They call it “restless leg syndrome,” and supposedly my French-Canadian roots are especially prone to the condition. All I know is that I’ve witnessed my mother and sister taking on the same symptoms, and supposedly it’s all neurological. It creeps in at night, after I’ve laid down. So tonight, even though the rest of me is exhausted, my feet start to twitch and after a while I realize that I can’t fight it, so I get up and find something else to do.
The funny thing is that it has very little to do with my feet or legs. No one seems to really know what causes it, but medical advice and anecdotes point to lack of magnesium, a lack of vitamin B, a deficiency of iron, or something else screwing with endorphins or some such thing. For me, it’s especially apparent that my feet start to twitch when my head can’t turn itself off. Although, I can’t say that it’s really all caused by a mental, conscious thing, because it will often electrify itself — and that’s exactly what it feels like, a constant series of electrical stimulations — after I start to fall asleep. All the more reason to feel like you’re going crazy, actually.
In this case, it’s the season of back-to-school, and since it’s the Friday before I’m teaching and since I haven’t even remotely gotten myself adequately prepared to teach my courses for the semester, my mind fires up as everything else in the world settles down. Last week the dreams started up. Usually I have at least one occurrence of the dream in which my students start to chase me around a lecture hall, except instead of them all crowding in on me all at the same time, they chase me in single file. As I start to evade them, they serpentine around the room, following me, inefficiently but ever in pursuit, curving around the desks and chairs, up and down the rows. Most recently, the dreams were of the variety in which everything starts out fine, but then I realize that you’re not actually covering the material that I had intended, and suddenly the class period is coming to a close, and then suddenly I realize that I’m not actually in my classroom but in a federal prison. And since those dreams I’ve stopped watching prison shows on Netflix.
This week, there’s been lots to do besides getting ready for class, and so that’s cluttered the schedule as well as my concentration. But also I think part of me is waiting for the wave of inspiration (or panic) to hit me. It’s not a responsible way of planning ahead, but I also figure that a meeting about a research project, an orientation about our student teaching program, a meeting with the dean to plan a future meeting followed by a follow-up email or three, along with the regular faculty meetings — these have at least given me an excuse to feel scattered.
But then tonight my feet started to twitch not just because I was anxious, but because I was starting to finally think about the first day and beyond. Suddenly I started to envision what a night of class with pre-teachers was going to look like, and, finally, I was feeling anxious not in the dreadful way, but in the anticipatory way. Like for Christmas, but with people that I don’t know yet. So now I’m excited for that, but I still need to actually write out the calendar of coursework that will take place the 14 weeks following the first day. My feet are still twitching, and there will be more dreams, but I know that, like haircuts, the first day will arrive. And maybe I’ll be ready, just like last year and the year before and the year before that.