It’s a hot day aquí en los angeles. I write this as I sit at my dining table in front of my fan. I don’t have a.c. but right about now I really wish I did. And I know it will get even hotter as the weeks go by. The best thing about summertime? Chillin’ with the homies. Sippin’ on cold drinks with old amig@s, with whom conversation starts here, right where we are, because we’ve already been through some shiznitz together. Getting to know new folks, some of whom might become old amig@s too after a while. Those kinds of things don’t happen often enough.
When I was in college, the first sign of summertime—the first afternoon over 60 degrees—was signaled by the naked hippies who would dance around in the grass where the student union met the library, doing “contact improv” dancing. We brown folks usually sat on the steps of the union, listened to music between classes, and chatted about whatever was going down at the moment. I used to think there was nothing better than that. But that was in the mid/late 90s when radio hip hop was still good…and having political conversations while chillin next to the boombox or the d.j. booth was my favorite pastime. It meant the summer was on its way and there would soon be relief from the building stresses of the school year. I was a different person then. But I would do that very same thing now, if given the opportunity. (I went to a small liberal arts school in the Great Lakes area with a very large population of funky hippies and a historical legacy of social & environmental justice. It was very cold and dark and high drama there most of the time. So we had a great appreciation for warm weather and sunshine and summer vacation.)
This year I didn’t stop to appreciate the arrival of summer (although I did stop to appreciate the arrival of springtime shoes). Partly because I live in LA, where the transition from spring to summer is not a drastic one. I hadn’t thought about it until someone mentioned it recently, but the summertime is already half way over! Since I’ve been on my own schedule over the last year (due to fellowship funding) and away from the daily grind of academic environment, I paid little attention to the announcement of events that usually mark my time. Like grading midterm exams. Or registering for classes. Or looking forward to the end of the semester so I can go home…or at least celebrate at the bar without guilt before easing back into my work…whatever the case may be. The only marker I have right now, is looking forward to my next fellowship check, which is still a couple months away, but which will come as welcome relief to my rhetorical pocketbook.
The realization of summertime passing strikes a mild fear somewhere deep in my gut about the status of my pinche dissertation. Or maybe it’s more of an annoying impatience. Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between the two feelings. I am not nearly as far along in my archival research as I thought I would be by this point. Back when I wrote my prospectus, I imagined having most, if not all, of my archival research done by the end of the summer. But here I am, half way through the summer, only one archival collection significantly under my belt, and no end in sight. Not yet.
I remember telling someone a while back that I refuse to define my life by semesters. It was my attempt to resist making academics (my job) my life, rather than the people I care about. And here I am, thinking about the summertime, bracketing it by semesters, appreciating the visits of amig@s who have time to travel in the summer because they are also academics, and thinking about how I couldn’t afford an a.c. even if I really wanted one. I wonder if this profession will always have me struggling against squeezing “life” into semester boxes.