Your Body Will Show You The Way

Something about last week took it out of me. Took what? I’m not sure. My vitality? My energy? My chutzpah? Something.

It’s been a year since I flew to Iowa City to see about a job at THEEEEE University of Iowa. Go Hawks.

That trip was a panic attack. The week before, I’d drive to West Lafeyette, Indiana to see about a job at PPPPPUUUURRRRDDDDUUUEEE University. Go Boilermakers. I arrived in Indiana in a blizzard. Drove home two days after selling myself to the fine people at Purdue that I’m still a little sad I didn’t get to work with. Though I really like the fine people at Iowa that I get to work with.

Academic job interviews are grueling. Typically, a humble scholar such as myself gives a job talk. A lecture about their research. They might facilitate a teaching session. Then there’s the meetings. The search committee, the dean, the associate dean, students, etc. Then there’s the meals. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. An introvert such as me can only take so much social interaction. High stakes social interaction. Really wipes me out.

A year ago I’d just return from such an interview at Purdue, and was in Iowa City doing the same thing a week later. I was light-headed, tired, dizzy, and nervous. Worried that I might actually get the job and have to uproot my family and start another new life in the Midwest. All in the aftermath of a global pandemic that wildly changed our lives. That’s what I mean by panic attack.


I did get the job. Both jobs. So I spent a month trying to figure out if I’d stay in Pennsylvania, move to Indiana, or head to Iowa. The offer at Iowa was too good and the campus was so close to the Twin Cities. And for all the reasons I’ve worked through a million times in these weekly blogs, we ended up moving to Iowa.

Selling our house in the rolling hills of Central Pennsylvania. The home where our boys grew up. Drawing with chalk in the driveway and bouncing on the trampoline in the enormous backyard. Another cross-country move. Saying goodbye to State College, to Penn State (go Nittany Lions), to Happy Valley Improv. Buying a house sight unseen in a seller’s market in Iowa City. Bracing to figure out a new academic position that came with far more responsibility.

That’s a lot, y’all.

And here we are a year later. Every week I’m doing my best to remake the new classes I’m teaching, to figure out the role of an English Education program coordinator, to be a senior colleague in an academic department at a Research One university, to support my family in this new place. I’m up at 6:00am to drive the boys to school because I want to drive the boys to school. I’m working most of the day. I teach two nights a week, and don’t get home until 8:00 or 8:30pm on those days. And the email. Oh Lord, the email.

I’m not looking for a gold medal here, people, and I know everybody has it hard. Has their own things to figure out. I’m just figuring my own things out. Aloud. In a blog.

It’s been a long year. A very stressful year and I’m kind of tired. That’s all I’m writing, I guess.


My friend Steve was one of my many mentors. He was an acting coach in our theatre program at Roseville. A friend of my other friend and mentor, Michael. Both Steve and Michael were about fifteen years older than me. Steve taught me all sorts of things about directing theatre. About teaching. Steve once commented on the manic, exuberant energy that burst forth from me when I was teaching.

“You need to manage your energy better, Sam,” Steve told late-20’s-Sam. “The way you teach isn’t sustainable.”

I laughed.

“I don’t know how,” I told Steve honestly.

Steve laughed.

“Your body will show you the way,” he said.

So many of the strange things Steve said to me stuck. That’s good teaching. Steve’s words are still with me years later.

I think my body is showing me. I went hard in the classroom last week. Poured myself out. Led some improv. Facilitated some social justice theatre. Spoke powerfully about my dissertation research. Organized some classroom discussions. Guest lectured in a theatre class. All the while responding to email, trying to get some writing in, and putting out fires. And trying to navigate my beautiful (and loud) boys.

The paragraph above would have been nothing to me in my twenties. But by Friday, I found myself light-headed, tired, dizzy, and anxious about nothing.

Green Bay Packers (yuck) quarterback Aaron Rodgers went on a darkness retreat last week. Did you see that in the news? Have you seen this? (I’m doing my best Jay Leno impersonation here).

I think I could use a darkness retreat. Turn my senses off. Look away from my email. Stop staring at my phone. Recover.

Forty-two-year-old-Sam’s body is trying to show me the way.

“Slow down!” it is shouting.

I don’t have much choice but to listen.

I’m not opposed to moving slower. To being quieter. To finding balance. But that’s never been my way. It will have to become my way, I suppose. Always learning, people. Always.

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