A couple of weeks ago, as finals wound down and the interminable meetings that litter the exam period came to an end, I ran into my chair, Bryce, in our department’s main office. We exchanged some chat about bikes (our mutual passion) and Theatre Studies (our mutual project); I talked about my latest workplace trauma (of course). Then he said:
‘I really hope you’re planning to take a break this summer.’
People, more needed words were never spoken. And yet my gut reaction?
When? How?! AAGGGHHH!!!!!
I told him I’d scheduled a break for the week previous, and had ended up doing book revisions instead. Then I’d moved the scheduled break to the week in which we were chatting; obviously, that one had also gone sideways. I was looking into the end of May by that point, and colliding with a conference I’d been co-organizing, plus more book revisions, a paper for a conference I was attending in June, more work-related travel commitments…
I thought maybe I could do the break in July.
All this might well read to you as lame. ‘Good grief, woman!’ you might be thinking. You’re a tenured prof at a good school; take a freaking holiday already! And yet it’s actually hard, from the inside, to make that holiday time; thanks to email (aka 24/7 comms, aka My Modern Albatross), my tendency to say yes way too much (more on that in the coming weeks; see below), and my anxious reaction to Stuff That Piles Up On My Desk, I am far, far better at deferring the ‘scheduled’ holiday than taking it.
(My last holiday was a year ago, at the Sivananda ashram in southern Kerala, and a damn fine break it was. Although I did – in true academic fashion – check my email once a day just in case, and triage a page proof trauma one afternoon from the one spot in the joint that had reliable wifi. Do not judge me.)
Here, it doesn’t help either that I don’t have kids, or currently a partner, whose holiday needs might enforce my own; it also doesn’t help that I spend so much money on research travel (my own and my university’s, but – make no mistake – plenty of my own) that it’s hard to justify further outlays of cash on frivolities like, oh, I don’t know… my sanity.
Sometimes, though, the heavens grant you a gift, and this past weekend I got one. My dear friends Steven and Peter were moving out to their cottage, on the gorgeous South Shore of Nova Scotia, for the summer; they were bringing the family cats and needed a third to carry Baz, the sweet (and heavy!) old one, on the plane. They enlisted me, which got me a free round-trip ticket to Halifax, accom in a fantastic woodland hideaway, plus day tripping to the beach and evenings in the hot tub.
So I took a freaking break, already.
Make no mistake: this long weekend in the woods is NOT my summer holiday. If anything, it’s reminded me how much I need more down time this summer. So I’ve resolved that the week I return from my insane June research and conference travel will be a week off; I’m taking a virtual (email) holiday as well as a ‘real’ one. (You can hold me to it, and I’ll report on how it goes.)
Then, upon returning to work (slowly!), I am making it a proper task to figure out better work-life balance for the 2016-17 school year. Because I cannot live through another year like this past one, which was sheer hell and included a couple of serious close calls for me, personally. And because I have no intention of committing holiday time to thinking about my job in any way – even about how to balance my job and my life more effectively.
Academics may live our labour, but our labour does not need to live us.
As I travel in the coming weeks, I’ll be doing some teaching about teaching at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, England; I’ll also be reflecting on some of the stuff I learned about new (and old) advances in pedagogy in recent weeks from colleagues here in Canada, as well as thinking critically about the year of teaching just behind me.
Look forward to the following posts:
Next up: ‘Flipping’ the Theatre Studies Classroom… Back Again.
After that: The Year That Was, 2016: What Happened When the Students Created the Supplementary Course Reader and Set Their Own Deadlines…
And then: Learning to SAY NO. (Especially for my female friends, colleagues, and readers. Just. Say. No.)
Meanwhile: some holiday snaps for your enjoyment. Because: Nova Scotia is so beautiful that everyone should see it!