I was recently talking with a friend of mine about my summer plans. I am going to be heading to China for a couple of weeks giving workshops at a university, teach a couple of classes, work as an adviser for freshman and transfer students, edit a book project, work on another research project for a summer grant I received, create a couple of lectures for some groups coming to campus, review books for a significant award, and some other miscellaneous projects (And they say that teachers take their summers off…..myth #1).
A lot of these activities come with some financial incentive. I get extra money for the advising, teaching, lectures, etc. When I told my friend that I was doing this he remarked that you need to relax a bit and asked why I don’t take some time off because I certainly have earned it.
The truth is I am going to take a little break because we have some friends coming into town the last week of July (can’t wait to see them). We will be traveling around New England where we live enjoying the summer. And I am sure I will be doing small trips with Mrs. ROB and the like, but I have no plans for a large vacation to some exotic location as some of my other friends have planned. As I reflected on his comment I am glad that he thinks I work hard. I don’t think that it is that big of a deal, but my initial reaction to his comment was that yes I have earned a bit of a break. But the more I thought about it, I realized that he is mistaken. In my mind, I haven’t earned anything. I don’t deserve a break.
Here are a couple of reasons for that mindset. First, some of things I do during the summer I just consider part of my job. I don’t get paid to do research or some of the other service activities I do, but it is still part of my job. As a member of a larger intellectual community I feel like I have to contribute to that community in some way. This is part of the reason I do research or participate on an award committee or help others out. It is part of my job and I, for the most part, enjoy doing it.
The bigger reason for this extra work is that I have created a financial mess for myself and Mrs. ROB. I have just under $90,000 in consumer debt (student loans and a personal loan, plus whatever Mrs. ROB has). I haven’t earned the right to take a break until I get this mess cleaned up. I teach extra courses and do all of these extra things in the summer so I can clean up my mess. Call it a penance for my bad financial behavior in the past. Call it whatever you want, but in my mind I created a financial mess. I am responsible. No one else is. And the only way I know how to rectify the situation is to put my nose to the grindstone, sit down, shut-up, and do the work.
So I don’t deserve a break. I haven’t earned it. When I clean up my mess then I will truly have earned it. Now this doesn’t mean that Mrs. ROB and I won’t travel or do some fun things. In fact, we have two trips planned later in the year for a wedding and for a conference. Both should be fun times. I am not talking about becoming a hermit. What I am talking about is I am not going to stop doing all of those extra things for money. I am not going to stop teaching extra courses or extra advising or whatever until I have taken care of my financial mess. When that happens then I will consider stopping. Then maybe I can say that I have earned a break.
I am sure there are some people who see this and might question my sanity or maybe even think that I am writing this because I am vain or seeking attention. Any kind of thoughts from others doesn’t change the fact that I created a mess. I need to fix it. And unless I somehow win the lottery, receive money from some wealthy benefactor, or I get a job being Warren Buffett’s personal assistant that carries a million dollar salary this debt is an albatross around our necks.
With a little elbow grease and side hustle here and there I will get myself out of this mess. It just takes more time than I want to give it. Believe me I would much rather spend my summers playing golf, traveling, and hanging out with friends. We will still do a little of that, but not quite yet. Hopefully, I will fix this sooner rather than later.