How are we supposed to turn off?

As I’m on vacation, this will be brief, and probably garbled, as the 3 hours I’ve been on vacation so far feels very surreal to me.  Like I’m occupying a borrowed body, as well as a borrowed home.

At any rate, I’ve arrived at my abode for the next week—a beautiful house in Margaretville—and I was just wondering why I seem to have such a hard time actually being on vacation.  I slept for most of the 4-hour bus ride up here, but between dreams and drafting for the Graphic Engagement conference, I caught my academic brain trying to come up with exercises for HCZ’s summer program, and I wonder if this has anything to do with the stay-cutting-edge-or-perish mindset of adjuncts in academia.  I’ve heard horror stories from lecturers about how tenured faculty don’t do this kind of brainstorming, or at most do it only rarely, whereas adjuncts—who are constantly concerned about being rehired—are constantly trolling the Internet for lesson plan ideas and devising inventive exercises and lesson plans that look good for faculty observation and that garner strong student evaluations at the end of the semester.

As such, I for one have developed the ability to constantly brainstorm for academia.  I carry a teaching notebook with me everywhere (a handy, portable little thing I got at Muji for a couple of bucks) and a PDA in which I write cryptic memos to myself: “Airplane Ex.” or “Crumpled Paper Ball Ex.” or “What if writing relays actually = running across the room?” and so on.  Most of my brainstorms revolve around discrete exercises that act as a hook for a lesson revolving around a given skill; a few are coherent lesson plans themselves.  But being constantly on is not exactly my idea of a vacation.  And yet, try as I might, I can’t seem to shut off my brain—even when I’m sleeping on a bus and dreaming about disciplinary actions I could successfully take into my rising-9th grade classroom.  Because when it hits 107 degrees and the walls are melting inside the un-air-conditioned P.S. 194, we are all going to be very, very angry.

Anyway, this brings me to my reason for this post.  As an adjunct, I live with the constant fear of unemployment and being too specialized to be hired anywhere else, and so I’ve made myself unable to stop brainstorming for work, no matter what else I’m doing.  So, academics, office workers, friends, comrades, and human beings or otherwise: how the bloody hell do you turn off?

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This work by V. Manivannan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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