My last final exam for the winter quarter finished about an hour ago, but the end-of-quarter restlessness set in this morning. Until it lifts, I forget that teaching classes puts a subtle but constant weight on your shoulders. For example, I’m almost always aware of my email during the quarter. A delay of as little as a few hours in a reply to a student’s question can impact whether they make progress or not, which makes a big difference for the novice programmers I teach in terms of frustration and engagement. So during the quarter checking my email is almost always in the back of my mind. When I’m between quarters there is much less chance that I’ll get a message that can’t wait 12 hours to be answered. The lifting of just that pressure leaves me feeling almost giddy, and with the new feeling of freedom comes a form of restlessness.
The only time I’ve experienced something similar is when my daughter goes on a sleepover, leaving me with a large hole in my usually tightly-scheduled day. I want to do all the things that are typically difficult to do, which in the case of my home life means going to movies or for long walks. In the work situation, the equivalent desires are to work on my existing research projects or start new ones or even just think about what conferences or trips I have planned or could plan. I get almost itchy with the possibilities, in no small part because I know the time until my daughter comes back or I get two more classes full of students brimming with questions is short. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy the responsibilities of being a parent and a professor. But I also enjoy just being Amber, and indulging the latter is much rarer. So if I contact you with crazy ideas in the next 10 days, try to have patience with me.