January and the first part of February is usually a tricky time of year for me. I’m both buoyed by the promise of a new year and bogged down by the weather and amount of daylight available to me. January feels like a slog; I’m just trying to make it through. There are moments during the first days of the year where I feel like my motivation is at an all time high. I see the connections between work projects, I see the direction for the department, and I see the impact we can have. There are other moments where I feel stuck and there’s so much coming at me I’m not sure what to pick up next.
I think this January has also been an interesting time to be at my university. Similar to other colleges and universities, we are facing budgetary challenges and declining enrollment. We also recently named an interim president and are settling into new leadership. There’s a lot of uncertainty that you can feel every time you step foot on campus. When I talk with my colleagues about May, the summer, even the fall, there’s always an unspoken (or sometimes spoken) phrase of, “But who knows what the context will be then.” The uncertainty makes it hard to move forward confidently. We might decide to go left only to learn we’ll need to loop around to go right a few months later.
All of these things – the slog, the uncertainty, the potential opportunities – has made me think a lot more about prioritization. How do we decide on what is a priority? How do we have those conversations? How do we make the tough decisions? How do we pivot? And how do we accept the change we know is coming but aren’t sure what it will look like yet? I don’t have any answers but I know that getting through the January slog means having the space to work through these questions and figure out where to step next.
And in these moments, when my head is turning, I am so thankful to have a network of support. The friends and colleagues I turn to get through the slog, hold the uncertainty, and celebrate the successes. I’ve been so appreciative to have fellow department heads at other institutions to talk to, a research group to get excited about and hold me accountable to research, my various text message threads with friends who send funny gifs, screenshots, all the emojis, and voice messages, my colleagues within the library to strategize with, and my colleagues across the institution who I can get coffee with and chat about what we can do together.
I feel that I’ve emerged from the January fog and that feels wonderful. What about you? How are you getting through these first couple of months? What’s been on your mind and who has been there to help support you?