Summer time and the Happy Academic

It might seem odd to be posting this now, halfway through July, but summer finally started to sink in for me around here this week. See, I taught until June 22 or so, I was on the road for a family trip/vacation until July 3, and then my wife and I went off on a side trip to Niagara Falls for a few days, and then we were entertaining the in-laws until Tuesday. So while it has (obviously) been summer for a while, it is just now “summer” for me.

Other than my wife, no one in my family is an academic, happy or otherwise. My family is a pretty well-educated lot (almost all of them have undergraduate degrees, a few have some graduate work), and I have an aunt who was a high school teacher, but other than that, the academic life is pretty much a foreign concept to them. It is then perhaps not surprising that when I speak with these fine folks about work and such, they always refer to my summer “break” as “vacation.” During my recent family trip/vacation, I had at least one conversation where a well-meaning member of my family reasoned that, since I wasn’t teaching and I wasn’t expected to be in my office on a regular basis, I must be “not working” during the summer.

Ha! Happy academic that I am, I sigh bitterly at this naiveté!

Though they have a point.

Compared to people with “normal” 9-5 office-types of jobs (and this is what everyone in my family means by “working”), the work schedule of an academic can seem pretty bizarre, even in the middle of the normal semester. Take my schedule from last winter, for example: if I didn’t have any meetings or other obligations, I had to be at school two days a week. I almost always had meetings and such, so let’s say that on average, I was in my office, in class, and/or on campus 3.5 days a week. Needless to say, this is the kind of thing that really ticks off people who associate jobs with actually being someplace for 40 hours or more a week.

Of course, I do work 40 hours or more (usually more) a week; it’s just that I do most of my work at home, in coffee shops, and in libraries, and there’s often a kind of fuzzy definition of what and isn’t “work” for me. Furthermore, I (like most other happy academics I know) tend to work at kind strange times, at least compared to a “real job:” nights, early mornings, weekends, etc.

Anyway, this extremely flexible schedule becomes all that more problematic in the summer. On the one hand, I have a lengthy “to do” list, stuff I had hoped to finish earlier, stuff I need to absolutely get done before school starts up again in earnest in the Fall, stuff I said I would do over the summer, etc. I’ve got plenty of work to do over this summer, plen-ty.

On the other hand, the lack of any clear schedule markers– no teaching, no meetings, and the only reason why I need to go to school until late August is to water the plant in my office– my ultra-flexible schedule becomes a receipe for getting not much of anything done. The proverbial enough rope to hang myself.

Can you tell last week was a pretty unproductive one?

In any event, I need to start putting my “to do” list into action; maybe I need to get it all down on a hipster PDA….

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