Finally, I am on the semester break. Two weeks ago, I handed in the grades and I have one more week in front of me to complete some pre-scheduled administrative work and prepare the courses for the next semester. This year it is even more important for me to be well-prepared for my courses even before the semester starts because I have to fill the shoes of both an academic and an administrator. From the perspective of an institution, the two positions may be regarded as complementary, in the end academies are thought to be run best by academics. However from the perspective of an academic, I can say that sometimes different shoes on different feet cause an imbalance and hamper the ability to progress smoothly. To walk in these shoes and not to trip, or to be able to run in these shoes when the deadlines are short-notice or near, I need balance. In order to keep the balance, I need to do my preparations more meticulously than previously. So the break is not really a break but a period when I can slow down but still do some work so that I can keep up with the pace of the coming semester.
This slow period is also a time I always intend to use to catch up with other things, both professional and personal, to make myself up-to-date with things around me, so to speak:
- On the professional front, although my discipline requires me to continuously follow current events, when things get busy at work, I have limited time to read and watch news on events that recently occurred in the world. So I need to use this temporal space to update myself on the missing parts of the recent events; I also need it to discover newly published books and articles, to search for a call for papers for conferences that would fit into both my interests and my schedule, to smell the air for new directions where my discipline may be leading to, and to catch up with correspondences to keep my networks alive.
- On the personal front, I need to avoid (probably at the last minute) being declared an outcast by a certain number of my friends and even members of my family whom I failed to call and visit, so that is on the agenda. Next, I have books to read, plays and films to see, albums to listen, exhibitions to visit and things to write (letters to friends and literature – poems, lyrics, essays, stories, tales - for the self). These are especially needed to stay sane in an otherwise insane rhythm, to have a sense of “My life is not all work”. I am not someone who follows color press to follow celebrities’ lives or football teams’ performances but I realize that sometimes I need to also just do that to keep up to date with the reality of the society which surrounds me. Recently realizing that I do not know any of the new TV commercials or that I have no idea about the latest pop songs (an area which I try to incorporate into my research in the form of international relations and the arts) made me realize that I need to spend a few days in front of the TV every once in a while so that I can still feel a part of this society and connect with others.
- Both on the professional and personal side, when the information pours in, there is one more essential thing to do and maybe it is even more important than getting new information. That is to have the needed time to reflect on this updated information. Information taken in without being processed in the mind may later be retrieved in the face of new events and trends and find their meanings but it also risks becoming mental baggage leading us to confusion.
Although I feel energetic at the beginning of each slow period (semester and summer breaks) to do all this, the break agenda becomes so busy that I can’t accomplish anything and thus I am left once again with a sense of not being up to date. Left with only one week until the new semester starts, this may very well be my fate this year as well.
Itir is a founding member of the editorial collective at University of Venus.