I’ll admit, I’m ambitious  when it comes to my summer “vacation” plans. I will write all the things. I will attend all the things (I can afford). I will also find time to be rested and refreshed (losing 10 pound in the process), while also reconnecting with my family. And re-evaluate and restructure my courses for the fall.
This summer, though, nothing so far has gone as planned. I couldn’t attend DHSI, which was disappointing, but I was ok with it (eventually). I took some time “off” (or at least away from my office) and found space within myself to blog a little more frequently again about topics that I didn’t have the mental or (as it turns out) emotional energy to deal with. And then those posts became flashpoints for...heated discussions in the comments. And as I (ok, my husband) read through the worst of them, I finally realized something: I am NEVER going to make these people happy.
File that away under “DUH!” but academia is about pleasing those people (dissertation committees, hiring committees, tenure committees, etc.). In my rush to do all the things, I was trying to please “academia,” dazzling them with my work ethic, productivity, initiative, and ever-expanding skill-set. I was (still am) exhausted and reading that I would be better off seeking another profession where I could just lie on my back (the comment has since been removed), well, that was the straw that broke this proverbial camel’s back.
But that also highlighted for me another pressure I was also working against: the image of the lazy professor. I have never wanted to be seen as someone who was lounging through my 9-month contract and enjoying care-free three-month vacations annually while the rest of the “real world” worked away. I wanted to be seen not only by my “colleagues” as a valuable, productive, and thus worthy, but also by the larger public. Any slip-up would be an opportunity for anyone to pounce on me and say, “See? We knew it all along. She is a charlatan and a fraud.”
So I just let it go. All of it. I had been working on a reduced schedule already (don’t set an alarm, let the kids dictate when we wake up and head to preschool, finish work by 3 or 3:30pm, get the kids, spend a few hours at the pool, spend the evening with my husband with our computers closed), and it was glorious. I loved spending time with my kids and reconnecting with my husband, and I liked how we could all be a little more relaxed for the summer. I decided that I was going to continue on that schedule as much as I could going forward, with no regrets.
This past weekend, it was one of my friends’ birthdays, so we spent the day in the “city” at the spa, went out for dinner, and then had everyone over to our place for a Father’s Day brunch/dinner/lazy afternoon the next day. I didn’t think about work. At all. And it felt great. I reconnected with my friends. I laughed. But mostly, I just enjoyed the fruits of my labor. I woke up this morning rested and feeling ready to tackle the week.
I realize that I am in an extremely privileged position. Between my husband and my salary (plus the work I’m doing on the side ), we are getting by (not to mention that it is not worth it to teach over the summer at my institution). I don’t have to produce scholarship over the summer or else lose my tenure bid. So, I can afford to relax a little bit. And for the first time in my professional life (actually, pretty much since I was 14), I’m going to dial it back a little bit over the summer months and enjoy myself.
And, perhaps most importantly, I’m going to re-evaluate what I want to do and why. I am going to work like crazy to make sure that I am choosing to do things for the right reasons, not just to please other people or try to prove them wrong. And I am going to start (really) saying no. I at least owe that to myself.