I am someone who works tirelessly and generally very regularly. I am very disciplined and controlled, laser-focused on whatever I am doing at the time, intense. At times however, I am struck by an inability to get things done. These moments of paralysis are not unique to me, but common among academics. I have found that they are often the aftermath of a period of intensive productivity or creativity.
Academic life seems tantalizingly bucolic from the outside. Professors appear to have a lot of time to spend “idly.” This, however, is a complete misconception about what the profession is all about. A tenure-track or tenured professor deals with criticism everyday and is involved in research, teaching or service. All of these are relatively lonely practices, so the academic is used to self-motivating, often, as I said, in the face of intense scrutiny and criticism.
Now, you will point out examples to me of tenured professors who have “checked out” from their responsibilities or become bitter or jaded. You may tell me that these people are not very productive and don’t care. You tell me that they are protected by unions and tenure. Well, I wouldn’t disagree that there is a small minority in the profession who behave this way – people who feel a sense of entitlement, who don’t realise that everyday as an academic really is a privilege paid for by citizens who entrust their treasure and their youth to your guidance, mentorship and formation. But, allow me to tell you that this really is a minority position. I know of very few such lazy, jaded professors – especially at McMaster. In fact, we don’t have even have a union! I am very proud of my chosen profession and my colleagues.
So, for me, after an intense year and doubly intense spring, I took a couple of weeks off at the beginning of July. It’s really the first time that I do this in years – I haven’t had a real vacation since 2008. Although it was something of a staycation, it did allow me to recharge my mind – watch tv shows, go for walks, cook for myself.
Now I am back to work! And it does feel like a pleasure to be back. I am ready to write for the rest of the summer, as well as work on the several administrative projects I have taken on at the university and on boards in the nonprofit sector. Ready to get back to consulting as well.
It feels good to have checked out for a bit, but like many workaholic academics, I am actually happier to be back at it! Life feels exciting again and fulfilled – full of the potential for research discovery and human growth through teaching and service.
It’s good to be back.