My own birthdays never make me feel old. When I turned 30, for example, I didn’t bat an eye. But a couple of months later, I suddenly felt ancient, because my oldest son turned 10. This is the way it’s always been: how old I feel depends on how old my kids are.
So I have to admit that I’d been dreading today, which is Al’s 18th birthday. After all, having a child who’s a legal adult is guaranteed to make anyone feel just a bit older, right? As today approached I considered rash actions like baking cupcakes and using them to bribe people to tell me I’m not so old after all.
Then today finally came, and I didn’t have time to think about things at all. Here was my day:
7:30 am: arrive at school. Start prepping for the day.
8 am: Quant lab. Today’s lab consisted primarily of returning graded lab reports, helping people calculate things for re-submissions of results sheets, and having students check out of drawers. I did have three people who were trying to redo results for a better grade, so I had to stick around the whole time.
8:50 am: Turned my Quant Lab over to officemate P so I could set up for my presentation in Chem 1. (I normally have to miss Chem 1 lecture on Wednesdays so I can teach lab.)
8:55 am: While hooking up my laptop to the overhead projector in the main lecture hall, the Chem2 prof approaches me. He is being given a teaching award at a ceremony in the afternoon–which conflicts with his 4 pm lecture. Would I mind teaching the lecture for him? (This is a faculty award, so most of the other profs were attending the ceremony as well.) I agree and he promises to bring by his lecture notes “later”.
9 am: Give my presentation. Dr. W has been hearing complaints from students about how they’re learning things that they’ll never use again in their life. So she’s starting the last 3 lectures of the semester with a short presentation on how chemistry is applicable to various fields of engineering. (MyU is definitely an engineering school.) My presentation focuses on an aspect of civil engineering, namely concrete. I talk about how the stoichiometry has to be just right to have a strong, cohesive aggregate. I link spalling to redox reactions and dehydration reactions like the ones they’ve done in lab. I close with a stunning example of concrete failure. The class applauds as I wrap up my presentation.
9:10 am: Back to Quant Lab.
11 am: Drop my stuff in my office and run upstairs to the instrumentation lab. Meet advisor. Take over running of GC-MS samples that we generated in yesterday’s photoincubation experiment.
noon: Start a GC-MS run, dash downstairs for a few quick bites, run upstairs to prep sample for next run. Repeat until lunch has disappeared.
1:30 pm: Chem2 prof brings lecture notes by. I read and re-write them in the brief snatches of free time I have during runs.
2:50 pm: Turn last few samples over to advisor–we need to finish by 4 so the maintenance guy can take off our column and put back on the standard column. (Qualitative Organic Lab will be using the instrument tomorrow.)
3 pm: Thermo lecture.
3:50 pm: Run into main lecture hall. Fiddle with wireless mike etc.
4 pm: Start lecture.
4:05 pm: One of my students from last semester’s lab tells me to turn on the lights over the chalkboard. I try not to look too embarrassed.
4:37 pm: Finish covering material despite the fact that we have 13 minutes of lecture time remaining. Ask if there are any questions. When there aren’t any, I tell them class is dismissed. Audience applauds, and someone asks if they can keep me. I tell them they could, but I wouldn’t have any trouble lecturing the full 50 minutes if I wrote my own lecture notes.
4:38 pm: A couple of people do have questions, after all. They were just too embarrassed to ask in front of their classmates.
4:45 pm: Collapse in office, exhausted. Collect last lab reports from Chem1 students who run in just before the 5 pm deadline.
5:15 pm: Leave for home.
If this day sounds exhausting, it’s nothing–nothing–compared to yesterday and the day before, in which I was at school for 12 hours at a stretch.
I guess I should feel old, but I’m just too busy. And content, I should add. Life rocks.