I’m re-visiting the journal meme. Even though I have a research journal and a teaching journal (lab notebooks in different colors), lately I’m using my personal journal as a repository for thoughts about both teaching and research.

There are various reasons for this. For one, since a friend of mine said she couldn’t remember anything much from the first year after her mother died, I decided to try to ward off any such memory loss by writing more regularly about the events of the day or week, so that I’d have a record even if my brain refused to hold on to things. For another, I tend to use the notebooks to record definite plans or report on what I have actually done (wrote 530 words on Project X; e-mailed with Grad Student Y about a chapter; made up a quiz to go with the Shorter Poems unit). Then there’s that keeping-up-with-thoughts problem: I can type about as fast as I’m thinking, but I can’t write that quickly, so if I’m trying to work out what I think, I want to type.

Why not use some other document(s)? I could have a thinking-it-through journal in the Teaching directory on my computer. But thoughts come to me when I’m writing about other things. Life, research, and teaching plans seem more interconnected, these days, than they used to. And as far as finding things again, I am a strongly associative thinker.

That is, if I’m trying to remember where/when I wrote about teaching plans for Fall 2009, I don’t automatically think “dated document in Teaching folder.” I think, OK, it was right before I had to serve as outside reader on that dissertation defense in History, I was in my study looking things up and piling books on my desk when I’d just cleared the desk of all the post-K’zoo piles, I had to stop Basement Cat from chewing on Gower, it was around the time Sir John and I were scheduling dinner with his dissertation director . . . and all of that makes it easier to search in the Journal folder than in the Teaching folder.

I guess what I’m saying is that my journal is becoming my brain’s external hard drive for all kinds of stuff. The kind of associative thinking I do makes it easier to find things organized temporally (I start a new journal document each month) than by topic, even though organizing by topic seems like it would make more sense.

It seems like a good sign that my journal is filling up with thoughts about teaching and research, and how to integrate them. In recent years, it had a lot of thoughts about my parents and things I should do for them or encourage them to do, guilt about not visiting as often as my mother would have liked, worry about their situation. I am now giving (am now able to give) more attention to my own life than to theirs. It looks as if my work is my life . . . and I’m okay with that. I went into this field because I loved it, after all, and because I wanted my work to be my play. It isn’t always, of course (how I want a Grade-o-Matic!). But it’s nice to find that work is something I want to think about and write about, these days.

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