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By Colleen

Spring Break is coming up soon, and during Spring Break I will be traveling to where my spouse lives. Yes, we have the two-body problem: two academics with two different jobs living in two different states and spending a lot of time flying or driving across the country, texting each other between classes like twelve-year olds, and Skyping with lifted and annoyed pets to say “Hi!”  And during Spring Break, I will be doing what junior scholars do during Spring Break–presenting a paper, composing overdue book reviews, planning for when classes resume, and Netflix binging (Hello, President Underwood!). What I will not be doing is taking any grading with me. None.

To prepare for that, however, I needed to do some grading binge and purges over the last week (4 classes of three different preparations; two are Freshman Composition courses, so it’s constant grading of essays as well as shorter exercises). Yet, yesterday I took the day off. And it was glorious! And I felt guilty.

This semester I do not teach on Fridays, and I promised I would keep Fridays open for myself and  for my own reading, research, writing, revising, etc. I did that approximately once this semester. I did spend two other Fridays on “me” time, but granted one of those Fridays was my birthday and the other was a Galentine’s Day weekend in Philadelphia with one of my dearest friends from grad school, and although we only live 2 hours away from each other, we could not find the time to see each other even once last semester. That means the other three Fridays I broke the promise to myself and did lesson-planning, or grading, or last week’s never-ending student conferences.

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I took this Friday off! I slept in. I did laundry, and cleaned my room. I bought groceries and began rearranging my closet in hopes of spring weather. I took a late nap. In the evening I caught up on Downton Abbey and watched the season premiere of Girls. 

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My typical Monday morning

I completed what used to be a ritual for myself every Monday morning (and it’s a very Austenian ritual): make myself a pot of tea or a French press of coffee; look through my letters, emails, and Facebook birthday reminders; and then spend at least one leisurely hour writing out my correspondence. Yes, I do own stationary and cards, writing pens, stickers, and a variety of stamps, and I love writing out little notes for my friends and colleagues. But with the stress of the spring semester, I hadn’t written out thank you notes yet for my birthday presents, and I neglected to send a birthday card to one of my best friends on time. So I finally took the time to do this chore that I love doing.

I went and got my haircut, too. I hadn’t cut it since December and the last two inches were in bad shape as my hair is naturally very dry and curly, winter is brutal on my hair, and I flat iron the shit out of my head most days. Cute little flapper-style bob (a little Lady Mary, a bit Taylor Swift’s new-do, a touch of Phrynne Fisher, and just a pinch of early Dana Scully–and when they did the complementary make-up refresher, the bronze eyeshadow is completely Scully).

So, it was a good day. But it was also an awful day. As grad students and early career scholars, we only *work *a set limit a day. On paper, I teach 12 hours a week and have an additional 5 hours of office time, so it looks like I work part-time. In reality, I prep for classes an additional 15 hours or so a week (because I have one brand new prep and I’m re-reading Brit Lit just two classes ahead of the students), then there is grading at anywhere from 5-15 hours a week depending on if it’s just quizzes or major essays coming in; there are emails to answer at another 1-2 hours per day; and then general paperwork issues–updating attendance rosters, emailing students to inform them they are failing and should drop, creating groups for discussions, drafting handouts for classes, etc. at another 3-5 hours per week.  So, it was an awful day because I set all this aside for a day and worked on myself instead. But it was a wonderful day.

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Outfit Specs: Black Trench (Banana Republic); Sunglasses (Betsey Johnson); Sweater (Old Navy); Pants (LOFT); Boots (Target, “Colleen”); Guilt (my own); Haircut (Warm Springs Salon); lips (Aveda “Poppy”)

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