February, the shortest month of the year, has always seemed pretty rushed and hectic to me. Holidays and observances like Superbowl Sunday (yay Seahawks!), Groundhog Day, Black History Month, Valentine’s Day and President’s Day jostle for our attention. Students at my university are studying for midterms, and the Research Commons is starting to get busier and noisier at the quarter progresses. We also have all of our largest public events of the quarter scheduled in in February; on the docket this month we have installments of our Scholars’ Studio and CoLAB programs, as well as a session in a popular speakers’ series. A lot of people I know have February birthdays, including myself and my boss. Oh…and I’m scheduled for jury duty next week, so there’s that. Where’s a leap year when you need one?
Is it possible to find time for reflection in all of this chaos? At many institutions, February marks the mid-point in the academic year, so reflection is not only appropriate, but necessary. Since my position is not tenure-track, I don’t have codified avenues for evaluating and reviewing my performance so far this year. But I can benefit from many of the tools that my tenure-eligible colleagues use. Updating my CV, maintaining a file of thanks and kudos I have received, and beginning to plan conference proposals that illustrate my work so far, are important tasks that I need to make time and space for.
My earlier mention of Groundhog Day perhaps seems a bit silly and off-handed, but in fact, it provides an apt metaphor for my frame of mind the moment. Our current rodent-based divination ceremony is often presumed to derive from other, more ancient festivals, like Imbolc, which celebrated the midway point between the winter solstice and spring equinox, and marked an occasion for reflection, scrying, and omen watching. My aforementioned litany or February holidays can offer a series of fruitful starting points of small acts of contemplation; on the nature of community, on social justice, on bringing love and passion into our daily practices, on grounding oneself in the foundational values of our American institutions.
On a more personal level, I feel grateful that I’ve settled in to my position now to the extent that my daily routines are becoming more natural and comfortable. I know when the best times for me to arrive at and leave work are, and what times of day I am most productive. I’ve figured out which yoga classes work best with my schedule. Always at the back of my mind is the notion of bringing more contemplative practice into my daily work.
The time for learning the ropes of my position and department has more or less passed…it feels like the second half of my first year as a professional librarian will be a time for action. The spectre of “imposter syndrome” is still strong… I don’t expect to ever fully rid myself of it, but I do now feel comfortable enough in my role to embrace the rare quiet moments at work as times for reflection and passivity, rather than panicking because I don’t have enough to do! I’m looking forward to the second half.