balance · summer

Big Summer Plans

The end of April usually looks something like this:

  • finish grading 
  • send plagiarism cases to the department for investigation
  • submit grades 
  • hold breath to see if students will petition grades and require follow up 
  • breathe a sigh of relief that term is over 
  • start madly writing conference papers and packing lists
  • plan my impossible summer to-do list whilst simultaneously panicking about not being able to get it all done before Labour Day rolls around

This year, I said no to all of that, or at least to the parts that come after “breathe a sigh of relief.” Yes, I’m still going to Congress and DHSI like always. Yes, I’ve still got an academic summer to-do list. I’m going to finish up a couple of articles that I’ve had on the back-burner for awhile, write as much of my dissertation as I can, see about pitching some more book reviews (since it turns out that we need more reviews by and about women, I love reviewing and I’m good at it), and start planning the course I’m teaching in the fall.

But you know what? That list isn’t the really important one. Because I’ve spent too many summers sitting in my office, the library, or an archive in a city that I don’t really want to be in. Long days of work that stretch longer as the sun stays out, wishing I was out enjoying my city and the light. So this year, the important list of things I want to do with my summer looks like this:

  • take my books and my notebook to the beach as many days as I can possibly manage and soak up the sounds of water while I work in the sun
  • play in my garden
  • play in my kitchen, ideally with things I’ve grown in the garden
  • spend long evenings on patios surrounded by folks I like
  • explore the whole half of my city that I tend to forget is there
  • say no to work-related trips that aren’t absolutely necessary so I don’t have to spend time wishing I was home
  • read books that have nothing to do with work but that make me excited about language
  • write things that have nothing to do with work but that make me excited about language
  • watch terrible summer action movies on the big screen, sometimes at dinnertime so that I can pretend that popcorn is totally an appropriate meal for a grown woman
  • watch pickup baseball games in the park with a picnic
  • continue to perfect my (already pretty perfect) homemade ice cream recipe

What I hope will happen is that I roll into Labour Day tanned, relaxed, and feeling like, in the words of Anne Wilkinson, I’ve “peel[ed] the skin of summer/ With [my] teeth/ And suck[ed] its marrow from a kiss.” And you know what? I’ll probably get more, and better, work done this summer than I do when it’s all about push and panic. Isn’t that always the way?

So tell me, dear readers: what are your big summer plans, academic and otherwise? How do you approach work-life balance over the summer?

2 thoughts on “Big Summer Plans

  1. When you become senior, you get more to do. But, to do this job long-term, I think that you need vacation time. Here's what I'm doing: writing two conference papers by next week, writing notes for a couple of panels, doing a tenure review, writing an article. But for part of every day, I garden. For vacation, my partner, the dog and I are going camping for two weeks. Then we are back here working, but there will be lots of dog walks, bike rides, runs and some festivals. Balance is everything!


  2. I have to move, so I backed out of my summer conferences. That is one point in favor of the life side of my work/life balance. The person I work with also recommended I focus more on publications, anyway. So over the summer, for work, I have focus groups to conduct, four articles to write with someone else, another to revise, then half a dozen of my own to revise to send out, SSHRC and OGS applications to put together, possibly a comps list to put together and a (tentative) dissertation committee to piece together. Some exit interviews as well, I think, to conduct. I feel like I am missing something here. . . For the life side of the equation I am spending a month at home with my family so I can visit with my brother, spend time with my favorite cats, and take the dog for jogs pretty much every day. My aunt is coming in from Oregon so I will visit with her as well (it has been years). I may try to attend a horse show or two if my cousin is competing 🙂 Then I'll try to go to the gym regularly and maybe take some belly dancing and yoga classes. Then meditation, and general summer lazing. I hope to get at least half of that stuff done.


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