Well, I must say, I am feeling better than I was last week. I asked for this current week off from work many months ago, not because I had any specific plans at the time but because I just thought I might appreciate a random break in January. And man, was I right about that.
If you are thinking, Hang on, didn’t you just take a vacation a couple months ago? then you are correct. I did in fact also take a week off in November, partly to go present at a conference. In other words, I am squandering almost all of my vacation time for the year within a single three-month period. And do I feel conflicted about this? No I do not.
My vacation actually started this past Friday. I spent that entire day cleaning my apartment and organizing my stuff. I took all the little tubes and bottles off my dresser and nightstand and out of my medicine cabinet, dusted and wiped down all the surfaces and little shelves, and put the bottles back more neatly than before. I fished out and recycled all the boxes that had been accumulating under my bed. I organized my office supplies in the hopes that the next time I’m looking for a postage stamp or scotch tape, I will in fact be able to locate these items. I swept and swiffered and mopped the floors.
This took all day. It was a great day. Truly.
I then spent the weekend doing other things I love to do, like yoga and sleeping and cooking and seeing people I care about. It was the most relaxing few days I’ve had in a long time, probably in part because it did not involve any impending Monday morning dread.
Today I’m headed to a Midwestern state for a faculty interview. I’m writing this at the airport and will probably publish it later today or tonight. The interview is in a city I’ve never visited before. I’m realizing that a really cool side effect of being on the job market is that you get a free tour of various parts of the country, regardless of whether or not any of these visits result in actual job offers.
I feel oddly confident—almost a bit nonchalant—about this upcoming interview, which is interesting given that I was a nervous wreck during my first campus interview back in December. I remember that I felt sick for days leading up to the interview, was barely able to eat anything, and wasn’t sleeping well. Whereas right now I feel pretty good.
This could just be because it’s my second interview, and doing something for the second time is usually easier and less scary than doing it for the first time. I already have a job talk prepared, I already know what kinds of questions to ask, I already have some sense of what to expect.
But I also wonder if simply having a few days off after an incredibly stressful past couple of months is making a difference. Back in December my global stress levels were very high. I was working very long hours at my terrible job, which was not only stressful in and of itself, but was also leaving me with almost no free time to exercise. I was getting very minimal sleep. I was constantly expecting to be fired. I was concerned about a possible error in a paper I had coming out (a not-uncommon cause of anxiety for me). I felt generally nervous and sick and awful. And I was also panicking about the interview.
My experience this week couldn’t be more different. I’ve gotten enough sleep. I’ve had the chance to putter around my apartment by myself to my heart’s content. I’ve been eating healthy/vegan, which makes me feel physically good. And not only that, but I had a phone interview on Monday for a short-term clinical job (totally separate from the fly-around-the-country faculty job search), which, if I get it, would allow me to give two weeks’ notice at my current/terrible job. Which would be amazing.
This could all be somewhat coincidental, but I doubt it. It seems there could be an association here between global stress levels and nervousness/confidence about a specific event. If I’m stressed about A, B, C, and D, I may be more likely to be terrified of E, whereas if A, B, C, and D are going okay or even well, maybe E won’t seem so anxiety-inducing. In other words, you can’t compartmentalize stress.
A good friend happened to say to me on the phone earlier today, “I hate to use the term ‘self-care’ because it sounds so Millennial, but…” Yeah. My thoughts exactly. The term “self-care” is thrown around way too much these days, but I guess there are ultimately good reasons for that. If I eat a lot of junk food and don’t exercise and don’t sleep and my apartment is a mess and I don’t get adequate alone time, I am not going to feel calm or secure or confident. About anything. And that’s probably a big part of the reason why I was so stressed out in December: because I wasn’t doing very many of the things I usually do to keep myself feeling calm and healthy and sane.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with this faculty job or any of the others. I don’t know how soon I’m going to be able to give notice at my current job. I don’t know where I’ll be living six months or a year from now. I don’t know how this interview is going to go tomorrow.
But it’s good to recognize that even though a lot of things are in flux, a few days of self-care – when I have the opportunity to take them, that is – can make a big difference. Even if my version of self-care sometimes means “dusting the little shelves inside the medicine cabinet”.