This is year-two on tenure track. I am already behind in meeting writing goals, lesson plans for my courses, professional applications, and getting that next grant out. You reminded me earlier this week that you have very high expectations and with those expectations come yearly cycles of rejection. While you do not seem emotionally available nor offer unconditional love to most of us that come from marginalized backgrounds, I have a few words for you regarding year two. Year one I survived, and year two I am all about thriving.
This is my daily grind and love letter to you. Why?
Because you need to sit with your discomfort and understand the daily contradictions I live as a woman of color engaged in a relationship with you!
4:30am: It’s wake up time! My alarm rings, I chug a bottle of water, wash my face, brush my teeth, and I am out of the door.
5:00am: Workout begins with some fellow teachers and academics in the room. We all nod to one another in exhaustion as our summer workout time was 9:30am. The academic year has officially started and the bags under our eyes are evidence. Last year I allowed for you to hurt my physical well-being by gaining 15 pounds. I shredded it this summer and I refuse to compromise it this year! I can feel the stark pain growing in my chin from running on the treadmill. Time for new running shoes.
5:30am: Unread text.
5:45am: Unread text.
6:15am: Read text: Morning Margarita, happy workout! Read text: A picture of the sunrising over the ocean. My morning accountability partner. I feel at peace.
Breakfast is underway. I eat and get ready for the day. Thankfully, I meal prepped lunch on Sunday so all I must do is put it in my bag. I also picked out my outfits and ironed for the week. My mom would be proud to know I dedicated time to ironing and looking my best. Things she taught me early on when going to school, always look your best! Whether the first day of kindergarten or year-two on tenure track!
7:15am: I sit to write in my journal mostly to you and how I am dealing with our relationship, that of my friends, and family members. The goal is to maintain a healthy balance. In my mind, all writing is welcomed and counts towards tenure. The ability to write creatively and not for an academic audience is my resistance. I breathe in the scent of peppermint as the oil diffuser creates a delicate mist. Remember to breathe Nichole.
8:45am: I am out the door accompanied by my rolie bag that I have named Deborah. This bridge called my back can no longer hold the weight of multiple textbooks, folders with numerous articles, and my laptop this year. Deborah is taking that load off this year. We walk to your house together. Thanks Debs! I love you girl.
9:00am: I sit down to write a paragraph or two before class starts. D+ writing Nichole, that’s all you need. Some writing releases from my fingers. I look to my left where I have posted in neon yellow a tweet from Corey J. Miles an assistant professor of Sociology at Morgan State University:
“In academia your to-do list is never ending cycle and at times it’s difficult to judge progress. Writing a paragraph is progress. Reading 10 pages is progress. Taking a break is progress. Surviving is progress.”
Thanks for this, this is progress. Remember to breathe Nichole.
10:40am: My email beeps. Don’t check it, don’t check. Keep writing. Of course, I check it. Damn it. You have rejected me once more. At times you make me feel like I am a child. I want to cry and I want my mom.
11:30am-12:50pm: Undergraduate course. Questions that need answers. It’s on the syllabus.
12:50pm-1:10pm: Bathroom break and lunch. 30 unread texts. No time to read. Yes, those are my Brussels Sprouts that offer the offensive odor. I dash to the next class. The odor lingers.
1:10pm-4:10pm: Graduate course. Questions that need answers. It’s on the syllabus.
4:10pm-5:30pm: Student meetings. This is why I came to be in a relationship with you.
5:30pm: Deborah and I are back on the road this time, leaving your house, accompanied by the of cumbias from none other than Queen of Tejano-Selena.
Baila, baila esta cumbia
Mueve, mueve la cintura
Todos las manos en alto
Y griten, griten con locura
5:50pm: I am home. Check my mail. To my surprise you gifted me with two books this week as a thank you for peer reviewing a book. One catches my eye. It’s titled Black Women Speaking from Within: Essays and Experiences in Higher Education edited by Kelly K. Hope. The dedication states:
For the black women before us
The black women standing with us
The black women after us
This is for us
I am sure they know what it means to be in a relationship with you too. I cannot wait to read and witness this powerful edited volume.
6:00pm: I sit down to eat dinner, read text, and respond. A friend sent me a gem: “Rejection is simply redirection!” I shout to you as if you are in the other room, “REJECTION IS SIMPLY REDIRECTION!” That felt good.
6:45pm: Text from mom reads:
Well I am glad you are alive you! You did not call me this past weekend. No professor is too busy for their mom. Just saying.
The parent guilt is real, nuanced of course, by having a Puerto Rican mother who always keeps it real. She is completely right.
6:47pm-8:00pm: Mother-daughter Facetime session. She asks me about our relationship. I told her the truth. She offers invaluable advice even though she has never met you.
8:00pm-9:00pm: I sit down at my kitchen island to work. Who am I kidding? I look across and see on the fridge another tweet I had decorated and posted from Dr. Miles:
“Given the culture of academia is organized around overworking and productivity we are only comfortable resting after we get exhausted. Rest is NOT a reward. It is a mandatory part of life that shouldn’t be conditional. We have to prioritize ourselves better.”
I have control of how I approach my interactions with you. I am prioritizing me this year. I am learning how to walk away and rest from you when my mind, body, and soul tell me I need it. Today is one of those days despite the massive number of deadlines. I am okay with being in a constant state of catch up. This is my love letter to you so that one day you might reflect on how to change.
Dr. Nichole Margarita Garcia is an assistant professor of Higher Education at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. You can follow her on Twitter @DrNicholeGarcia