It’s Memorial Day, which means the unofficial start of summer (with apologies to those working on the quarter system). For many academics, the start of summer also means turning to a predictable set of Summer Things, whether that means teaching summer session, managing kids’ child care challenges, or taking a vacation—and also trying to get a big chunk of research done.
But this year, it seems like all we have are questions, like what is summer session? and what is child care now? or for that matter, what is summer? and what is time?
Which brings us to other questions, like what’s happening this fall? and what’s happening right now? and how am I doing, really? (I’ve been trying to answer that last question honestly when asked, and it’s been really eye-opening to recognize that I have no idea how I’m doing.)
The problem is that we don’t have answers to these questions (or a bunch of others)—and we’re not going to get them anytime soon.
I don’t know about you, but I think part of my mental burnout is that my mind is struggling to answer these kinds of questions when there are no answers to be had. Much of what we have to do is wait—but we don’t know for how long.
So we have to simultaneously adjust to this new normal and sit in limbo, ready to adjust again when the next new normal comes along. And meanwhile, of course, people are getting sick and dying, the economy is whack, there’s no school or child care (or after-school activities!) and we’re trying to protect ourselves and our loved ones as best we can.
For about 90% of the people we’ve been talking to, this has been a pretty brutal combination for their academic productivity. (The remaining 10% have book deadlines and/or are able to use their work as a welcome distraction.) The past months have been a huge challenge to our resilience and stamina across the board, and even people I ordinarily compliment by saying things like “you are a research beast!” are just not finding the space, or time, or energy, or motivation for academic productivity.
And it’s not only that we have not gotten much done; it’s also that it’s really hard to imagine a way forward. Usually another characteristic of the transition to summer is burnout. What do we even call what’s happening now, much less recover some kind of inspiration to do research?
Let’s figure this out together.
We don’t understand what’s going on any better than anyone else, but we do have a knack for helping people dust themselves off, come up with a plan, and get started. And even get finished!
So even though we, like everyone, are taking this one day at a time, we’re officially launching our summer program on June 1.
If you’d like to join us, you can do it now or whenever you’re ready. Also: don’t feel like you have to already have found your momentum in order to join—that’s part of the point! Here are some ways to find us:
- We’ve started a Facebook group, Reclaim your research & writing (pandemic edition), where we’ll be checking in regularly all summer.
- If you’re interested in more concentrated support, our Studio Scholars Summer Session runs through August 29. Join anytime.
- You can always contact us or fill out our info form and get a 1:1 consultation about next steps.
And it’s worth saying explicitly: research may not be something you need or want to do, or even contemplate, this summer. You can also come back to it a month from now, or two months from now, or next fall. (And we’ll still be here for you whenever you’re ready.)