Notes on a theme

It’s happened again. I hit a certain point, usually every twelve months, sometimes sooner, where I get annoyed with my WordPress theme. This layout for my website that I have handpicked from dozens of options, that at the time of choosing I was most satisfied with, has now outstayed its welcome. Its geometries, its fonts, its white spaces, no longer hold any appeal, and I find in them nothing but frustrations.

Why? Why do I care this much?

An academic career shifts and morphs like sand dunes. I’ve only been in this game some eight or nine years and I can already look back over the different, distant chapters, each with their own opportunities, challenges, roads taken or ignored. The one constant has been this site, with its patient recording of my achievements and publications. The site is more personal, too, in that among the more formal, reviewed outputs, there are half-formed thoughts, works in progress, and other fleeting words, images, visions.

It is a mode of performance, but one that is not held in the strictures of yearly reviews, promotion criteria, or key performance indicators. It is a more accurate record of the long periods of absence, or busy-ness, or chaos, or calm, or joy, or sadness, or heartbreak, that this life I’ve chosen can encapsulate.

This year has been very, very long. It began with the passing of a close colleague, and it feels as though we have been dragging ourselves through two long semesters of teaching, trying to stoke the fires of thinking, innovation, writing, and making sure a brave and supportive face is put on for our students: this face is never a mask, but like a mask it’s harder to wear on some days more than others.

This year has also held opportunities: travel, creative work, and in the last few weeks, a great acceleration in word output in order to complete a first working draft of a manuscript. I’ve watched some wonderful films, and managed to leave the house on multiple occasions to Have Some Fun(tm).

In short, perhaps, it has been a year like any other, with many ups and many downs. I have a week still to work, and I plan to spend most of that week watching, thinking, and writing.

All years are similar, then. Some ups, some downs. Each year is a variation on a theme. So maybe that’s why I feel this annual need to change mine.

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