The Night Before


One year ago at this moment, I was spending my last night in Richland Center, wondering how I’d managed to piece together the plan that would unfold the following day. I’d agreed to begin teaching at the Platteville campus months earlier, in the middle of my summer classes, but my initial efforts to find help with locating a new apartment, and moving all my stuff downstate, failed spectacularly. With a week to go before the planned move, I still wasn’t sure what would happen — both apartment managers and moving companies had screwed me over — but I managed to cobble together a last-second plan where I’d move to Platteville the day before I was scheduled to start teaching, into an apartment whose listing I replied to mere minutes after it got posted online.

To say that the following forty-eight hours were hectic would be a colossal understatement. The move happened, but I was so sore from it that I wasn’t even sure I could make it to campus the following day. I did, but then I had to run around taking care of business I hadn’t been able to handle earlier, to the point where my phone told me that I’d already walked more than four miles before I even taught my first of three classes that day. There was hardly a time to rest in the days to come, either, as I learned of Hedder’s passing that Friday, and then became gravely ill myself a couple of weeks later.

That first semester of teaching here in Platteville was far from perfect, since I was basically playing from behind as soon as I arrived here, but I made it work out. The following semester, of course, I badly sprained my knee the first weekend of the term, and that created all new problems for me to deal with. I’ve had more than my fair share of drama this summer, but compared to the chaos of those first two semesters, it’s been a relative cakewalk. I’ve even managed to get back up to speed on the research for my next book, something that had been elusive for me since long before I moved here 364 days ago.

This coming fall semester, though, is coming with its own share of baggage. Not only am I developing all-new course material as part of an academic fellowship this year (something which, if successful, should help finance a whole lot of special research), but I just agreed to take on an overload for the semester this past Saturday. I’ve only ever done an overload once before in my teaching career, and that was just for part of a term (and so long ago that it was back in Toledo). I’m honestly not sure if I’m more nervous now than I was a year ago tonight, when I was hoping I could get at least a little sleep before my big move.

As if that weren’t enough, we’re in the middle of yet another heat wave here, so if all the thoughts racing through my head right now aren’t enough to keep me up all night, then the hot weather might. I’m trying to take solace in the fact that my body isn’t feeling worn out right now, although walking around in 90-degree weather tomorrow probably isn’t going to make me feel as fresh as a summer’s day as I greet all my new students. I’m trying to avoid psyching myself out before I even get to campus tomorrow, but looking ahead at all the challenges of the coming term, it’s hard to avoid feeling like this semester of teaching may be my most difficult yet.

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