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Saturday, May 20, 2017

The toll on the body

Since I don't usually post when the semester is over, I don't usually record what happens within the first ten days or so after it's all over. Not only do I deal with the occasional whining email, not only do I battle with myself about whether to work or not: my body generally goes through a profound spell of near collapse. I nap a lot. I don't want to move much. It's hard to summon the energy to do more than one minor thing in a day--and sometimes not even that. Today, I went to the dentist and did my grocery shopping for the week, and most of the rest of the day, I've spent on the sofa, reading, trying not to nap because I don 't want to interfere with tonight's sleep. I go to bed late, and I sleep late.

When people envy teachers and think we have such a cushy life, this is what they're talking about: the fact that I can do this, and that I can do it with impunity over the next few months. What is difficult to explain to anyone who hasn't been through it is 1) that the work continues, albeit sporadically, and generally not in the office and not on a specific time schedule, and 2) that the semesters are exhausting enough, mentally, that this kind of physical collapse is almost required.

I know many people work much harder, physically and mentally, and don't get the breaks we do. And I know many teachers--many of my colleagues--don't need the summer collapse but are perfectly happy to keep teaching pretty much straight through. I am blessed, and in many ways my life is indeed cushy. But it's not quite as easy as people think. Easier than many lives, I grant, but not quite what people imagine.

So when I am asked whether I work over the summer, I always reply, "I work, but I don't teach." And that's true.

Right now, my work is to rest, to recover some energy--and to wipe my memory of a lot of the frustrations and disgruntlement left at the end of the academic year so I can be at least relatively cheerful and positive heading into the fall. I don't have the boundless (and delusional) optimism I used to have, but I have at least a little. Enough to get me going.

I do want to post over the summer this year, just to track when and how I do work--or what else I do with my time in my "time off." This, too, is part of life in the trenches: the part when the bombs stop going off for a while, and there is a lull. I may not post daily (that would require a kind of discipline I lack), but more frequently than I have in the past. And yes, some of that is my awareness of how my readership drops off when I go AWOL for a while. I'm a glutton for those "page views." But some of it is that I want to be more aware myself of what I do with the time when I am not actively teaching. Perhaps I can make better use of that time in terms of recharging my batteries, if I pay a little more attention. We'll try it and see.

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