Putting It Together

I’m exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep if I tried.

I did try, but I haven’t had my usual uninterrupted night of sleep in a couple of weeks at least. I’ve been constantly distracted at work by notifications and messages and reminders of something else that needs my attention, and I’ve had to figure out how to the share responsibility for looking after a multi-limbed thing that, like a quantum theory cat, seems to only behave predictably until you observe it, then it veers somewhere else you didn’t expect.

This is part of what is has been like for me as a co-chair of the HighEdWeb NY Regional Conference that we’re hosting here in Ithaca today. It all feels so familiar, working with people and organizations I’ve known for years. But there’s also an alternate-dimension feeling to it all, being on the other side of where I normally am, where people I usually find myself traveling to see have now traveled to see us and each other.

Planning this conference has been like putting on a wedding, a variety show, and a trade expo all in the same space on the same day. There are guests who have traveled hundreds of miles and paid us money to be part of something exciting and helpful; our presenters have put in hours of their own to create a show of new ideas they’re excited to share; we have sponsors and vendors who want to introduce themselves to potential new client; it’s exhausting even writing about it, never mind keeping track of it.

I couldn’t be happier.

A few hours from now we’ll have officially kicked off our conference, and I’ll be bouncing from one presentation room to another, and on my phone from one Slack channel to another, looking after a bunch of amazing volunteers that have helped us get things together and making sure everyone who is there feels that everything is awesome. I’m so excited to see what we’re going to learn today, so amazed that we’ve got 130 people here to learn and discuss new ways to do our jobs better, and I’m so proud to be part of the team that is making this happen.

I love being part of HighEdWeb and maybe someday I’ll do this again. Just give me a few days to catch up on my sleep first…

Know When to Doldrum

Let’s face it: February is exhausting. Every year I seem to hear people joking that this is the shortest month because if it was any longer we’d go crazy. In fact, people seem to have felt that way about February for almost as long as the month has existed.

Snow Mountain Right now the town where I live and work is smothered in piles of snow that keep growing and won’t melt away. Woveling snow off my driveway is my new part-time job. Our cars are coated with ice and snow, their climate controls left constantly turned to high heat and defrost; black, crusty chunks of road spray freeze into wedges in the wheelwells that we kick off into parking lots and driveways, only to see them reappear like a snow fungus with each drive we take.

All day and night, an endless mass of freezing air and wind sits upon us like an invisible, empty sea. We don’t walk as much as scurry from building to building, inhaling deeply to brace ourselves before we exit, then plunging into it with our armor of hats and scarves and gloves and puffy coats. Each arrival back in the warmth of a destination is announced with a short dance of stomping boots and exhaled huffs of relief.

By mid-February, a day above 35F degrees is a joy. You feel confined by the elements, your movements limited, and efforts doubled. You may have a primal urge to stay indoors and burrow deep into a soft nest, envious of all the small mammals you sense curled into a state of torpor or hibernation somewhere in the dark. Everything seems to slow down, stagnate, as if Mother Nature has hit the pause button at the worst time, leaving us in a snowy limbo until she decides to let the seasons advance once more and set us free.

Welcome to The Doldrums.

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