My appointment at the university where I work is a strange one. I’m not faculty. My title is not professor. But I do most of the same things that professors have to do: I teach, do research, write papers, submit grant proposals. Things I don’t have to do are: advise graduate students, go to faculty meetings, and worry about getting enough grant money and publications to get tenure. I do, however, have to ensure that the lab that I manage is is good operating order and that students and customers are getting their results in a timely fashion.
My contract is a 12-month contract (most professor’s is only 9-months), but I’m on ‘soft money,’ meaning that my paycheck is really never guaranteed. My salary comes from a half-dozen different sources, including other professor’s grants, the departmental adjunct budget, and the good will of the university itself.
Luckily, I’ve been continuously employed and paid for the last eight and a half years. This is nothing to sniff at, considering that massive economic down turn we took a few years ago.
One of the wierd outcomes of my appointment is that I don’t really have official ‘vacation’ time. I don’t have sick days. I basically work whenever I need to, which during the school year is often 50 hours a week or more, much of which I do from home. But I have to, because running the lab itself is a nearly full-time job, and I have to pile my teaching responsibilities on top of that.
What that means is when I do have some down time – when the lab is not in use and classes are not in session – I’ll frequently opt to not go to work. I’ll give myself the day off. If anyone asks, I’m taking a “mental health day.”
At some point, a person just has to stop and do something else. I like my job, and if I go into the office, I’ll be busy the whole time I’m there. So I remove myself from there. I sleep in. I sew or make armor or draw pictures. Maybe I’ll write.
But no science. No lab or office (well, except for the few e-mails that find their way to me). I chill out. And I need it.
Today is a mental health day. It’s nearly noon. I’m finally drinking my morning cup of coffee. I’m blogging right now. In a few minutes, I’ll comb my hair and head off to visit a friend and sew for the afternoon. And if the weather holds, I’ll go to SCA heavy weapons practice later on.
Just what I need. Tomorrow, it’ll be back to work.