12 October 2011


I don’t have much else to report today about reviewing what I’ve written so far as I look for commonalities and question what I think is dissertation worthy and what isn’t, if what I’m writing makes sense or if I’m wandering down paths that can be left for other projects or abandoned altogether. I imagine putting up signs that say road closed or under construction J Because I am likely to simply rehash a lot of what I wrote yesterday if I talk about review (even the word review suggests that is what I’d be doing!), I’m going to write instead about what the rest of my week may or may not look like.

I mention the rest of my week here because tomorrow marks the beginning of Fall Break at my university. This may be a new concept to folks who are reading me who attend universities outside of the deep South. Or at least I don’t remember having a Fall Break at the universities I attended in the Northeast. But Fall Break is exactly what it sounds like, a holiday in the academic calender for Faculty, Students, and Staff (? I am actually uncertain about the latter group of people: how sad) to relax and not think about school for a few days. Or that is the theory anyway. Many of us use the couple of extra days off to catch up on work we’ve been neglecting, whether that is dissertation writing, conference paper writing, lesson planning, or any number of academic-related projects that have been on the back burner since the semester began. Some of us don’t see much change in our daily routine over these couple of days off as a result. Up until today, I have been thinking of my break like this, though I nonetheless look forward to this time each and every year since I’ve been a graduate student.

As I write this entry, I am thinking of the many possibilities that Fall Break offers me. Even though I do plan on working on my dissertation each day, I think that I can find ways to make this time enjoyable. I can sleep in, for instance. Like many of us do on the weekends, I consider the prospect of having a longer lie in than I am accustomed to a real luxury. I may even build some naps into my days. This is a trick I picked up from an article on vacations that I read in a travel magazine that I have taken to heart.

Or since I do not have to worry about work-related responsibilities for several days, I can devote some of that time to things I would like to do but otherwise cannot. I’ve mentioned that I like to draw in previous posts, and I’ve been missing that quite a bit lately. I like to cook and bake, so I could do something a bit more extravagant in that area. Autumn always reminds me of the pumpkin-n- molasses cookies the mom of a friend from my undergraduate years would make us at Halloween. I do not have the amazing recipe to those, but I am sure I could find something similar online and try my hand at them. Or I could take my dog Jersey on some extra long walks and enjoy the fine weather we’ve been having. I could do all of these things, in fact. But I’m not sure how much I will ‘indulge’ myself. I sometimes find that I enjoy the thought of thinking of all the things I might do rather than actually doing them. For once I have done them, I can feel a bit of a let down. What next!?! I’ve done everything I imagined myself doing! I don’t like the idea of a holiday being a check list of things to do, because that very much feels like how I spend my working days, as a number of tasks to be accomplished before I can relax. But the point of a holiday-or at least this is what I want the point of one to be-is to be able to break out of my habits and take a route through each day that I otherwise wouldn’t have taken. Some of the best holidays I’ve ever had are those for which I did not have a set itinerary. My first trip to Europe was like this. My brother and I participated in an exchange program at a university in England for the Fall term that year (so did the friend whose Mom’s cookies I mentioned above!). We took about three weeks before the term started to travel. Not only did we not plan which cities we were going to visit, but we also did not plan on how many days we’d spend each place we visited. This is not to suggest that we did not pack a lot into those three weeks. But we spent an extra day or two in places we had imagined only quickly passing through, while we decided to cut short our stay in other places because they weren’t as appealing as we had envisioned they would be. I believe we spent four whole days in Paris, though we had no intention of doing so.

I have always felt as though that first trip to Europe profoundly changed the kind of person that I was. With the retrospect of fifteen years, I am no longer certain just how much I changed because of that trip. I think graduate school has had a far greater impact on who I am, which makes sense, as we’re talking about nearly a decade of study as opposed to one semester of it (and I did not study nearly as hard as I ought to have during that term abroad). Which is not to imply that profound changes cannot hit you all of a sudden, because they certainly can. Regardless, I think that trip does say quite a lot about how I like to spend my down time and how I can get the most out of it. So I once again find myself with no concrete plan as to what I may or may not do over the next four days. And I cannot help but smile at that prospect, which is quite a change from how I felt when I wrote yesterday’s entry, since that, too, was about not knowing what the future holds for me. I suppose the difference is I am thinking of the unknown today as pleasurable, as an opportunity to enjoy myself rather than as an indefinite amount of work I still have to do before I can once again rest.

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