A long time ago, at an undergraduate institution less than a day’s drive away from here, I took a class entitled “death and dying” so I could finish up my bachelor’s degree and get on with my life. As a part of the class, we read a book by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. In this book, Kübler-Ross posited that grief had five stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.
For my readers: Don’t panic. I’m not dying. It’s just that my thoughts about my relationship with my research agenda seems to mimic this model of grief. Every year, I start off with optimism and hope – and every year I end up in the fourth stage of grief. It goes something like this:
Late August – Stage 1 – Denial: I have an awesome research agenda. I’ve scheduled writing time every day. It doesn’t matter that I have a ton of course preps | service | administrative work. I’m fine. I’ll get a lot done this year.
Early November – Stage 2 – Anger: What the f—? Where did all of this grading come from? Why do people keep scheduling meetings during my research time? When the h— am I supposed to sleep? Why does this always happen to me?
Late January – Stage 3 – Bargaining: Dear karma | God(sess) | Supreme Being, please let me get my conference paper | article | grant proposal written in time. I’ll do anything if you’ll help me. Please, give me just a few extra hours in the day.
Around Spring Break – Stage 4 – Depression: I give up. Karma, you’re a bitch.
Now, I’ve never actually made it to Stage 5 before. Usually depression gives way to denial and I write a whole new research agenda at the start of the new academic year. So, this year, I’m going to starting out at Stage 5. Instead of having unrealistic goals, I’m going to accept the fact that I simply cannot maintain an R1 research agenda while being an administrator at a comprehensive university. I cannot write three articles and teach and be a department chair and be a pseudo-dean (that’s a long story for another time). I cannot go to four conferences while serving on five committees. There are just not enough hours in the day.
So, I offer you a research agenda for the 2010-2011 academic year that is rooted in acceptance:
Finish book chapter by September 1. The writing is done; I just need to convert it from APA to MLA format (which, incidentally, is a big pain in the ass).
Finish teaching article by mid-October. The research is done and I have a pretty solid manuscript, sans lit review. I’ve started the reading for the lit review, so I’m confident that this will be easy to finish.
Finish conference paper by January. I put together 75 pages of research notes during the Scholarly Writing Institute earlier this summer. If I work a little every day, this will get done in time.
Finish conference paper by April. Well, if the paper is accepted to MPSA. If it’s not accepted, I’ll work on it over the summer and bump up my book project instead. I started the background research for this project last spring so I could write my grant proposal. I’ll be collecting the data while in New Zealand. This should be doable.
Keep plodding along on my book project. Yes, I’m setting it on the back burner. I have a pile of books that have been highlighted; now I need to get the notes in my computer. If I do a little bit every day, I should get caught up before the academic year ends. Then, if I get my sabbatical for the 2012 Spring Semester, I’ll spend the summer organizing all my data into a usable outline. If I don’t get my sabbatical, then I’ll keep the project simmering on the back burner while I convert my January conference paper into an article.
I’ll know next spring if this was realistic or not. Ha!