So, what are you all about?

I met someone today who asked me the question that’s become this post’s title. We were meeting with a view to me becoming their occasional babysitter, which is always an odd mixture of relaxed and casual, and job interview formality. I have profiles on various childcare and tutoring websites which set out the rough details of my work history and current situation, but without exception I have always been asked to tell the prospective client family what I do (which seems only right, if they’re considering entrusting their offspring to my care).

I liked this turn of phrase particularly, though. Not, ‘What do you do?’ or ‘What’s your real job?’ – I was once asked that, immediately after I’d told the questioner what my jobs were; apparently they weren’t real enough for his tastes – but, ‘What are you about?’ It seems to take the focus away from paid employment and onto purpose. For some people they’re one and the same, and that’s great, but for many of us there’s more complexity to it.

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Hoof, I’m tired. Somehow this week has got very busy. Saturday night I stayed up until after midnight finishing my dissertation. I could have left the last few formatting touches to Sunday, but I knew I only had two hours free during the entire day and I didn’t want to risk not getting it done until the last minute in case something went wrong (it didn’t – I handed it in ahead of the deadline yesterday and all was fine, but you never know).

Sunday I stayed up until after midnight because, uh, I don’t know really. No actual reason. Poor self-control I guess.

Yesterday I stayed up until after midnight because we had supervisors’ dinner and then a dissertation hand-in party. Because of the dinner, we didn’t make it to the party until ten, and we stayed for longer than I had realised. Both events were our last opportunity to see the women who have supervised us for the last year, or in some cases the last four years, and it was a lovely evening.

But then I had to get up this morning to write an essay before my 11am lecture, and tonight I will be staying up until after midnight because I’m going to see a comedy show with a friend I bumped into in the street last week, after a year and a half without seeing each other. I don’t want to bail; we probably wouldn’t manage to reschedule.

Tomorrow I will be (are you seeing a pattern yet?) up until after midnight because it’s choral compline – a service which happens once or twice a term and starts at 10pm. Actually if I come straight home and go to bed I could be in bed by 11, which I think will probably be essential because frankly, I am already worn out. At least now that exams are a month away people will stop inviting me to things, but once again I’m relearning the lesson that I need to be realistic. Time to take the advice I was given last week: schedule “me time” into my diary. 10.30pm appointment with pillow. 1.30-4.30 meeting with past paper questions. 8am date with the shower. I have to stop thinking that non-scheduled time is free time.

A Distinct Lack of Steam

It is now two days until the end of term (humour me – let’s pretend Monday has finished already, and let’s not mention the three supervisions, two lectures and two essays I have after term has officially ended. Please).

Eight weeks of intensive studying, of lectures and essays and four-foot reading lists and choir practice and singing lessons and tutoring sessions and laundry and cooking and cleaning and all the myriad other things that appear out of nowhere and swallow up a day.

Today, I got up for my 9am lecture through a feat of superhuman strength, mostly because I didn’t want to miss the mid-lecture general knowledge quiz. I came back from the lecture and spent three hours reading contract cases, interspersed with forays to the kitchen for multi-stage lunch. Then I went down to the bar to attend a meeting about the current occupation of one of the main faculty lecture halls. Then into town to collect a newly-shortened ball gown and pay in a cheque, which took three quarters of an hour. Back to my room for a bit more perfunctory reading before printing some worksheets and cycling off to tutoring.

After a pleasant hour talking about Christmas foods, different religious traditions in winter, Advent vocabulary and magazine advertising, I cycled back to my room. Twenty minutes of warming up my icicle hands before back out again to a training session for an e-mentoring scheme I blithely signed up for when my weeks contained a full 168 hours. Back home again, with a leisurely en-route chat to a girl from college who I’ve known for ages and only just properly met. Dinner into the oven, two dozen emails dealt with, paperwork strewn around the room, dinner into the stomach, a short phone call with a friend, and I can’t find any motivation to work.

This was basically an average day. There is usually a bit more work, because there is usually a bit less time spent in the bank/at emergency political meetings, but there is never nothing other than work.

At the start of term it was nice to have a busy schedule. It broke my day up into manageable chunks of three-hour work sessions. It gave me an excuse to draw up a pathetically organised hour-by-hour day planner. It made my diary look full without actually being a problem. But somehow as term has progressed, those hours have got shorter. Or maybe fewer. Perhaps it’s the weather. Perhaps it’s the lack of light. Perhaps it’s a sleep debt to rival Greece’s fiscal worries.

Whatever it is, it’s sapping my enthusiasm. It’s making me long for the end of the week, when I don’t get any less busy but at least I don’t have to read any more case law for a few days. All I have to do is show up and get on a bus to whichever town we’re singing in that day. I don’t even have to know which town it is. For once, I’m looking forwards to not having to be organised.