The Other Shoe


This past September was one of the worst months of my life. As I’ve detailed before, various circumstances led to me having to move to Platteville the day before I started teaching here, and as if that big move wasn’t enough to exhaust me on its own, I had to walk across campus repeatedly the next day, before I could even teach my first class, just to handle various tasks that I couldn’t get to earlier, leaving me a worn-out mess as I started that new chapter of my teaching career. Three days after that, shortly after I woke up, I got the news of Hedder’s passing. Two weeks after that, I came down with one of the worst illnesses of my life, which left me feeling like I was on the verge of dying on two separate occasions. To say that I had to fight from behind that entire semester would be a colossal understatement.

I was hoping that things would work out better for me at the start of this semester, and for about a week there, I felt like I was back on track. That Sunday, though, I badly sprained my left knee, forcing me to stay in my apartment for a week and then use a cane for a couple of months afterward. That knee still acts up when I have to walk up stairs carrying stuff, and while that’s not a concern for me on most days, given my past with that knee (it’s given me trouble since an instructor at the abattoir forced me to overwork it in ninth grade), I have to wonder if I’m going to be dealing with that pain for months, if not years, to come. The injury didn’t completely overwhelm my semester, but it definitely made me wonder about what might have been if I’d managed to avoid that knee sprain.

Finals week for my students started today; as I always tell them before the term ends, this is the “calm before the storm” for us instructors, one last chance to catch our breaths before dealing with the mountains of papers we need to go through before we can calculate their final grades for the term. Just as the toughest part of their semester ends, ours is just beginning, and I’m already envisioning myself going to the kitchen for extra coffee on Saturday morning, doing what I can to prepare myself for the critical work ahead. It’s hardly the most glamorous part of my job, and I’d be lying if I said it was one of my favorite parts of what I do for my students, but I knew what I was getting into when I agreed to teach these courses. It’s part of the job.

Already, though, I’m looking ahead to June. Having to move here so quickly, and getting so sick just a couple of weeks after I did so, meant that I never got a chance to explore Platteville before I was sidelined. If my sprained knee hadn’t kept me from looking around here during spring semester, then the cold weather probably would have done so. I’ll still have lots of work to do this summer — I need to prepare all-new classroom materials as part of a fellowship I’m taking part in for the upcoming academic year, to say nothing about research for my next book — but once I get those final grades turned in here in a little over a week, I think I’ll finally have a chance to get to know my new home here how I’d like to. As long as the weather doesn’t get too hot, I think I’ll have some good opportunities to get out and see what I’ve been missing in these first hectic months here.

At the same time, I’m teaching an online course this summer, and while I’ve certainly had heavier teaching workloads over this time, it’s not the workload that bothers me so much as the beginning of a new term. Given the way that my fall and spring semesters started here, there’s a part of me that can’t help worrying about what ill fates might befall me once that summer class starts up. Even as I recognize the faulty reasoning behind these feelings, I’m still feeling them, and so there’s a part of me that wants this “calm before the storm” period this week to never end, just so I don’t have to find out what awaits me with the start of the summer semester. There’s still a whole lot that could go wrong for me in the weeks ahead.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.