Vacation: A Hard Reboot

Vacation for This Academic {New Faculty}

I took (almost) two weeks for vacation this year. It was great. Seriously.

I went home for a full week. I even extended my stay after being bribed with a Friday night fish fry (duh, easy decision) and stayed another day. The pace of the farm is totally different than the pace of academia. The cows need to be fed, milked, and cared for. The garden needs to be picked, the corn needs to be checked. The hay needs to be mowed, tedded, and raked before being baled, and everything runs on the weather. If it’s going to rain, you work like hell. If it doesn’t rain, you still work like hell. If it’s actually raining, you work on other stuff like there’s no tomorrow. It’s all immediate during the summer. It’s never a waiting game (unless it’s raining).

The pace of the farm suits me. I like the immediate gratification, the constant pace, the feeling of happiness fed calves have, the quiet of the cows when they’re out to pasture and everyone is happy, healthy, and grazing.

I came back to my house and spent a solid day cleaning. Not just cleaning my house, but looking after tasks that have been neglected: cleaning out closets, sorting things, organizing things, and making runs to the local YMCA to rid myself of some of my physical clutter, which made my mental clutter also improve. I had things in piles, but the piles were becoming burdensome to look at. It forced me to look at “my stuff” for a few hours and realize: I have enough. More than enough. Like most Americans, I had more than I needed. I even spent a little time decorating my place. I’ve only lived here for four years and a friend gifted me some corner shelves when he moved. I had put nothing on them, I had not dusted them, they were simply sitting there. I puppysat my friend, Henry, and his puppy mom gave me some beautiful gifts as a “thank you” which went perfectly on them. It motivated me to pretend someone actually lives in this home for more than showers and TV time.

I have made a habit of having a “eat out of my cupboards” every few weeks. Instead of keeping an overstocked pantry of dry/canned goods, I would eat only out of them and not buy any other dry goods. I would allow myself to buy things like fresh eggs and milk because I do consume them every day and in larger quantities. I need to remind myself of the same for my “stuff” in life too: visiting what I do have. I purchased only one “thing” to decorate my shelves, a new flowerpot for some cuttings I brought back from NY, so it’s a useful purchase, not a frivolous one and the cuttings are in it on the shelf.

The same can be said for academia (getting to my long winded point now). I have a skill set. I have a really good one, but it’s often forgot because many of my colleagues share a similar skill set and some have had more years to work on it than I have. I like the gratification of helping, of serving, of observing good things happening. Sometimes, I get bogged down in the tedious waiting game of academia (I have NO patience people) but know it’s a necessary part of the game. The two weeks I spent on vacation satisfied so many levels of my psyche that I was actually sad to go back to work. I spent a whole day in my house not leaving for anything. I colored (you’ve got to get yourself a Johanna Basford coloring book stat), I watched endless things on my apple tv, I actually relaxed. It was a good counter day to the week of busy, the days of cleaning and organizing, and the lull was welcome because the next day, I was back at it. I left the house anyway 🙂

I could have gone with friends to their lake house during my second week of vacation, but it would not have been good for me. Great people, but 10 kids and six adults for a week would have over stimulated me into a frenzy. Not to mention the additional hours of driving (20+ over a week) were not what I was looking for. I “staycationed” like a boss. I needed the continual schedule disruption and it soothed my soul on many levels. I love the quiet but I covet some good social interactions. I needed a break, but I needed to clear my plate and my head.

I hope you took some time off this year too. I’ve printed my syllabi for fall to begin the process of updating them and grad students will be on campus beginning next week. Summer is OVER, time for the GRIND!

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