For a very long time October was my favorite month. I think it started when I began at the University of Chicago in the early 90s, where the fall quarter didn’t even begin until October. The month meant fresh starts, cooler (but not cold) weather, and new energy. Even after I moved to DePaul where the fall quarter begins in September, October was still a happy time for me. Halloween is my favorite holiday, I love walking on brightly colored leaves, and while the amount of sun is waning it’s still bright enough for me to feel cheerful.
But somehow over the past four years, October has become the month of crushing pressure. It started when I attended the SIGITE conference for the first time in 2010, the same year I was first elected to the SIGCSE board. The SIGITE conference is always in October as are the SIGCSE board meetings, and traveling twice in a month automatically makes it stressful. Once I started on SIGITE conference organization and became the SIGCSE treasurer, the workload grew. Add in research projects, midterm exams, academic progress reports, and advising, and suddenly the month of October is a pressure cooker. Even the smallest additional tasks, like Academic Integrity violations or recommendations, is enough to make it feel like I can’t possibly get it all done. To be fair, I almost always do finish everything in October. But it’s draining, and with the stressful summer I had I’m finding it hard to maintain anything remotely resembling a positive attitude.
So I’m making a vow to try to find a way to make October fun again. I’m not sure that 2015 will be the first year I can implement this plan, given that we’re hosting the SIGITE conference in Chicago. But I will work to find ways to relieve the pressure or at the very least to be more prepared for the push. I want my favorite month back.