Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Work-Life Boundary

Earlier this week, I was reading some posts about how many hours people in academia work every week. Some people claimed to work about 35 hours a week, and others claimed more in the 70-80 hour range. Some asserted that professionals in "9-5" jobs typically work 60 hours a week anyway, and others that comparing an academic job to a 9-5 job is folly.

I've come to realize that one of my favorite things about being in grad school, as strange as this is, is that I always have something I should be doing. I don't actually work all that many hours (certainly not 60), but every single day my focus is on what I can get done that day, and how, and when. I don't have any days off. And I love it.

When I had a job-type job, there were hours I was required to be at work (not necessarily working) and hours that were my free, non-work time. I had a job and, separately, the rest of my life. Now it feels like my life is my work. I still spend most of my time not working, but I am never not thinking of work and how to get back to it.

I'm not sure why I like this but I really do.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

A Partner but Not a Boyfriend?

Ed and I started dating in May of 2007, and last November (2010), he broke up with me. Things hadn't been working well since around the beginning of the semester, when all of my attention went to school and I had no energy for relationship maintenance, and also, I think, some longstanding patterns between us weren't working well for me anyway. I had a distinct and increasing lack of interest in making things work. Sometimes I felt on the verge of breaking up with him, but doing so also felt unthinkable.

Since then, in many ways, things have only improved between us. We are still living together (not planning to change that anytime soon), sleeping in the same bed (which could change), getting along well (better than before, I'd say), and doing all of the things that boyfriends and girlfriends do. There are a lot of "I love you"s and other romantic things. We're experimenting with ways to be in a relationship with each other.

I often call him my "semi-ex-boyfriend." (I guess if this ends, I can start calling him my "ex-semi-boyfriend.")

It occurred to me the other night that he's sort of my partner but not my boyfriend. But given that our relationship is indistinguishable from a regular boyfriend-girlfriend one, what makes him not my boyfriend? Is it just that we're not using those words? Is it purely a technicality?

I don't think so, necessarily. For one thing, our relationship isn't exclusive at all. It has always had a degree of openness to it, but it's more blatantly non-exclusive now than in the past. And for another thing, we lack a certain sense between us that we are staying together. In general, the assumption with a boyfriend is that if nothing goes wrong, you're going to stay together, possibly forever, maybe leading to marriage if you are the marrying type. Our relationship lacks that sense right now, because it clearly doesn't meet the conditions for us to be happy together long-term, at least as each other's primary partners. This just isn't where I'm laying my bets for the future.

So for now I am just living with, hanging out with, and loving one of my closest friends. I'm sure it's confusing for other people, but it seems to be working for us pretty well right now.

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Leg (with Bonus Song!)

On MLK, Jr. Day, the day before school started, I had a nasty fall in the bathroom and sprained my knee. What happened was that I got into the shower, then realized I wanted to see something on the bathroom counter, got back out, stood with my legs too far apart, and my feet slipped outwards in opposite directions. I'm nowhere near flexible enough to do a split, and what gave first, I guess, was my right knee.

There was some screaming.

After a while, the pain subsided and I began to gingerly see if I had any serious injuries. Everything seemed all right. I carefully got onto my knees and then stood up on my lef (uninjured) leg. I was very heartened to find that nothing was seriously wrong with me despite the pain I'd felt. I put my right foot down...and promptly my knee gave out again and I found myself on the floor, screaming again (though not as much the second time).

I live on the second floor, Ed wasn't coming back from Austin until that night, and I felt pretty doomed. I considered calling Drew (grad school friend) to see if she could come help me, but what could she do?

I managed to reach some clothes from the floor so that I could at least be dressed, and then I called 911. Once the paramedics were en route, I used my elbow to drag myself over to the door so I could unlock it for them. They showed up pretty quickly and ultimately carried me down the stairs in a special ambulance chair and took me to the hospital.

Nothing was broken; I got crutches, a pain med prescription, and advice to stay off it for a bit. Drew came and picked me up in her big truck, which was interesting because I had no way to get in. If you think about trying to get into a full-sized truck while only putting any weight on one leg, it's pretty much impossible, at least if you don't have the upper body strength to do a pull-up using the panic handle. Ultimately she folded the back seats up and I was able to sit on the floor back there and scooch in.

Anyway, it's been three weeks now, and the knee has healed pretty quickly compared to what I expected. I can walk unassisted (with a pretty heavy limp), but have been carrying a cane for longer distances. (When I use the cane, my limp isn't as noticeable to me. I also like the way it is a signal to other people that I have an issue and am not just slow or obstructive.)

My knee seems to be OK from a weight-bearing perspective. I've been careful. I went up and down the stairs at my complex on my butt for a long time, but these days I can walk up in the normal way (a bit slowly). I walk downstairs as well, but I put both feet on each step before going to the next one.

It used to hurt a lot when my lower leg went in or out from my knee (to the inside or outside, I mean), but that seems to have pretty much gone away. The only thing that hurts now is when my knee goes into an acute angle, especially suddenly (for instance, when I sit on the edge of the bathtub to scoop out the cat box), or when I bend my knee at all if it's been straight for a while (like rolling from my stomach onto my side when I'm asleep). I also can't easily straighten my leg all the way out, so when I stand, most of my weight is on my left (good) leg. I guess that flexibility will return in time.

Other than that, I'm pretty good. I'm really glad this has resolved so quickly. I walk to and from school every day normally, so not being able to walk was putting a lot of strain on me and on the people I was bumming rides from, and of course there's no way to bum rides from one building to another on campus, so that was annoying too. (I found walking on crutches truly exhausting and difficult.)

I promised you a bonus song. I was torn between this one and "Montana" but this one worked a little better for me.