Far FAR too close to my Happy Academic home

From the July 29, 2005 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education comes this article, “Guilty to a Tee” by Michael “actually his real name” Bérubé. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about what it was like in the summer as a “Happy Academic.” I tried, but I think Bérubé has done a much better job of capturing the feeling. There’s a lot of good passages in this piece, but this one kind of captures the general “summer and academia” kind of feeling:

You would think that whenever college professors get too depressed or whiny about their lot in life, they could simply chant to themselves the mantra, “May, June, July, August.”

But you’d think wrong.

For many of my friends and colleagues, summer is a time of anxiety about both work and leisure. Professors tend to be driven people; many of us have internalized a fairly severe academic regimen in which we are accustomed to jumping through hoops and meeting deadlines, even when no one’s watching (maybe that’s why Foucault’s accounts of modern self-policing caught on so readily in some academic circles). So we often seem to spend half our “downtime” worrying about why we’re not getting more things done.

Ain’t that the truth. One of the great things about the academic life is that the work can be a lot of fun and engaging and even addictive. And stopping to work can sometimes be down-right hard.

Bérubé writes about several different kinds of sport activities he and his colleagues engage in during the summer and at other times of the year. But golf, as he points out, “is another matter:”

It requires years to master, it tends to be more expensive than tennis or fishing, and it takes a full five hours out of your day. Last but not least, somehow it just doesn’t seem appropriate for a liberal professor from the humanities wing of the campus to buy a local club membership or test out a new $400 driver. For the record, I do not have a membership anywhere, and my driver cost $150. But it still adds up, and it’s still hard to be casual about golf.

This is so very true. Discussing my golf game kind of wanders more or less into the realm of “the unofficial” blog space, but since Bérubé brought it up in an academic space, I suppose I can spend a sentence or three on it here. I started playing golf again quasi-seriously a couple of years ago. This summer and last, I have averaged about one and half rounds a week, this despite the fact that I have plenty of deadlines and I have been teaching at least half of that time, too. It is a huge time-suck, clubs cost a fair amount, and actually playing the game costs too much, too. It’s not a game for poor (albeit happy) English professors.

Still, it is a whole lot of fun, and since I have plenty of other things to feel guilty about, I think I’ll just follow (what I think is) Bérubé’s advice and just enjoy this pleasure.

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