Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sliding into Summer

Final grades have been in for a couple of weeks, course evaluations are back, the weather's warming up, and it's impossible to deny: it's summer for the academic.

Over the previous few years, I have big projects to undertake over the summer. Last year it was the weight loss project, complete with thoughtful blogging, and some writing projects and such. The year before was a big push to get lots of writing and publishing stuff done. The year before that was the move to BRU. And so all told, I was able to spin those summers into very goal oriented, productive spans. Given that as much of my contractual obligation at BRU is publishing as well as teaching, the idea that I had my summers off was clearly a myth, and I was working hard to, well, work.

This summer, though I certainly have work to be done, I've had harder time organizing it into something. Oh, I've ticked items off the to-do list: editing pieces for the ticking time bomb of the edited collection, revisions to my own work, a renewed return to exercise and diet, some new reading, etc. But there was no clear marker that said, "now it is summer. Now it is time to begin X."

Instead, there's been a gradual slipping into summer, doing maintenance work on projects I was working on in the spring, vaguely stepping up efforts on personal goals that I work on year round, and gradually stopping the teaching work that defines the school year (I am still commenting on those few final papers that came in with SASEs).

The end of the school year, as Willow points out to me, typically comes with a brief bout of the doldrums, where my standard avenues of affirmation and energizing influence (the classroom, regular contact with colleagues, etc.) disappear, and I find myself unprepared for that with new ones. Soccer season will start up soon. The family vacation is months away (Canada again, as two years ago), and perhaps I'll find a rhythm on a summer project. But right now, the days kind of blend together, a neither-relaxing-nor-energizing melange of small work projects, trips to the gym, few social engagements, and the daily routine of family life.

In fact, this past week, I found myself doing something I've hardly done since we moved here: rearranging furniture. Friends from grad school may remember the comparative regularity with which the layout of our old living room changed, but here, the layout has typically been pretty constant (with the exception of the play room downstairs, which I have occasionally re-arranged to accommodate changing play-styles of the kids). but last week, I COMPLETELY re-arranged both the playroom and our upstairs office. It's as if by putting a room into a new order, I am somehow doing the same with my life. This often comes with a concomitant desire to make large purchases of avowedly, but dubiously practical nature--a new desk for Willow, an electric scooter to get to and from campus more efficiently, a car with better fuel efficiency, etc.

When it comes down to it, this all signals the degree to which I like changes, big ones, often, since the thrill of new circumstances to account for keeps me engaged in my own life. Now here I am, halfway to tenure, with my research agenda on auto-pilot for another year or so, and my teaching in a comfortable groove, and for the summer, at least, very little new to get me excited, to offer a kind of promise for an existence radically better, as if my existence weren't already pretty cushy.

After all, it is summer, and I'm an academic, and my malaise seems to stem from having too much time on my hands, time I desperately want at other points, and that other people often want just as badly. So buck up, I tell myself, and instead of slipping into summer, as I have thus far, it seems time to begin something. Or at least finish something with some resolve.

1 comment:

Sisyphus said...

I usually like to rearrange all my books and bookcases --- ok, I usually do it as procrastination, not to mark a new period of time --- by some new organization system. So, might that be a fun way of commemorating?

Either that or take up some new (not very time intensive) sport or hobby? I want to try kyaking again, but have no money. You might not have an ocean nearby. Well, ok, back to the drawing board.