Tuesday, May 15, 2012


My summer is indeed busy. I will be home and non-conferencing for 17 non-weekend days between June 1 and August 31. Perhaps that explains the frisson of apprehension that accompanies the excitement.

I get a little oversensitive when talking to non-academics about the summer. Many believe that it is a vacation. It is in some ways -- I am not lecturing or preparing class syllabi (until August if I'm teaching in the fall). I do get some flexibility in location. But there is a fair bit of pressure to write and research and publish -- Lord knows that at a small liberal arts college that stuff doesn't happen during the academic year yet it's a significant portion of what goes into tenure and promotion decisions.

I don't have to worry about that, though, since I don't have a tenure-track job -- isn't that great?! Well, no; I won't get that tenure-track job if I don't do those things. When I'm being an honest Debbie Downer I say things like, "Sure, it's a vacation if I want to end up unemployed next year! Hahahah!" Responses like this start to step outside the bounds of polite conversation. People don't really want to hear about that -- they want to imagine that I'll spend the summer gardening. That justifies the low pay.

 So, summer. Fewer deadlines. More flexibility. The freedom to concentrate on things I choose rather than reacting to crises and requests from higher-ups in the academic tribe. Some pressure to perform. I do need to give myself a real vacation; the unrelenting knowledge that I could be doing something "useful" is not conducive to real creativity. I will certainly get more sleep at home and therefore be smarter. At conferences, I'll get less sleep and immerse myself entirely into mathematical endeavors like Frederick the mouse soaking up colors for winter.

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