The spring quarter ended last week, and today I submitted the last of my spring quarter grades. With that begins the shift into summer. First are all the awkward conversations with non-academics about what it is that you do during the summer, a topic I’ve discussed previously. As you do that, there’s the academic year clean-up: assessment reports, lingering recommendations and nominations for awards, cleaning out the hugely backed-up inbox, etc. Finally, you get to the summer to-do list, which can include writing papers, book chapters, and other long-overdue scholarly articles, reading papers that you accumulated during the year but never had time to consider, attending conferences, and when you’re lucky, working on new research projects.
But the best part of summer is that you get to stop doing what feels like 24/7 crisis management. During the academic year there are always imminent deadlines, something that requires your attention right now. Those deadlines seem to especially propagate during the spring quarter, as the academic year winds down and everyone runs out of time to do what it is that they said they would. Reaching the summer break allows you to step back and breathe a bit. Yes, you’re still working most days, sometimes even long hours. But there are days when you can blow off your work without having to pay for it the next day with double the deadlines and stress. This ability to work peacefully is the biggest gift of summer.