Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Month One  §

Month one of “daddy stays at home with daughter” is almost over. Time is racing past.

Even that formulation loses some of the sense of desperation that I feel at missing my own life as it happens. It’s also almost a month since the first set of “final classes” for the courses I taught during the spring semester.

I have finally, tonight, finished grading and sending out comments on things like final papers. Yes, I had previously submitted grades, because the universities of today give absolutely ridiculous deadlines that must nonetheless be met, but the long, arduous process of actually commenting on students’ work in red ink (whether material or virtual) carries on for some time afterward.

And so it is that I have finally dispatched, after weeks of work and excluding a few predictable grading disputes that remain to be handled, with spring semester—and left myself just about a month before I have to ramp up again for summer, and then, for fall (I don’t get a break between the two).

— § —

This is when I get to spend time with my daughter.

— § —

This is also, unfortunately, the one month that I have to do all of those things that ought to have been done for months, but that have been aging on a waiting list since before the academic year, and my daughter’s life, began. Things like a dissertation work that is over a year behind schedule, preparing for a language exam that I must pass, maintaining the non-academic sources of income that really allow us to make ends meet but that are sadly neglected throughout the academic year, so much so that I begin to fear for our ability to make ends meet…

It is also the one month during which I am to do all of the academic reading and Ph.D. research I am to do for a year, during which I am to do all non-paid professional things like maintaining a website and trying to complete and submit publications that are sitting around rotting, as well as do to all of the personal things that you have on those lists. You know the ones: take up martial arts, learn to surf, read more fiction, read more nonfiction, buy a blank canvas and do your first painting in two decades, install XCode and write your first software in ten years, and so on.

And of course (and most troublingly) it is also the one month during which I am to do all of my necessary preparation for summer and fall semesters—things like syllabus development and daily teaching outlines and presentations, not to mention textbook selection, which requires the reading of multiple textbooks.

In short, my life is ridiculous.

But no more ridiculous, I suppose, than many others.

Still, there’s no way this stuff is getting done.

— § —

Of course, I make it sound like a lot of bad juju, but the fact is that for at least one more month I will spend every weekday from welcome-to-wakey-wakey-world to around 2:30 in the afternoon with my daughter. My wife would be willing to go to serious and probably illegal lengths to return to the “all day with daughter” life, even if just for a month.

So in a way, I am the lucky one.

— § —

But with summer (which is a month or so for me) and all of the things I need to get done comes also the period otherwise known as “very-little-income” in these parts, a period of stress and grimaces and tough decisions and existential angst and worry about the future, followed by a late summer and fall semester of “try-to-recover-from-the-financial-hit.”

These things call for decisions every year that I’d rather not make.

— § —

So there it is: Memorial Day marks the beginning of my summer. The house is a mess (usually I have a little more time to contribute to it than I did this fabulously productive weekend), my mental gears are already cranking so hard that there is absolutely no prospect of rest and relaxation, and it’s damned hot in New York.

Another academic year has (finally) come and gone, my inevitable teaching burnout is another academic year closer, my daughter has come, has conquered, and is already well on her way to growing up, every facet of my life is running behind schedule, and I am sitting by a window fan in front of a Macbook Pro at midnight typing a blog entry on a half-developed platform.

— § —

It’s easy to be confident and nonchalant when it’s just you and you’re not too married to any one thing over another and you’re pretty good at everything that you try. There is literally no way to fail.

It’s a lot tougher to be confident and nonchalant (or even awake) when life has to look one particular way at the end of the day (and week, and month, and year, and decade) and you really, really, really care that it works out exactly that way.

I’m still confident. But in no way am I nonchalant.

— § —

After the “daddy at home with daughter” period of the summer comes the abrupt change to “daddy is gone all day every day during summer semester.” It is already breaking my heart to think about it—rather selfishly, I suppose, given how many working parents out there have to do that all the time as a matter of course.

But then again, they don’t have my daughter. They’re not missing the same thing at all.

— § —

Memorial Day? We’re busy.

For us, the watchword of the year is: NOBBQ4U.