I'm in day four of my nine-day-long Thanksgiving break and already I have observed a couple of interesting things. On Day 1, I was wandering around like the Ghost of Hamlet's Father, falling asleep every two hours and incapable of doing anything more productive than reading a trivial biography of Somerset Maugham. On Day 2, I felt like the Ghost of Hamlet himself and managed to complete simple tasks, such as, for example, staying awake for significant stretches of time. On Day 3, I wasn't anybody's ghost any more and felt ready to perform the role of Hamlet himself: still pale, weepy, and self-involved, but at least marginally alive and ready for protagonism. Then today, I finally woke up completely well-rested and even managed to finish some projects that I had been putting off for a while.
I mentioned before that the schedule this semester has been the hardest I ever experienced in my teaching career. When I think of it, what leaves me so completely wiped out isn't the number of hours I have to teach or the class preparation. It's the lack of time to read, think, write, and brood that makes me feel completely exhausted. On Mondays (and only on Mondays), I spend between 9 and 10 hours at work. Three of these hours are mine to do whatever I wish. Still, it takes me almost until the end of the week to recuperate from such a schedule. (I only have two more Mondays left to go and I solemnly promise to my readers not to mention this topic for at least another 1,5 years.)
It's really scary to consider how many people work this 9-hour schedule five days a week 50 weeks per year. I don't think that anybody can find time for any kind of intellectual and personal growth with such a schedule, especially if one's work is not extremely fulfilling. In many European countries, employers have started experimenting with flexible work schedules where employees are not required to be physically present in the office 40 hours a week every week. Sadly, American employers don't seem willing to get innovative in the way they organize the work process.