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People who don't know any academics seem to think that once classes end, professors get the summers "off" to sit around smoking pipes and reading arcane books on useless subjects. This is not at all true.(Pipes! As if.) Between committees, conference papers, meetings, and fieldwork prep, today is the first day in two weeks where I can honestly say: there is nothing I *have* to do right now.

This is deeply unsettling for me. I don't know what to do with myself.

I think I'll end up sitting on my porch reading manga to practice Japanese. Maybe later I'll sketch, or write, or watch body-horror sci-fi. But it's still up in the air at 2:00 in the afternoon, which is unusual for someone as schedule-dependent as I am.

Feel free to gag me with my own silver spoon here, but it makes me feel guilty to take time off. It feels like slacking, even on a holiday long weekend (in Canada. All hail the lingering ghost of Queen Victoria!) After getting accustomed to 10-hour work days 7 days a week during my PhD and first year of teaching, I've developed a chronic inability to relax. I think this is an endemic problem among grad students and academics, especially in cultural studies/film/lit/fine arts where our hobbies become our jobs.

Sometimes, it's a glorious thing to be watching a film or anime and taking notes and planning lectures, and then think: "oh man, I get to delve into this fascinating work as my job! Sweet!" But at other times, it's so nerve-wracking to be watching anime and taking notes and planning lectures and think: "damn, I wish I could just sit back and enjoy this. Now, how am I going to convey to 55 undergrads who know nothing about Japanese culture or the global media industry that this is actually important to study seriously?" You risk burning out your love. You risk play becoming work, and pleasure becoming stress.

Happily, I'm not burned out yet. I still enjoy anime and manga in my spare time. (Current shows: Sakamichi no Apollon and Tsuritama; current manga Nana and Fujoshi no Honkai). But it's different now. Anime is not my all-consuming obsession. I find I have to do other things, like writing my own fiction, to relax. Maybe this is a sign of balance? Or maybe I'm just a bad fan now that I've sold out to the Establishment?

For anyone who studies or works on what you love: how do you handle the work/play overlap? Is it best to keep the professional and personal sides of it separate, or meld them?


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April 2014

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