School has been out for almost two weeks, and I haven’t read a thing. I mean – I have a book open in front of me, and I intend to read all about Huey Long and the Great Depression tonight, but I have more pressing things to do first, as I have for the past couple of weeks. Right after I turned in my last grades and responded to the last student email, I did many of the little nagging things I haven’t been able to do all semester: I cleaned my house, shuffled around the furniture, took a load to Buffalo Exchange. That done, I baked some cookies and watched a little TV; during the next few days I went for runs, and I dared to sleep in and lounge around until noon. I went dancing multiple days in one week and saw people enough to remember their names and ask them about things we had talked about just a few days earlier. I went to work often enough that the same thing happened – and for a moment I remembered the thing I really loved about retail and my world before school: the closeness and amiability, and the repetition and teamwork and fascination with the everyday that fostered it.
Sometime that week I had a drink – ok, three – reasoning that even if I did wake up with a hangover, I didn’t have to do much thinking the next day. The boy and I went out to our old late-night haunt and had greasy food and joked around with the late-night servers. We slept in.
And then, finally, the luxury of having time to do laundry and take three hours to pack for a week back home in the motherland, where getting to know my niece and nephew and cooking my sister- and brother-in-law a couple of home-cooked meals trumps reading about long-ago events, hands down. Tonight, we had roast chicken and cheesy polenta; tomorrow I’m simmering chicken soup from scratch, since everyone has the flu or is recovering from it. And when they’re asleep (they crash out early), I get to tinker with Photoshop and watch movies and read a novel and finally – finally! – decompress enough to start thinking about what I want to do when I grow up and whether the path I’m on will get me to where I want to be.
I wrote a little while ago about how in school, we need to protect our free time for the unpaid work that will get us out of here; after two weeks of break, I’m remembering just how protective I was of my free time before I came back to school. I read novels; I learned about baking breads and cookies and cakes; I studied knitting techniques and designed and knitted sweaters with increasingly elaborate lacework. I watched a lot of film noir, and spent whole afternoons wandering in and out of junk shops and bookstores. I went on ridiculously long bike rides. I had time and energy to really be with my friends when I was with them – and I had a lot of time to be with them. I think if I had that much time again I would spend more time writing and more time volunteering, but otherwise these are things I miss – connecting with people and learning how to do things and just generally absorbing the world we live in.
My concern now is that academia, if I stay in it, won’t afford me the work-life balance that allows me to be a real person, with varied interests and a strong attachment to the real world. It hasn’t yet, and after almost four years, I’m beginning to worry that it won’t. Hence the procrastination.