It’s approaching the Christmas break and my head is frazzled. At home I am frantically trying to tick off christmas present lists, create food shopping lists, write a ridiculous number of christmas cards, take the little one to see Santa (and every winter wonderland experience around), put up Christmas decorations and keep on top of the housework as friends and family pass through our home on the run up until the big day. It’s exhausting. As a full time lecturer I am also finishing the last classes for the semester, repeatedly going over assignment help, dealing with stressed out demanding students (just as challenging as dealing with the over-excited christmas junkie toddler), preparing for exams and clearing my inbox as quickly as I can. It’s also exhausting. These things are all driving me round the bend and I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to Christmas Eve; sitting with my feet up in front of the TV, a glass of bubbly , PJs on, knowing that for 48 hours everything will just stop and I can spend quality time with the family. Only this year I’m doing something very different, I’m not switching off for 48 hours, I’m switching off for 2 whole weeks.
Whilst everyone is always busy in the run up to Christmas, there’s something else that haunts academics in my experience, that is, guilt. I hold my hands up, this has been me in the past, feeling guilty for not finishing that journal article off, feeling guilty for not having all my lectures written for the next semester, feeling guilty for not arranging that meeting with the external partners. Guilt in academia is what I see as seriously damaging, why should I feel guilty for not doing these things? Surely I should feel more guilty for not spending every waking moment with my family while I can? But I have made this mistake in the past, that lull between the 26th and 31st Dec I have often found myself ‘just finishing’ that piece of work off or putting together some lectures for the January start. Not this year. You see there’s something different about Christmas holidays than summer or spring holidays in academia – that is, everyone is off for a large part of the end of December. The University doors are locked, the students aren’t on campus, you don’t need to worry about missing a meeting that might be taking place or be concerned about how many emails you are sending out of office replies to. It’s the time of year we can just stop but not enough of us do.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have a tonne of work I could do whilst on leave; I have a new module to write, a research bid to submit, 2 journal articles to draft. But I’m not doing any of it and I won’t be made to feel guilty for that, because if I do I know I will regret it in the long run. I have spoken a lot about choices in my previous blog posts and once again I come back to it – I am choosing to put me and my family before the demands of the job. I will switch off my email and PC on the 23rd December and it won’t be switched back on until the 9th January, and every time the thought cross my mind to check my inbox, I shall punish myself with a large glass of wine 🍷😉. Christmas 2016 will be spent making cookies, desperately trying to cut toys out of their packaging (seriously, what is with toy packaging these days!), building lego, getting the sellotape off the cat’s tail, singing cheesy christmas tunes and trying hard not to burn the roast potatoes. I want to start 2017 going sales shopping, planning the weekend breaks, a bit of re-decorating and catching up with friends. My christmas and new year will not be spent working on papers or lectures, those can wait.
We are lucky in academia that we can switch off,unlike a lot of other professions who are on 24/7 call, we should be grateful for that, and make best use of our time. How many of our service personnel would love to be home this Christmas, how many of our doctors, firefighters and police officers will be called away from the turkey dinner to attend to other peoples’ emergencies. Nothing in academia is an emergency. So let’s not worry about what work is waiting on our desks in January, it can wait. Let’s make sure we give our loved ones and those in need our attention this year, because I know for sure who I’ll get the thanks from.
So my motto this year is “screw you academia – I’m switching off”
Merry Christmas Everyone and a Very Happy New Year