantial budget to be used to purchase library books related to my research and teaching.
    • And even now, if I ask the library to buy a book, they will.
    • If I need something from another library in the state system, it arrives within 3 days or so.
    • If I need a book or a microfilm/fiche through interlibrary loan, I am never turned down.
    • If I need an article in a journal to which we do not subscribe, a PDF is created and sent to me electronically.
    • I am a 40-minute drive from one of the country’s best research libraries, which just so happens to have a special collections department with particular strengths in my period, although not in my current research topic.
    • When I was hired, the university gave me startup money to pay for books, software, travel expenses, professional membership dues, etc.
    • The university has a competitive internal grant program that, although not particularly generous to me so far, provides the opportunity to get a nice chunk of money every three years or so for research purposes.
    • The state university system has a competitive grant program that allows scholars to get an even larger chunk of money for their research. I applied once and was turned down, but I received some very good feedback and encouragement to apply again.
    • I was one of two scholars at the university to be nominated to apply for a summer stipend from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
    • The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded me said stipend.
    • I have a paid sabbatical this fall, during which I have no teaching or service responsibilities, in order to focus on my research.

    This is really only a partial list. I’m sure I’m forgetting some things.

    As Bucky is wont to say, “Life ain’t all tuna smoothies,” but at the moment I feel like it’s my responsibility to log those things that have gone and are going well.

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    2 thoughts on “happiness is a warm blog

    1. Thanks for writing this entry, G. I think you’re right — it’s harder to write a “good” blog entry on something that makes us happy. I think you’ve written one right here, though.
      I’m glad your summer is going well. I haven’t written suggestions for photos yet, but I have been thinking about it. What about this one: Really strange outfits you on people — outfits that make you stop and wonder, “Did you even look in the mirror today? And, if so, did you really think that looked OK?” Maybe that’s mean, but sometimes mean is funny, right?
      OK, if you don’t want to take mean photos, how about pictures of some of the typical foods eaten there. I’ve never been to Manchester.

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