I must come to grips with the reality of not being cute. Actually, it’s worse than that. My students don’t care if I am cute or not because I am clearly old. As an old person, I fall entirely outside of the cuteness spectrum. A cute old person is just an embarrassment.
So here I am trying to get out of my office to go teach a class, and I am bummed. Because I am not cute and my student evaluations were not absolutely sterling. They weren’t awful either. I am not going to be fired because of these evaluations; they are not going to raise some huge question mark and cause my colleagues to discuss them ad nauseum behind my back (while I am recluse) to determine whether I have completely lost it or gone over the edge.
No, that’s not the problem. It’s more the being old problem. I hit my peak. I crested student evaluation wise maybe ten years ago. The drop from that personal best has not been a precipitate plunge, but a slow stagger. A drop here, a little rise above that, a drop back below the previous drop. Gradual and slow but potentially a slippery slope. I used to be an ace, an all-star with a high SES (strident evaluation scores); now I don’t make the all-stars. I am more just reliable. He will give it his all; you can count on that. But that’s it.
For the last ten years, I have been trying not so much to go up, as to hang onto the side of the cliff by my fingernails. I am fighting to keep back the flood. I am maneuvering an excellent retreat but it’s still a retreat. Whoever said après moi, le deluge had to have been standing on pretty high ground. Because nobody knows when le deluge might hit and if you have not maintained the high ground you could easily be up that proverbial creek. I maintain the high ground, but I am like Sisyphus trying to keep the rock from rolling back down the hill while trying to get traction on the slippery slope.
I get to the plant, I go to my mailbox, I get my evaluations, I make the mistake of looking at them, and all these nasty memories and self doubts come flooding back, and I have 15 minutes till class. I am not all pumped up and ready to go. I am deflated, tired, and slightly flatulent from having eaten my lunch too quickly. Three minutes away from my office are classrooms that I like to teach in. They are old rooms and have big windows. But instead, for whatever unknown reason, my rooms are located in a new building a good 5-8 minutes away depending on how my right knee is doing.
I have arthritis and a torn meniscus in my right knee. I made it better by resting it. But that required that I did not exercise with the result that I have gained ten ugly pounds thereby putting even greater pressure on my weakened knee. That’s how it goes these days. One step forward and one back. I have to reconcile myself to the condition. When I ask one older guy I know—in his seventies—how he is doing, he says, “status quo.” At a certain age, if you can say status quo, that means things are going pretty damn well because any change in the status quo is going to be backwards.
Right now my knee is status quo. So 15 minutes gives me plenty of time to urinate before I hit the road over to class.