As a person who loves her profession in general, I never really found myself saying in the past that I get tired over the course of the academic year. Maybe this is because I really like what I do, despite all its challenges, or maybe this is because I can sometimes create down time for myself during the academic year or both. When the end of the academic year comes, I do not feel wasted, exhausted or burnt out in general. Of course, I look forward to the summer holidays because being the Aegean girl I am, I feel at home on the beach, in the sea and under the sun. I replenish my body with good sleep, and I rest my soul and mind in books of literature, as opposed to professional readings. Then, I go back to the new academic year without being grumpy about it.
This year was not like that. I had to teach in the summer school. After the summer school, I took a few weeks off, but I had to write a chapter during the same time period. So, even though I was still in the Aegean region, under the sun and in the sea, nothing proved to be enough to clear my mind. As if this fatigue was not enough, I was asked to teach a new Ph.D level course only 10 days before the fall semester started, as the adjunct professor who was supposed to teach the course dropped out at the last minute. So, not only did I start the new semester exhausted, I also had to shoulder more of a workload at the very last minute than I had expected.
It is the end of the Fall Semester now, and we are in the midst of the final exams period. Last week we were hit by a snowstorm in Istanbul, a huge metropolis situated on hills spanning both Asia and Europe, hills which get too slippery when covered with snow, a city which normally suffers from congested traffic, and one not used to heavy snow to begin with. Thus, we were not surprised when the University declared three days off.
I stayed at home during these 5 consecutive days, only stepping outside once to go to grocery shopping at the nearest supermarket. Under the illusion that I could get some work done while I was home during these days, I found myself facing a fatigue that did not seem to go away: I slept for 12-14 hours a day (the dark grey skies likely helped) and then dozed off every now and then, unable to lift a finger, let alone do any work. I managed to grade a few papers one day, but then gave up and spent the rest of my time in perfect idleness, not even reading a book. I had no other choice, my mind and body demanded it. Normally, I would try to resist any call for such idleness, feeling guilty for not doing what I had to do, at the cost of being ineffective and thus losing so much time when I worked while feeling tired, but somehow this time, I managed to let go. At the end of the 3rd day, my mind was recuperated from some state where thoughts used to feel like fragmented clusters on a computer hard drive, and finally I felt defragmented as my thoughts flowed at a higher speed, feeling myself growing stronger, less agitated, less anxious and happier. I admitted to myself that this was the best thing that happened to me in a long time, especially when it dawned on me by the 4th day that I hadn’t had time off in the middle of the winter in the last decade.
The fifth day I woke up in midday…
And there was nothing more I wanted do to than to work. In a matter of half a day, I finished some grading, wrote two paper abstracts plus the introduction of a paper, and reorganized and brushed up some of my upcoming publication ideas, caught up with some professional correspondence, and even managed to do some research for one of my upcoming papers. As the day comes to a close I am now finishing my post for University of Venus, a task I had also neglected for more than half a year (with special thanks to more than patient editors).
To make a long story short: Sometimes one must stop to restart, one must pull back to jump further.