Sunday, May 24, 2009

Time off

Noel was kind enough to give me a couple of hours to myself this afternoon, while he took the kids to the grocery store and Target. About 15 minutes before he was to leave, I was kicking myself for not yet having written the Breaking Bad TV Club post that needs to go up this evening.

Why would I be angry at myself for not getting work done, when I was about to have two uninterrupted hours to work? Therein lies the Summer Paradox.

For the entire academic year, we look forward to summer. That's when our days are suddenly rife with unscheduled time. Even though there are meetings and deadlines, it's not like the fall and spring. Daily classes, office hours, faculty meetings, and other regular detritus litter our calendars then. If we have 90 minutes of white space on the daily planner, we feel decadently isolated. But in summer, the appointments thin out. The time we can spend on whatever we choose proliferates. The proportion is completely reversed whenever students aren't around in large numbers.

What happens, though, is that work starts to feel like an intrusion on your free time. Instead of accepting work as the natural state of affairs and appreciating any leisure as a gift, you begin to resent those infrequent appointments. What gall, to be expected to be productive!

And so I jealously guarded those two hours today. I wanted to use them on whatever I wanted, not to get stuff done. Yet stuff that had to be done reared its ugly head. I was irrationally angry at the stuff I had agreed, happily, to do -- the stuff that was my job. And even though you might think such an attitude would be justifed, given that it's the weekend (and a holiday weekend to boot), the ugly truth is that I feel exactly the same during working hours. Just as I felt for the Sunday up to that point, which is why I hadn't written the post during the previous two hours when the kids were playing in their rooms and we were watching a Bruce McDonald movie.

There's no way to feel good about the Summer Paradox. I suppose you have to fight it with a mental adjustment. But right now, that seems too much like work.

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