A single bare tree in the foreground, with mist shrouding other trees in the distance; frost covers the grass

The Holidays in Academia

Not all of my posts here will be long, introspective rants or thoughts about tech. Sometimes I’m just going to flat out complain. I’d worry about it more if the function of this blog weren’t to be a sort of dumping ground for words to help me get writing the stuff I actually need to write a little easier, but it is, and I don’t. Hell, to be utterly honest, I’m pretty sure that if you’re reading this, you’re possibly the only one to have ever read this. Good for you. Uncharted territory is good for your soul, and venting is good for mine.

I used to absolutely love Christmas. I’m not even talking about when I was a kid; I’m talking when I was straight out of my undergraduate education and I was working at Hastings1 over the holidays. That’s right: I loved Christmas even when I worked retail. That’s how hardcore I am about the holiday. Even to this day, there are only two or three Christmas songs I can’t stand, and I know how to make fruit cake. Ho ho ho!

I still love Christmas a lot, too, but it’s become a lot harder to get into the spirit of things since I entered grad school. The timing is terrible, for one; the end of Fall semester and the final grade deadlines mean that a lot of the time I had spent decorating, baking, and being festive before now got sidetracked.

More than that, though, there’s a certain amount of apathy about the season that comes from being in a workplace that gets abandoned as one gets close to Christmas Day. I’m not saying that most folks don’t have a bit of time before Christmas, but in the academic realm, it’s usually a week and a bit where no one goes into the department except staff, who have to be there, and crazies who haven’t left town already (that would be me this year). In fact, time is often so short between the officially acceptable time for Christmas season to start (the moment that Santa shows up on TV on Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and not a moment before) and the end of the semester that most academics have almost no time for the usual holiday pleasantries between colleagues.

Another point, and one that should not be overlooked, is that long breaks like winter and summer are about the only time that academics get time off. Weekends and holidays during the semester are almost always just time to get caught up on something, be it teaching or scholarship or just doing laundry. Evenings are often dedicated to work, as well. Please don’t understand what I’m saying as “academics are antisocial” or “academics don’t care about work relationships”; there are some of us who are, but I’m certain that number doesn’t exceed that of any other comparable industry by any statistically significant margin. No, I’m just saying this because I want to be clear that I think my colleagues should spend that time away from the department and away from us because that means they’re probably spending that time with their families, which is a rare thing and should be appreciated. It just makes it hard to get into the Christmas spirit when you don’t have a family to go home to at night, yourself.

In any case, I promised this one wouldn’t be long. Suffice to say that I love Christmas, but the academic lifestyle has made that difficult for me for many years. I can only hope that once I finish the degree, I can get back to my jolly old self again. I have no doubt that when I finally successfully defend the dissertation, my heart will, indeed, grow three sizes.

Full disclosure: I read the post title in my head and it immediately falls into the tune of “Holiday in Cambodia.” I refuse to apologize for being me.

Also, the photo above was actually taken by me. Hooray!


1 Hastings was an American entertainment retailer based out of Amarillo, TX. They sold books, music, movies, video games, and other merchandise, but were forced into bankruptcy in 2016.

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