8 June 2019 by Lisa Melonçon
I recognize it’s been a while since I’ve posted. It’s been a long hard spring term. I took on some new responsibilities, and it took time to adjust to that. I hope to blog more here and in other places through the summer and into next year. I have missed the practice of writing in these forums and have missed interacting with folks.
The start of summer has finally opened up some mental space and some material time for me so I’ve been thinking a bit about what to do. Summer should be in almost full swing for many and even the quarter term folks should be wrapping up. So it’s the perfect time to think about what we’re going to do with ourselves through summer. A couple years ago I wrote about the Summertime 3 Rs (rest, reorient, realistic planning) and it’s holding up well on what one should consider doing with the summer and how to approach it. (Though, now I would stress realistic planning even more!)
Academics approach summer with all sorts of emotions and feelings. Some see it as a time to truly rest; others see it as a time to get some writing done since they did not get as much done or any done during the academic year; others approach it with a sense of dread because of the lack of structure or a schedule; others have to find a summer job to make up for low salaries and/or the 9-month gap or if you’re an adjunct, simply to survive. And of course, outside of these big categories and the feelings associated with them, summer can bring on all sorts of other feelings too.
So there is no easy “answer” on a post to help people figure out what to do and how to be in the summer. Because of this, I’m simply going to give you a partial hashtag #SummerOf to think about. In other words, let this be the summer that you try and let go of whatever pre-conceived notions you thought the summer was supposed to be and simply let this be the summer of….
Recently, one of my favorite thinkers died. Michel Serres who has been called a philosopher, a anthropologist of science, an academic maverick, and a host of other terms passed away on June 1. I do believe I have read everything he has ever published, and much of it in French because I initially had concerns about how he was being in translated in English. In any case, Serres has long believed that the preposition, the unit of language that starts a prepositional phrase, is one of the most important parts of language and one that helps to do a lot of the work of expressing ideas. I was fascinated by this continual strand in his work because Cajun French people have so many problems with the “correct” English usage of prepositional phrases, and my entire educational career I was forever being corrected on my use. To add to that, I also have a tendency to overuse the prepositional phrase in my own writing, which can bury the action when you don’t mean to do that.** All this means is that I just adored Serres more because of his own fascination and emphasis with prepositions.
One of Serres’ big points about prepositional phrases is that they pre-position what follows. They provide a positionality and a specific emphasis to signal to the reader the idea that what follows can be quite important. The preposition is also relational, which indicates in what ways the phrase relates to other things going on in the sentence. In linguistics, we learn the relational aspect of the preposition, but for Serres, he means it much more than in a linguistic sense. He wants the preposition to also suggest a relationship between the words and the action they invoke. While I cannot do justice to Serres’ thinking on prepositions in this blog post, what Serres would likely appreciate is that he is being used as a jumping off point.
So when I write that I want this to be YOUR summer OF, the emphasis is on you and your positionality and what you want to follow the preposition of. And the emphasis is on you and your relationship to summer and what you want. This is key. Summer is often a time where academics can be more selfish and more focused on those things that are not part of the program or department or institution or a service obligation or what have you
I have two endings of for my #SummerOf. The first is #SummerOfFinish. Along with a few others, we are all challenging each other to finish up some projects that have been lingering way to long for all sorts of reasons. We settled on this challenge because we all know that if we an manage to finish something, it will improve our approach to work in general by giving us the much needed affirmation of getting something done 🙂
My second #SummerOf is #SummerOfLaughs. I purposely want to focus on activities and people that bring fun and laughter. It’s been a rough, rough two years for me for all sorts of reasons, and my soul and spirit needs laughter to rejuvenate. And laughter also means that I am most likely doing things that are not related to work, which fulfills the #balance objective.
I share my #SummerOf goals in hopes to inspire you to focus on you and what you want to do this summer. Position yourself, as Serres would say, in relation to your own life and goals. Everyone will likely insert something different at the end of #SummerOf but that is to be expected. We are each our own person with personalized goals and hopes and dreams. Focusing on those and trying to block out comparisons usually leads to better outcomes.
I want to encourage you to think through and ponder what you may want your summer of to do for you and your psyche and your health and your motivation and most importantly your joy .
Good luck in planning your #SummerOf and more importantly, best wishes in living out those #SummerOf plans!
Wishing you health, peace, and joy.
** so Lanham’s paramedic method has long been my go-to way to start to give action back to my writing. I love this so much that I link it here in case you need a reminder for your own prose or your own teaching (when students ask how to improve their writing).