The stress of being a professor has been absolutely brutal on me. With the teaching prep, grant proposals, research group management, departmental/professional service, and all the other things I do - I really feel like my head is going to explode. I can't think of a time I've ever felt this stressed, except maybe as an undergraduate in college, or when I had a colicky newborn.
Since it's generally not socially acceptable for professional women to show any emotions other than joy, I started taking my work stress out on bread. As soon as I get home, off goes the smile and out comes the flour. I douse the counter, grab all my ingredients, add water, and knead. They say 8-10 minutes, I usually go for 30-40. To me the end product is not so much about making a delicious, well-proportioned, beautiful loaf of bread as it is about beating the crap out of my enemies.
About six months ago, after a particularly bad day at the office, I decided to start making my dough resemble particularly troublesome colleagues before I kneaded the heck out of it. At first it was just little motifs here and there - a jutted chin, a moustache, glasses. Then I started getting more elaborate, with different kinds of food dye for the hair and eyes, sprinkles for whiskers, etc.
I got pretty good at these "bread sculptures". In fact, so good, that I couldn't bear to destroy them. The best thing I could do was bake them, photograph them, then place them on the porch for the small animals to nibble upon.
Here's the thing: I *love* this. I enjoy bread sculpting so much, I can't imagine doing anything else with my life. This professor thing is just a sham, a veil hiding my eyes from the real world: the world of people-shaped bread.
So I told my chair I needed a leave of absence for "personal reasons" (I suspect he thinks I'm pregnant). I went down to the bank, took out a small business loan, and rented a store in the center of town.
No emails. No meetings. No websites. Just bread.