Thursday, September 27, 2007

All or nothing

Sometimes I wonder whether I have, if not a death drive, then at least an impulse toward some of the milder forms of self-annihilation.

How else to explain the way I schedule my life?

In a typical week, I'm on campus Tuesday through Thursday and at home (or just, you know, elsewhere) Friday through Monday. It sounds like a sweet schedule and in many ways it is, especially since on Wednesdays I often don't go in until after noon. But what this means is that I am profoundly ON for several days--and those days are usually long and frantic--and then I'm OFF.

I work during the weekend, of course, but somehow most of my grading and course prep always gets left until Monday and I spend most of that day--and usually until 1 or 2 a.m.--finishing it. On Tuesday I rush to campus, where I spend nine hours (half of them jumping up and down in front of a classroom and the rest trying to be smiley and perky for my office hours or my colleagues), rush home, rush to my Italian class, inevitably have to stop by the grocery store, and finally return home at 10 p.m. looking like I've been beaten with the underside of a toboggan. Wednesday is another day of massive course prep and office hours and the occasional meeting. Thursday is a repeat of Tuesday, sans Italian.

And then? Ah, blessed freedom! Then it's all about sleeping in and puttering around the apartment and reading magazines and going out with friends. Sure, I get work done, but it gets done in the context of an essentially relaxed, unstructured day: a few hours here, a few hours there, and always with a spare half hour to check blogs or paint my toenails.

And honestly, I don't think I'd have it any other way. I love my leisurely days at home, and if the only way I can get them--or can feel I've earned them--is by bringing myself to the point of utter collapse on those other days, so be it.

Because it's not just about teaching or the exigencies of the academic schedule; I've always been like this. Many's the time I've been out all day running errands, and I'm starving and my feet hurt and I have to pee--and yet somehow I'll come up with five more things that I absolutely have to do before I go home. No, I can't get my drycleaning tomorrow--I'm out NOW! I have to get it NOW! And I need to get a ream of paper at Staples! And to swing by the drugstore! And finally I get home with a pounding headache and my hands shaking from hunger and in the foulest possible mood. . . but at least I've freed up the next day, or part of it, to do nothing.

Maybe it's that I feel the obligatory tasks must be got out of the way as soon as possible (as a kid I tended to eat my vegetables first for just this reason), or maybe it's that I have a strong reluctance to contaminate the more-fun with the less-fun.

Or maybe it's simply that inertia exerts a profound pull on me: a Flavia in motion tends to stay in motion, and a Flavia at rest tends to stay at rest.

(Speaking of which, dudes: I gotta cut this short. There's a bottle of whiskey and a DVD with my name on them.)


~profgrrrrl~ said...

Wow. I get it. The schedule and the crash and burnness of it all. Yeah.

Anonymous said...

Oooo, I really liked this post, and appreciate your writing about your preferred rhythms. It can be hard to figure out what we're doing by default and what we're doing by preference.

When I can, I tend toward the pattern you describe. Lately, I've been leaning toward getting up really early (4 am) either in order to grade like crazy before I go in to do a loooong day of prepping and teaching and office hours etc., or to luxuriate in the sense of unpressured time with no phone calls and no emails. This is often very good writing time, but sometimes it's goof-off time, and I enjoy it.

And "beaten with the underside of a toboggan": hee hee!

phd me said...

Yes! This is exactly the way I operate. The days I'm on campus are so packed, I can't do anything but crash on the days I stay home. And the "staying out to run errands even though you can barely walk because you've been on your feet all day" - right there with ya.

Pamphilia said...

Me too! Except that I tend to feel profoundly guilty about enjoying myself so much when I'm "off" and could be working. Your post has liberated me. I'm so glad I'm not the only one.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I play the same basic game -- although add a Monday night class and a 7:45 T/Th class into the schedule.

I like it, and it suits how I like to work. I end up doing a lot of writing over the weekends when I'm home alone (long-distance hubby), or I can leave town on Thursday afternoon and not come back until Monday afternoon.