In the novel Netherland by Joseph O'Neill, the protagonist's wife and son move to London, leaving him in New York:
My family, the spine of my days, had crumbled. I was lost in invertebrate time.
Although my situation is not so sad and dire -- my family is away on a short visit with the in-laws -- I can relate to the feeling of being adrift in time, lacking the usual spine of my days.
I suppose I could go shopping today, supposedly the biggest shopping day of the year, but I have gotten this far in my life without feeling the urge to get up before dawn and lurk in a mall parking lot so as to rush into a store when it opens and immediately fill a shopping cart with on-sale electronic devices. Instead, I will enjoy my quiet invertebrate time by writing and thinking at home and at the office.
I plan to spend much of the day in my office, working on an interesting paper and trying to make progress on a proposal. There might be one or two other colleagues around, and a few grad students and postdocs, but the corridors will be empty and dim. It can be very pleasant working in a peaceful department building for a day or three.
I find that on the rare occasions when I have time alone with no teaching, no meetings, and no family responsibilities, I immediately revert to the working-eating-sleeping schedule I followed in earlier, less evolved stages of my academic life. I work long hours, eat at random times, and stay up most of the night. This isn't so great as a long-term lifestyle, but when you only get to do this once or twice a year, it can be quite fun being temporarily invertebrate.
The other day, my husband wondered if, years from now, we would revert to our pre-child academic lifestyle once our daughter grows up and leaves home, or whether we won't be interested in working such long hours again. In our pre-child life, we knew which near-campus restaurants were open all night (or at least very late), and our cats never knew when to expect us home. Our felines and our future grad students probably hope that we will not adopt a 20/7 work schedule.
In the meantime, I am enjoying my few days of invertebrate time, and then will be happy to resume normal life, especially since the term is almost over.
2 months ago