A Day in the Life

A little over a month ago, I moved to St. Paul, Minnesota to begin a new job at Macalester College. I am here because I landed an incredible position, as the new Postdoctoral Fellow in the Digital Liberal Arts, at the College. It is both surreal and wonderful to be back in Minnesota, after being gone for six years.

I spent the summer gardening, preparing for and teaching at the amazing i3 iSchool Inclusion Institute (seriously, check it out), and traversing Ireland. I prioritized spending time with people- friends, family, students- as I faced numerous transitions.

My life has changed. I am away from Conor (my spouse), Agnes (my dog), and Evie (my cat), so am living alone for the first time in six years. C, A, and E are part of who I am, and I am also building new social and professional connections here.

As I am experiencing a time of many changes, I have been reflecting more than usual on my personal habits, as well as the ones that I am developing at work. Now that the dissertation is officially published (I received a congratulatory email from ProQuest Dissertation Publishing just this week!), I am reorienting myself. For five years I was focused on one goal (professionally, at least), and suddenly I am tasked with determining the next.

So, I’ve been establishing habits to a) navigate these new waters, b) remain curious and open, and c) structure my post-graduate school life.

  1. I start most days checking email. As a relatively new member of the campus community who will not be teaching students until next term, the emails come in trickles, rather than as a tidal wave.
  2. I feel overwhelmed. To move past this feeling, I find it helpful to remove the twenty or so tabs that I opened during the previous work day. I make sure to take note of the URLs that I’d like to revisit, but then I click the little “x” at the top right corner. I then open up a brand new browser window.
  3. I read. I wasn’t able to keep on top of this in graduate school, but I now enjoy using a news aggregator (in my case, Feedly) to keep track of articles and blog posts from a variety of sources. I curate a “Postdoctoral Fellowship” feed, featuring personal academic websites (Bethany Nowviskie, Kathleen FitzpatrickAmanda Visconti), open-access journals (Hybrid Pedagogy, Digital Humanities Quarterly), and outliers (Hyperallergic). Most days, there are only one or two new articles to explore, but they are often thought-provoking and relevant to my work.
  4. I meet. So far, I’ve spent between 1 and 4 hours a day in meetings. I meet with faculty to talk about their nascent or more mature digital projects. I meet with Academic Information Associates to talk about new tools, workflows, and sustainability challenges. I attend lunches about active-learning or public scholarship. I am once again overwhelmed by the expertise and knowledge evident on this campus, but also inspired.
  5. I researchI am planning workshops for this term and teaching a new course in Spring, so spend time combing through syllabi, relevant readings, and numerous Google Docs that I’ve dedicated to this endeavor.
  6. I organize. I then spend at least 15 minutes organizing the flurry of documents that I generated and pored over during #5.
  7. I refuel. I usually run over to Dunn Brothers on Grand or the café in the art building on campus to top up on coffee or get my daily latte.
  8. I research. I am co-authoring a paper on maintenance and personal digital memorials for a conference in DC in October. It is a fairly short paper, and my collaborator is on the ball, so I nibble away at this task on a daily basis. I find that I cannot devote large chunks of time to this in the office because it is an emotionally draining (though rewarding) research project.
  9. I design. Towards the end of the day, as my energy may be waning a little bit, I like to design things: a tiny poster for my office hours or a template for my syllabus. I enjoy using InDesign to play around with ideas, but also to let my mind wander a bit as I experiment with fonts and layout.
  10. I walk home.