An academic’s New Year’s resolutions

Time to cut down on sarcasm, Buzzfeed quizzes, references to neoliberalism and ad hoc usage of Latinate and French phrases, says Emma Rees

January 4, 2018
Illustration: new year’s resolutions
Source: Pierre-Paul Pariseau
  1. Topple patriarchy and facilitate collapse of capitalism via systematic dismantling of military-industrial complex.
  2. Set realistic, achievable goals.
  3. In any given document, think through what’s going to be typed before typing it, so as to avoid immediate deletions.
  4. Focus more during university committee meetings: make actual notes about actual meeting on iPad; stop taking take fewer Buzzfeed quizzes to find out which friends or colleagues would be greatest help in case of zombie apocalypse or associated global catastrophe. [See also: “If you were one of the cast of Friends, which Friend would you be?” and “What variety of breakfast cereal are you?”]
  5. Organise Erasmus staff mobility exchange while Europe is still A Thing.
  6. Organise exchange with US partner institution while US is still anyone’s partner.
  7. Cut down on screen time. Take leaf out of Productive Colleague’s intolerably smug “we haven’t owned a TV since 1995” book: limit pleasure viewing to 90 minutes per night. [Note to self: finish both Mindhunter and The Tunnel before resolutions officially kick in. NB: not 1 January – that’s still holiday time. And then birthday in mid-January, so no sense in enforced-yet-self-imposed wretchedness prior to 1 February, so resolutions should begin then, only that’s Thursday – heavy teaching day – so have pleasant last weekend before resolutions kick in on Monday 5 February. Further note to self: “pleasure viewing” does not include Spurs games, which will continue to be watched as at present. “Pleasure viewing” also excludes, by definition, anything involving Melvyn Bragg.]
  8. Stop thinking of routine and order as “enforced-yet-self-imposed wretchedness”. It’s overdramatic and disproportionate.
  9. Try to be less dramatic and more proportionate.
  10. Watch repeats of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet or similarly humbling nature programme without half-recalling lecture on Hegelian teleology once half-paid attention to in philosophy seminar arrived at late because had overslept as undergrad over 25 years ago. [Note to self: google “Hegelian teleology”.]
  11. Also vis-à-vis TV: stop trying to guess ages of Masterchef contestants before announcer announces them; focus more on questions asked on BBC’s Question Time and less on eyebrows/hairstyles/clothing of questioners. Husband does not need to know opinion of David Dimbleby’s tie every week. [Takeaway message: be more “professional adult” and less “highly strung kitten in a laser-pointer testing facility”. Note to self: find laser-pointer presentation-clicker stick.]
  12. Find out whether putting “laser-pointer presentation-clicker stick” into Amazon search box will actually come up with precise model of mislaid laser-pointer presentation-clicker stick.
  13. Recognise that impulsive recourse to sarcasm in departmental meetings can be challenging for others, and could even come across as insolent. Shocker.
  14. When Times Higher Education arrives on Thursday mornings, turn to leader before reading Poppletonian.
  15. Learn better to differentiate between “academic thinking time” and “naps”. [Note to self: standing desk may help here. But also note: standing desk may lead to napping-upright-related injury.]
  16. In bridge, stop bidding “No Trump” contracts purely as act of political resistance, regardless of cards in hand. It’s not fair on husband.
  17. Order selected dish from restaurant menu without opening up menu for second time in order to point to description of dish as though both reading and remembering stuff are higher-level cognitive skills that entirely elude grasp.
  18. Publish at least one book review or essay, or write at least one to-do list, that doesn’t include “neoliberalism” and variants.
  19. Stop following Jo Johnson’s Twitter feed.
  20. Practise calming breathing techniques to lower blood pressure.
  21. Vis-à-vis demagogues: stop following Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. Vis-à-vis self-care: come off social media altogether include social media in 90-minute daily screen time allowance. [Note to self: maybe expand 90 minutes to two hours to allow for social media time that falls outside “pleasure viewing” category.]
  22. Cut back on ad hoc usage of Latinate and French phrases. [Vis-à-vis: vis-à-vis.]
  23. Redirect energy of near-unmitigated fury about university management’s covetous obeisance to pernicious neoliberal market forces into less stressful and more rewarding activity. Like raising university purchase order numbers for external suppliers. Or hearing doorbell, getting to door no more than 20 seconds later, and finding “sorry you were out” card on mat.
  24. Acknowledge hidden shallows and admit to self and world that am kidding self by imagining am going to write academic paper on dynamics of female friendship and omission of diversity in Gilmore Girls. [See also: performative neoliberal self-sufficiency and the neoliberal intersections of fame and vacuity in I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!, and tyranny of normative neoliberal modes of embodied selfhood in Strictly Come Dancing.]
  25. Be a more sympathetic peer reviewer. Repeatedly muttering “What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure” while thumping desk for emphasis achieves little beyond discomfiting dog.
  26. Stop greeting unswervingly late student who lives in halls next to 9am Tuesday seminar room with “How was the commute?” [See also: “sarcasm, restrictions in deployment of”.]
  27. Rethink view of split infinitives as grammatical hill to die on. Or hill to metaphorically die on. [Note to self: do not concede any ground in apostrophe or phenomena-/criteria-related skirmishes.]
  28. Rewrite Renaissance lectures. [Note to self: drop “bashing the bishops” line from lecture on Milton and prelatical episcopacy. No student has ever laughed at it. See also: “Courtly Love: Poetic Nirvana” and “99 Problems but a Witch Ain’t One” PowerPoint slides.]
  29. Stop losing sleep over Brexit; instead, work more in 2018 at vigorous promotion of all the “forces for ill” identified by most Leave voters, including, inter alia, multiculturalism, immigration, feminism and environmentalism.
  30. Attempt, in interests of symmetry and elegance, always to end lists on round numbers.
  31. Celebrate small victories. Avoid self-sabotage.


Emma Rees is professor of literature and gender studies at the University of Chester.


Print headline: New year, new me

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