Christmas Letter 2012: A year of failures & successes

Normally, I reserve my Christmas letters for family and close friends.  As I reflected back over this past year, which is soon to end, I know that many people have seen only my successes.  They’ve not seen the many failures I’ve had in achieving those successes.  If there’s one lesson to be learned in achieving success, it’s that to give up is to give up too soon.  Perseverance always wins.

Christmas 2012

January – A new semester and new business cards reflecting changes from the previous summer:  Assistant Professor, English Department Associate Chair.

Conclusion:  Any further up the administration ladder and I wonder if I’ll have reached my level of incompetence.  I love teaching and don’t ever want to give that up in lieu of administration.

February –Spring break spent studying.  Last fall, I took three exams and failed two.

Conclusion:  My fear is I’ll pass one and have to retake the third for a third time.

March – I pass my exams!  Later that month, I take the last exam, the oral exam, and I pass!

Conclusion:  It wasn’t pretty, but as one committee member said, “A pass is a pass.”

April – For the second time, I take the French qualifying exam.  (I only have to translate, not speak it, thank goodness.)  My goal is to avoid taking two summer classes.  No such luck.  “You were close.”  Then, “We want to make sure that you’ve earned the degree.”

Conclusion:  Déjà vu echoes of what I tell students.  I sign up.

May – The start of my torture.  Class every morning: 4 days a week for 7 weeks, followed by a full day of work, homework at night.  Two weeks in, I realize I’m in trouble.  I’m studying 6 hours every day and I’m struggling.  I go ahead with my mid-May vacation week:  a condominium on the Black River in South Haven.  Just 30 miles from home, but the daily commute to class gets old fast.  I spend much of my vacation time writing and rewriting my dissertation proposal.  Sunday mid-afternoon on Mother’s Day and the start of this get-away, I learn one of my adjunct instructors who is supposed to start teaching the next day can’t due to an unforeseen tragedy.  The day is spent trying to find a replacement.  Finally, at 8:30 pm, I have a replacement.  My dissertation chair tells me the proposal is good, to send it out to the committee, and schedule the defense meeting.

Conclusion:  Just plow through the darkness.  Eventually, there has to be light.

June – I defend and the proposal is accepted!  Provided an opportunity to take the French qualifying exam for the 3rd time and skip the second class, I test again.  I pass!  Finally.

Conclusion:  There’s something magical about the number 3.

July – Instead of working on my HSIRB (Human Subjects Internal Review Board) documents that allows me permission to research, I goof off.  I’m tired.  Then, one of my instructors quits the already scheduled fall assignment and I’m left scrambling to get it reassigned.

Conclusion:  The story of the ant fiddling away the summer comes to mind.

August – Back to work on the IRB and getting ready for the new semester.  I go to Frankenmuth for our two-day internal conference and give a presentation on “Grading Made Easy on Writing Assignments Across the Curriculum.”  The presentation is well attended.

Conclusion:  As always, the summer sped by too fast.

September – The IRB isn’t accepted.  Rewrites performed, documents resubmitted.  I go to Traverse City to attend a teaching conference where I make the presentation, “Building Grammar Self-Esteem through Editing Workshops Across the Disciplines.”  (Are you seeing a theme here?)  I submit a paper for publication.  (Apparently teaching, admin work as a supervisor, presenting at conferences, and service work isn’t enough.  I have to publish, as well.)  Another adjunct quits – retires actually.  (There’s that number 3 again!)  Amazon Publishing buys Avalon Books, along with my third romance published in 1994, and wants to publish it as an e-book.  Is that okay?  I sign the contract.

Conclusion:  Amazon is a mind reader; I’ve been wanting to publish e-books.

October – I repeat my August presentation to Davenport’s online instructors.  The IRB doesn’t pass, so a third (!!!!) rewrite is required and resubmitted.  Finally, it’s accepted.  I start creating the research survey.  I schedule a creative writing course with Kellogg Community College to teach in the spring.  Another adjunct quits . . . moves actually.  She won’t be back for winter.  I need to hire more instructors, so the process begins.

Conclusion:  The third time is still the charm.

November – My research survey is completed and launched.  I start writing Chapter 1 of my dissertation.  I notice that hardly anyone is responding to my survey.  I’m interviewing adjuncts.

Conclusion:  A few step forward, almost as many steps backward.

December – My dissertation chair and I agree that we need to make an adjustment, which requires an IRB amendment.    I rewrite, submit, and wait.  Just before Christmas, it’s approved.  I make changes to the survey and repost.  I interview more adjuncts.

Conclusion:  I can’t wait to see what the Mayan calendar’s end will bring.  If it truly marks a new beginning, rather than a catastrophic ending.  I’M READY!!


Happy New Year!


About Diana Stout

Screenwriter, author, former English professor
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