Thursday, April 15, 2010


T.S Eliot was right, people, April is the cruellest month. It is the month when academics find out how people with "real" jobs live. This is the last and the most difficult month of the academic year. In April, we get to work - the horror, the horror! - every day of the week and often 8 or more hours a day. There is some poetic justice to how tough April is for academics. If I survive until April 29 (the last day of class for me), I will be free to indulge in my love of procrastination for the next four months. Imagine not doing anything and still getting my regular salary. Isn't that beautiful?

It's only April 15th today and already I feel completely wiped out. I have no idea how other people deal with this life-style 50 weeks of the year.

In order to avoid the hard work of April plunging me into depression, I engage in the practices of psychological hygiene. For example, this Sunday will be my birthday. I need to be in a decent psychological shape to enjoy and celebrate it. For this reason, I am freeing up Saturday for various self-pampering activities. My schedule for Saturday includes very long baths, hours of watching television, practicing my hobby of cooking something absolutely extravagant, sleeping, and staring stupidly at the ceiling. I don't care how many ungraded papers, unprepared classes, and abandoned paperwork accumulate in the meanwhile.

People need to think about their mental health a lot more than they do, in my opinion. Bringing yourself to a breaking point because you feel that you need to fulfill all your responsibilities is ultimately an exercise in utter irresponsibility.


Melissa said...

When you talk about how little you have to work, does that time include research/scholarly writing? Or are you only counting the time you spend preparing for class, teaching and grading?

MPMR said...

First-time commenter: this post really got under my skin.

I'm an academic, and I work at least 60 hours a week, and my school year ends May 25th, and I teach during the summer as well. The stereotype of academic jobs as laid-back and/or cushy really bugs me. I love my job, and I am privileged to have excellent health insurance, but it's not easy, it's not light on hours, and it's not poetic justice for me that it's hard.

I agree with your point about taking time for mental health, and I recently set Saturdays as an "off-limits to school work" day to try to take better care of myself. As an academic who works her ass off at a REAL JOB, I just want to say that your experience does not speak for the whole community of academics.

Clarissa said...

Melissa: I am very dedicated to research and produce a lot in that respect. But it doesn't really feel like work to me. :-)

Clarissa said...

MPMR: I know very well that my experience of working in academia is very different from other people's. The reason why I went into academia was to indulge my love of proscrastination. :-) I think that anybody can turn this career into a wonderful layabout experience. I have written several posts on how to do that. Of course, many people are simply not lazy, so my experience is not for them.

Welcome to the blog!

Clarissa said...

Also, I was offered to teach in summer but I adamantly refused to do it because this job makes no sense to me unless summers are completely free. Everybody else is free to choose to work in summer if their priorities are different. It is, however, absolutely possible to work only 7 months out of a year if you are a TT professor.

MPMR said...

If I weren't supporting my family, I wouldn't teach in the summers either. I'd love the time off! Hopefully at some point in the future, I can do that.

Oh, and in case you're curious how I came to your blog, it's aggregated at

Anonymous said...

I'm exhausted, too. I had formerly thought October was the worst month -- all the deadlines -- but one is still fresh then. I get it about April.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. In my view the two first months of the semester are the worst. We often do not know our students, we have to adapt to them and they have to adapt to us.

I am also much more demanding and severe in the first weeks of the semester. This is when my students learn that my class is not a free ticket to receiving an A. Because of that, I can relax in the second half of the semester. In April, I prepare lighter classes to give me time to grade paper and exams. This time of the year is the best for me.

The summer procrastination thing works if you are on a TT job. I am one of those many professors with a precarious job, and I must find another job to survive this summer. Maybe I should travel to Edwardsville and accept the job you do not want to do?:)


Clarissa said...

It's not class preparation or paper grading that bring me down. It's the endless, almost daily faculty and committee meetings. Of course, nobody wants to do this stuff during the semester, so it accumulates like crazy by the end of the academic year. Also, calls for papers in several academic journals and conferences have as their final date April 15. If it weren't for these particular things, I wouldn't suffer as much.

And, of course, you should come by here any time you want. I hope one day you will, even though right now is not a good moment for that for you. :-)