Friday, November 5, 2010

How Full Is Too Full?

I gave my talk last night on "Sleeping Beauty Awakes: Unexpected Retellings in Recent Children's Literature." I would say that the whole thing was a fairly stressful experience. First of all, and most of all, I didn't know ANYTHING about the topic when I signed up to do this - I had never spent a minute in my entire life doing any scholarly work on fairy tales. So I had to start completely from scratch - or thought I was going to have to start completely from scratch, until I discovered a brilliant essay by scholar Tina Hanlon on this topic from which I could borrow heavily and gratefully. But I still had to read all the books she discusses, come to my own thoughts about them, write up these thoughts, locate the images for the Powerpoint, hire the graduate student to make the Powerpoint....

The Powerpoint was another source of stress. I thought I did have to have images to accompany the talk, but I am so clueless, so pitifully and pathetically clueless, when it comes to technology! This is where I am so blessed to be a faculty member at CU, where I can send an email out to our grad students begging them to help provide any service I ever need. Wonderful David Meens agreed to help me, not only to make the Powerpoint, but to show the Powerpoint at the talk itself.

I worked for days on the talk, and all afternoon on Tuesday with David on the Powerpoint, and then rehearsed the talk. But on the day of the talk I was further stressed by having not one, not two, but THREE Skips (our Boulder bus) break down on my way to the talk! A terrible omen? A sign of the impending end of Western civilization as we know it? And what if David didn't remember to come, given that my talk was now on HIS computer? And what if nobody else came to my talk, either, after all this work? And what if -???

But finally the third Skip got me close enough to the university before breaking down that I could walk the rest of the way. And of course wonderful David was already there ready to set up the computer for me. And of course the terrific publicity by the University Libraries brought in a good crowd. And my talk went reasonably well, though ran a tad too long. It was all good.

Afterward, I wondered a bit why I continue to sign up for things that are so time-consuming and stressful, given that I already have an adequately full life as a philosophy professor and children's book author. Did I really need to devote a week of my life to preparing a talk on recent retellings of Sleeping Beauty in children's literature?

And then I realized the answer: I do these things because they're fun. It was fun learning something new, it was fun reading all these versions of Sleeping Beauty, it was fun pondering the various ways that writers have taken on the challenge of making this problematic tale fresh and beautiful to new generations of children. I loved getting to meet the other scholars at CU who work on fairy tales. I loved looking in my planner throughout the semester and seeing "FAIRY TALE MEETING" or "FAIRY TALE FILM" and finally "FAIRY TALE TALK - ME."

Would I do it again? Well, yes, I would. A full life is a good life, even if sometimes - say, when the third Skip in a row is breaking down on your way to give a high profile talk on some topic you have just learned about for the first time this week - it can seem a bit too full. A full life is a good life.


  1. As one gets older, the idea that a full life is a good life becomes even more important and relevant. Growing older with grace means that we inhale life even though as our spirits are livilier than our bodies.

  2. I like the thought of inhaling life with our still-lively spirits, Ann. Thanks!