I teach on Mondays and Wednesdays this semester, I am on campus all day, I have a morning class, an afternoon class and a late afternoon class. I have two breaks between classes that I attempt to fill with productive activity. More often than not I fail to do so.
I rise early in the morning, I creep around trying to minimize noise despite the explicit permission to disregard such efforts. I was raised to be quiet when others are sleeping. I make coffee (two cups, French press, cream, no sugar), I read a bit, I look out of my window, I think about my classes, I think that it is about time I should be leaving the house, I get distracted, I am going to be late. I bike to the train station, I join my fellow travelers on the platform, I recognize faces, I move slighty to the left to be right at the door when the train comes, I board the train.
I arrive on campus about ten minutes before my morning class, I walk to the building, I enter the classroom, I greet students, I move the occasionally oddly positioned chair out of my way. This classroom has windows, I open one to let in some air, I open the blinds, I attempt at cheerfulness, I utter a humorous remark, I look at my watch. It is time. I teach. I gesticulate. I explain things, I write things on the board. I gesticulate more, I think about talking slower and with less enthusiasm, I must save energy to last through the whole period. I get tired. I hear shuffling of bags, I look at my watch, I end teaching.
The break between my morning class and my afternoon class is not long, but it is eventful. I read, I grab an early lunch, I roam the campus. I cannot work, read, think or simply be in an isolated silent enclosed space. I need to be out, I need to see people move about, I need a place to stare into space. I like new places, but I also like old places, I recognize them, I remember what book I read here and what I have thought about it there, places come together to make my day. I cannot sit in one place, I need to move. I know campus well, I visit places I like. There’s an especially comfortable chair at a coffee shop across the street, I feel a pinch of frustration if it is occupied, I give the intruder a stern look, I judge him to be ultimately unworthy of my chair. I visit colleagues, I chit and I chat. I go to my favorite set of tables under a large shady tree, I will most likely run into some of my students there, but today I do not mind it, today is a nice cool day to sit outside, to read.
I go to my afternoon class, I educate, I leave. I have a long break now, I leave campus, I go to a bookstore where I read. I buy that coffee I resisted all day, it makes my head hurt, I put down my “serious book” and pick up whatever they have on display for “most recent non-fiction,” I read about Suleiman the Magnificent, I like it. I close my eyes, I think about my day, I head back to campus. I teach yet again, I take a train home.
I hate routine, but I suspect that it is only because I have never had the chance to develop one. I have neither patience nor concentration for real academic work, I don’t finish a book if I don’t like it, I don’t like doing things because I have to, but because I have to, I do them and I don’t like it. I like teaching, but I suspect that it is only because I have never had the patience to try anything else. I am lucky to be teaching, as I have no real talent for anything else. I like the places where I teach, I like being in the places of teaching, I like places in general.