Summer Dreaming: You Can Make It!
I am exactly three weeks away from the end of my Spring semester. Each year I, like most academics, come up with a rigid summer schedule. I’m going to do all the things; I’m going to read all the books; I’m going to play all the games; I’m going to write all the articles. Unfortunately, this plan very rarely comes to fruition. However, that doesn’t stop me from sitting here neck deep in grading, writing, and meetings and dreaming of a time where I have just that: time.
If you’re at all like me, you will survive the next month of the semester by thinking about this freedom. I have compiled my to do list, and I have five recommendations for readers to read, think about, and do this summer:
- Play a Legacy Board Game
My recommendation would be Pandemic Legacy. I haven’t personally played a legacy game, which is why it is high on my to do list. Gamers I know and respect swear that legacy board games are the height of gaming fun. If you aren’t familiar, legacy games are games you play on a schedule with a dedicated group of people. As the game progresses, you physically alter the game: you write new rules, you tear up cards. The way the game was at the beginning will never be playable again.
So the gameplay itself is unique and interesting, but that isn’t the only reason you should play a legacy game this summer. As I get older, I find myself “too busy” to do things like have a dedicated game group or “too tired” to play some games on Friday night way more often than I’m comfortable with. Gaming is happiness and energy giving for me, not taking. However, it’s sometimes hard to put aside things on your work to do list to play. But playing often is our work, and even when it isn’t, it’s good for the psyche. If your mental health is deteriorated, you won’t be grading and writing anyway.
- Read Three Things: A Foundational Text You Somehow Missed, A Recent Thing Published in Game Studies, and Something Field Adjacent
Maybe three academic-y books sounds like way too much or way too little for the summer. But I find that I get so overwhelmed with my reading list that I end up accomplishing almost nothing. This summer I’m going to read these three books: T.L. Taylor’s Play Between Worlds (can you believe I never read the whole thing??), The Dark Side of Game Play: Controversial Issues in Playful Environments, and Ethics in the Virtual World: The Morality and Psychology of Gaming.
I’m also a fan of using the summer to catch up on journal articles. Luckily for me, or unluckily for my calendar, I had an article due recently that forced me to get super caught up on all the recent stuff published about women in gaming in the bigger gaming journals.
- Write Something Meaningful, and Write Often
This may be difficult for those of us going up for tenure, because sometimes things we find meaningful don’t align with things we need to do to fill our dossiers. I have found though that when I’m working on something I truly care about that the time flies by, and that energy often seeps into other projects I’m not super excited about. I’m lucky that my tenure requirements are inclusive of many different kinds of scholarship, so I’m not stuck on needing to publish XX pieces in YY caliber journals by a certain date.
When I’m functioning at my best, I’m writing every day. This doesn’t mean I’m jotting a quick poem down in the morning either. I’m dedicating 2-3 hours writing and researching for writing, free from distractions, and I’m in the zone. When I’m off, this is one of the first things that slip away. I’m going to try and dedicate at least an hour every day this summer to writing–not grant writing or writing for class, but brain expanding, kick-ass writing.
- Play Online with your Friends
I know it seems weird to think about this one in the summer, because it’s nice out, and you want to enjoy the weather. But I’ve found again and again that I’m just too busy to play online with friends on a regular basis during the year. In the summer, though, I have fewer meetings, appointments, and things that have to get done ASAP. This summer I want to set aside dedicated time to play online with my people. When I used to do this with WoW, I enjoyed the game so much more. I’ve re-upped my WoW account, and I’m going to play with some regularity and with friends. Hopefully I can talk Ashley into playing Overwatch with me again too.
- Think About Your Health and Happiness, and Do Something with the Insights You Gain
I’ve been in academia my entire adult life. I can say one thing for certain: our cultural capital is often bodily neglect. We act as if sleep is a waste of time, something only those who are undedicated get to have. Unless you’re exercising to clear your brain to work on that next article, then you better be hitting the stacks, not the weights. Poor nutrition is worn like a badge of honor. This summer I’m going to think about my health a lot; I’m going to concentrate on things that make me happy and feel accomplished, and I’m going to pursue those things. That doesn’t mean I won’t work and produce; if I know anything about myself I’ll actually be more productive by dedicating time to these things.
We, like our Greek intellectual ancestors, too often denigrate the body to raise the mind, and we pretend that we are floating heads on sticks. A friend of mine who is an MD told me that one of the few things we know about the brain and cognition is that it is integrally tied to physical health and nutrition. We are killing ourselves and stopping ourselves from doing our best work with this martyrdom to which we ascribe. So sleep. Eat well. Go for a walk. It’s not a waste of time.