I’m not here for a conference, or for work of any kind, and though I have lugged 50 student final papers with me I am actually here…for vacation!
I can hardly believe it. In fact, as the title suggests, I kind of feel like I’m playing hooky. I feel like I should tell you that my wonderful Department Chair knows where I am (and that I am here for pleasure, not work–hi Christy!), that my TAs are not being exploited (hi Matt! Hi Vanessa!), and that I have been preparing my students for departure since, oh, October. I’ve had a term in which all the final assignments are papers rather than examinations, so there was no need to adjudicate or arrange for others to do this for me. In fact, some of my students don’t have papers due until 48 hours before I return, so there’s plenty of time to grade and submit before the deadline. I feel like I should tell you all this because I left town the day after classes ended.
Why does this feel so illicit?
I can only speak for myself of course, but I have to say that it feels illicit because I am not used to taking a vacation. Since I entered graduate school back in 2002 I because accustomed to working 6-7 days a week with few breaks, and with those breaks feeling wrong. They were haunted by the sense that I should be doing something. Writing. Reading. Grading. Something.
But I’ve been learning (yes, I am late to the game on this ‘revelation’) that taking a real vacation is part of my work.
One of my favourite poets (and most inspiring bloggers) Sina Queyras has written about the need for movement because it is essentially kinesthetic thinking. It seems to me that this whole vacation thing is not so different from that. Sure, I’ll be thinking literary and cultural thoughts while we sit in the pub in Dorchester aka Thomas Hardy country. (Though frankly I’ll be thinking about how when I was in grade six Jude the Obscure was my favourite book… Is that weird?) I’ll be thinking about Emily Bronte (mostly about one of my brilliant students who is a huge fan of Wuthering Heights. Also I will likely think more about Anne Carson’s return to Bronte in “The Glass Essay,” which was the first poem that took my breath away when I was a Master’s student). But mostly I’ll just be on vacation.
Let me close by saying this: I’m writing about being on vacation because I tend to feel guilty about taking breaks, and maybe you do too. Guess what? We need ’em, and we need to give ourselves permission to take them. I hope you’re taking one soon.
Ps. Here’s me, with vacation hair (aka Forgot A UK Power Adaptor Hair), jet lag eyes, and Winchester Cathedral behind me. Sorry for the bad lighting, but iPhoto does not love the pale British sunlight that is creeping in my hotel window.