When I first started blogging, almost 12 years ago now, I used it frequently as a place for reflection. Every semester, I ask my students to write a reflective essay. I don't use these essays for evaluative purposes -- everyone who completes the exercise gets full credit. I do it because I believe making time for reflection is important, and I find that we rarely do it enough. This has been particularly true for me over the past couple of years, as I've taken on more and more responsibilities. As I've gotten busier, my blog has become a place merely to briefly report on things, or to share artefacts generated for another purpose, rather than a place of personal reflection.
In my project description for the reflective essay activity, I ask students to address three "whats": (1) "What happened?" (2) What did it mean (to you and to others)? and (3) What effect did it have on what happened later (or will happen in the future)?
What happened? Too much for words. I tried to do too many things and, although most of them happened, some of the quality was compromised by trying to do too much. I've always been a believer that if something is worth doing, it's worth doing badly. But it's always hard to strike the appropriate balance. I set up and ran the BCRC with new equipment in a new space. I did a shake-down cruise trying to use the new BCRC for teaching. I taught a class. I organized a Makerspace. I co-chaired a Faculty Senate council. I served on the Rules Committee. I became Board President for a non-profit. I maintained websites and software on three servers. I set up the Living Museum of Dead Computers. I worked with many people on smaller projects but, too often, I was just too busy.
What did it all mean? In general, I find the work I do very rewarding. I feel like what I do makes a difference in people's lives. I think the BCRC gives students a place where they can be productive — and that it helps foster community. And I think it helps faculty create activities that engage students. I think my teaching gives students an opportunity to improve their writing, and also to try out what it means to be a biologist — to "do" biology. I'm hopeful about the Makerspace which can give people of all ages, but especially the young, a way to turn technology to their own purposes — and not be just a consumer of what modern corporations churn out. My service has been primarily about helping people (and institutions) make thoughtful decisions about technology.
But I realize that that my life has become my professional life. I almost don't have a private life any more. I go to work; I come home (if I don't have a meeting); I have a drink (usually); & I watch a couple of hours of TV with Lucy (when I'm not trying to finish writing something, or grading something, or engaging in correspondence in support of some project or other). Ten years ago, I was doing this.
I want to work to bring my life more into balance. But that means letting go of things — deciding that some things that might be worth doing badly, won't get done at all. I guess I could quit having that drink or watching TV with Lucy. But somehow I don't think that's going to happen.
But the elephant in the room is social media. It doesn't show up in any of the activities above, but I actually spend most of my time checking and writing email and various kinds of feeds: educating myself, maintaining correspondence, and mediating between communities. A big part of what enables me to be successful is being aware of trends in technology — at least I like to tell myself that. But maybe I should try to unplug more and spend more time with people.
It's good, anyway, to take a few minutes in reflection to think about the year past and the new year to come. Solstice greetings!