Way back in August, 2005, I used photos of Cai Guo-Qiang’s Inopportune, which was then on display at Mass MoCA, to illustrate the sickening, out-of-control feeling I feel before the start of a new semester when I’m afraid a well-planned syllabus will not save me from crashing and burning in front of a classroom of first-year college students:


After all these years facing the same old back-to-school panic, you’d think I would have learned how to ease into that feeling, letting it permeate my being rather than fighting it. Theoretically, I believe panic is a wave that can be smoothly ridden if you allow yourself to roll with it…but instead of surfing I almost instinctively slam on the brakes, screaming, while cranking the steering wheel wildly this way and that. Wanting to control everything at all times, I can’t stomach the flowing sensation of being fluid and afloat.


It’s been more than eight years since I wrote that description of what it’s like to panic before the first day of class, and I still do it. Not only do I still panic before the first day of class, I find myself clenching my fists some mornings, wondering with a knot in my stomach what I’ll do when that day’s batch of first-year students looks at me and asks, “What are we doing in class today?”

I had to chuckle, then, when J and I encountered Okay Mountain’s “4-Wheeler Rollover” at the deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park earlier this month. Right about now is the time of the semester when my paper-piles loom the tallest and it feels like I’ll never dig my way to the light of day again, so right about now is when it’s tempting to throw up my hands and say, “Buddha, take the wheel!” But instead of doing anything so drastic, I’ll remind myself to relax and roll with it. The paper-piles loom, but at least I’m still upright and ambulatory, not spun out, stranded, or stuck in a rut.

This is my Day 19 contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.