Yesterday was my last day as an Associate Professor at a major university in Tennessee. I do not yet know the day on which I will become a professor in South Africa; I need to get a visa before I can begin my new position. As a result I am, quite literally, between jobs.
It has been quite a long time since I had an extended interval without major responsibilities. Between my post-doc appointment and my faculty post, I had essentially no time beyond what I needed to move. The same was true between graduate school and my post-doc. My last free interval was between my undergraduate commencement (May, 1996) and starting graduate school (September, 1996). I began that summer at home in Kansas City, and I took a temporary job as a Fox Pro database programmer at a local transportation company to acquire a bit more work experience (the company went out of business shortly thereafter). During the tail end of that summer, my parents and I drove our cars in a caravan to Seattle, where I purchased and equipped my first home. All in all, the summer of 1996 was a busy one, despite the freedom from coursework.
The summer of 2015, by contrast, feels quite empty, at the moment. I should be careful saying “summer,” though, because Cape Town is currently enduring winter. I envision at least two months before starting my position in South Africa, so my 2015 will form this sequence: winter, spring, summer, spring, summer! Ten weeks would be quite a lot of time to fill.
Even though I’m off the payroll at my former institution, you can be sure that I have some tasks that remain on my desk from it. The most pressing is a manuscript on behalf of a working group from a major grant. Yesterday I committed myself to finishing that manuscript by the middle of September. Frankly, it will probably be a good thing to have a solid deadline to motivate the completion of that project. I’d feel very guilty about promising my friends a manuscript if I didn’t complete it. That task, then, is about relationships rather than money.
The new job will certainly have responsibilities in advance of the move, as well. Simply completing all the visa paperwork will be quite substantial, and there are workshops and collaborations to plan, too. For a while, I expect to be riding two horses at once (may I have the grace of the pictured stunt rider)! Happily, this open time will allow me some opportunities for travel, and I look forward to producing albums of photos from these trips.
I hope to waste some of the time, too. Perhaps I can develop my skills for sleeping late, and surely I can find some time to return to Civilization III, the finest video game ever produced. I also hope to immerse myself in Starcraft II, since I loved the original so much.
Who knows when my next chance to relax will come?