A ghost turned up in an inbox search yesterday.
All too true. I miss you, my friend.
There are many strange and scary things about this pandemic. About this year more broadly, too.
But on the strange side, there’s the way the mundane, the ordinary, the unconscious, becomes at best unwieldy, and at worst nigh impossible.
A simple outing, today, planned well within the rules of Stage 4 lockdown. My bike wheel is busted, and my local repair shop is doing contactless repairs. Great. We also needed a couple of things from the supermarket. Cool.
Kind of weird to have to ‘clump’ errands together to minimise outings, but whatever.
The mildly irritating part came when, very shortly after dropping off the wheel, the bike shop calls to give me a quote for the repair and to let me know it’ll be ready in 30 or so minutes.
In and of itself, completely normal and, in fact, welcome, news, that the task I need done will be finished quickly and relatively cheaply.
But the timing throws everything off.
Once I’m done at the supermarket, I’ll have 20-30 minutes to spare. Not quite enough time to drop things at home and come back, and besides, that would make it two outings, which is pushing the rules a little.
In the end I settled on what I would’ve done in non-COVID times, which is to grab a coffee and wait for the wheel. But obviously I now do so in the car, semi-hiding, rather than in the cafe.
None of this is dangerous, or particularly egregious. Just an observation on how the most normal thing in the world is suddenly made into one mild stressor among many others.
Sun streams in through the window. I’ve left the light off today: for some reason the sunlight is enough. The driveway is being dug up, so the door to my study is closed, and my noise-cancelling headphones are nestled over my ears. In my head, for once, things are relatively calm.
I’m working through a project that necessitates deep thought. Deep thought is hard at the moment. I suppose that’s why I opened up this blog post: something simple, something gentle, to clear out the cobwebs.
Deep thought? On the one hand, I mean deep theoretical ruminations, the kind for which academics are stereotyped. But on the other, it’s strategic thought. How will this fit my narrative? Where can I publish? Can this be put up for funding?
This strategy is something I need to do more, anyway, but particularly at the moment, when academic work is increasingly precarious. More so than ever, one feels the need to be not just productive, but scheming, pragmatic, to think laterally about one’s place in a discipline, an institution, the world.
It ruins everything. Takes away the magic of things. I remember posting here when I first got this job. I mentioned an overwhelming sense of relief, that someone finally noticed that I could fit somewhere, that I could bring something to the table.
But I remain happy where I am, and that’s something. I’m still tired, but this year, in spite of the world burning, I feel like I’m getting somewhere.