Friday, May 20, 2011

Earning it

I've done my share of work this week.  I dealt with some complicated situations regarding student scholarship and retention status -- ones that required more thought and careful wordsmithing of communications due to factors like medical conditions and incomplete grades.  I wrote and circulated a new set of letters designed to provide official notification of scholarship awards and renewals.  I proofread the copy-edited manuscripts of half the chapters in my forthcoming co-edited book (with my co-editor slated to proof the rest).  I attended some long meetings, wrote a piece for a former student's webzine, and of course posted a couple of TV writeups.  I even helped a colleague with her knitting questions.

But as I was working on one of the final tasks of my to-do list, revising a set of lengthy e-mails containing summer assignments for students enrolled in my handcrafting seminar this fall (they are customized to the various skill levels already present in the class, as determined by a survey I had them all fill out), the college secretary knocked on my door.  She said our boss had given her permission to go home early.  I checked my watch -- 1:30 pm.  My boss had popped in an hour earlier to say he was taking a half-day vacation.  When I looked out my office door, I saw that I was the only one left in the office.

It didn't seem right to abandon my revision project in midstream just because the building was emptying (helped along by the gloomy skies and occasional heavy rain outside).  So I carried on for another hour.  Really, though, I was wondering if I had earned an early start to my weekend.  Even though I'd accomplished quite a bit during the week, I'd also enjoyed the summer's much more leisurely pace in its first full week.  I took two mornings off-campus to work on research, completing an intensive self-education in qualitative fieldwork methods.  And I spent a couple of late afternoons on my running, ducking out a few minutes early to get in a couple of miles before heading home for dinner.

When I finally did leave, fully two hours before official closing time, it was a strangely joyless moment.  I actually lingered, packing up my things, rather than racing for the car and freedom.  Normally I enjoy the Friday afternoon start to my weekend wholeheartedly, celebrating the sharp distinction between the difficult, time-consuming obligations of my work and the relaxing pursuits of my leisure time.  It's one of the lessons that needs reiteration throughout life, lest one imagine that a life comprised solely of avocations would be equally as fulfilling: without contrast, that singular joy is dampened.

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