Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer Syndrome

This is the first summer during which I have not taught a session or jetted off to my homeland for a whirlwind of research and interviews, and have actually stayed home. Is it just me, or do the rest of you suffer from what feels like post-traumatic stress when summer rolls around.

I found myself wandering around as if I'd just survived some horrific experience that I couldn't quite articulate. I woke up, lumbered out of bed, unsure of what to do on Day 1-5 after grades have been submitted. I knew I had manuscripts to revisit, research to conduct, and stories to write, and yet... I found myself in my house and in my yard, wandering around as if I'd been away on a very long trip (Odysseus style) and had returned to find my house untouched, exactly as I remembered it from last summer.

So I started off gung-ho, typing away, determined to harness the power of free time and GET EVERYTHING DONE. I worked on syllabi for Fall, I cleaned my office, I wrote a story or two... and then I fell into a funk where I can't tell the days apart and wondered what I did all day as I wandered around the house feeling guilty for not having done much work... so I haven't enjoyed time off because I cannot shake the feeling that I must not waste the summer!

It has been very disturbing to feel so displaced! Granted, we didn't begin summer until three weeks ago because we are on the quarter system, but I do feel as if I have wasted three weeks feeling battered and disoriented. What are the rest of you doing this summer? Perhaps hearing what you've been up to will help me to kick myself into gear.


-- Contemplative Cynic



10 comments:

  1. Have you been spying on me? This is also my first summer in years without major project in the works, and despite my long to do list, I have accomplished little more than cleaning my house, watching trash tv, and window shopping for new furniture.

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  2. It is odd not "having" something that must be done or a place to be at a specific time. I am trying not to waste the time away, but I still want to read books for *gasp* fun and take naps on the couch. I really don't have projects to work on, but perhaps there is something I could do to make my job prospects better? But with no hamster lab access I am not sure what I could do.

    I did start patching the walls of the bathroom I stripped of wallpaper about 10 years ago. I think that in particular is making me feel very accomplished and my significant other is delighted at my sudden action!

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  3. Three weeks of recovery/re-entry time, especially since some of it was spent on productive activities, doesn't sound at all bad to me. I can't say I've mastered the art of making the most of summer, but I think what I did this year -- give myself a week or so after grades were due to tie up loose ends, attend a conference, and then take a week off -- worked pretty well. The only thing I didn't do as well as I might have was stock up on supplies -- food and leisure reading -- for the week off (going away rather than "staycationing" might have been a good idea, too, but I didn't really have the budget to manage that, and it would have taken planning, for which I definitely didn't have time or energy). If you add up the time I spent on loose-ends-tying, conferencing, and taking a break, it was nearly three weeks. So maybe one key is to plan for both some re-organizing/reorientation/planning time *and* some guilt-free downtime, before plunging into whatever one has planned for the summer?

    Once I'd done the above, I had 4 weeks to at least get started on summer projects (mostly non-academic this summer, since I've got a lot of household/financial things I need to catch up with), before my 6-week (online) summer class started. After that's over, I'm hoping to take one more week off, and then there will be a week to get ready for the fall semester (actually, if I'm going to take a week off, I need to get some of the fall semester prep done now, in between the teaching and the ongoing summer tasks). So maybe it does help to have some structure imposed by summer teaching, or research trips, or something of the kind.

    Of course, none of my summer projects are proceeding as quickly as I'd planned (and I'm sure that would be equally or more true if they were writing/research rather than household-related). But I have worked my way into exercising regularly, and spending a good deal of time outdoors (walking, swimming, and gardening). Keeping those activities up now that the summer class is kicking into high gear will be harder, but I'm going to try, since they definitely make me feel healthier and more relaxed. That seems like a worthwhile summer goal in itself (and maybe making it a goal is a way to stave off guilt about spending time on pleasurable activities. If so, I'll take it; I don't think of myself as particularly goal-driven, or driven, period, but I also don't seem to be all that good at relaxing).

    My advice is to do whatever it takes to avoid feeling guilty *and* enjoy some real time off. That probably means some kind of planned alternation between scheduled fun and scheduled productivity, whether the alternation happens daily, weekly, or at longer intervals. If you need a rationale for the fun/downtime time, think of it as preparation for other tasks/the school year to come.

    Finally, like Frenna, I think there's a lot to be said for projects that produce tangible results, especially when one's academic future is uncertain, and/or academic projects are in the messier stages, where it's hard to believe the finished product will eventually emerge from the chaos. House and garden projects serve that purpose well for me (but it can also be distracting to be surrounded by projected and/or half-finished house and garden projects while trying to do academic work, so some planning is probably necessary there, too. Still, when in doubt about what to do next, I don't think it can hurt to tackle something manageable and tangible, as long as it doesn't become a procrastination habit).

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  4. It sucks even more when you don't have a job to go to in the fall.

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    1. I was going to say, "It sucks less than teaching summer school" (Never again!), but I can't top what you have, Python. I'm sorry: I hope you get a new and better situation, soon!

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    2. Ugh. I've had those summers. Of course, I had my dissertation to write (and if I'd completed my dissertation, I suppose I would have had articles to work on), but somehow it was hard to concentrate on that with so much uncertainty about where my next paycheck would come from.

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  5. I think I'm so disappointed with myself bc my excuse for not getting creative things done is usually that teaching leaves me no time to do that. And yet I have the time now, but haven't produced as much as I would have hoped.

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    1. There's time, and there's energy. I think we sometimes underestimate how energy-draining teaching, especially under current higher ed. conditions, is, perhaps especially because the timing of some parts of it is flexible (which in practice means it tends to expand to fill the time available).

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    2. CC,

      I find it hard to start things or get back to them once started. I am a great procrastinator and when I have all this free time (like right now) I am not very productive. For some reason I need to be juggling 50 things to get anything done. The last thing I want to do is work on the home improvement project (10 years in the making) but I plan to do 1-2 hours a day until it is done. Granted being creative is harder to schedule. Does it help to change location? I often need to change location to keep going when I am writing. I just can't sit in one place for more than an hour or two.

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  6. Thanks, all! :) I think a change of location might actually help, but only so I can go away to feel not-guilty about not working and then return to be productive.

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