My Winter Break

Today in class we wrote about our winter breaks. Here’s mine:

My winter break was excellent. I had lots of time to goof off and play video games. I also did some writing, grade mountains of papers, recorded podcasts, and made a new breakbeat track on the computer. I didn’t travel, because I always feel like I’m being robbed of downtime when I travel during breaks (aside from summer).

My break was very productive, but I felt this weird tension the whole time: When I was working on school stuff, I felt like I deserved time to relax and unwind. When I was relaxing, I felt like I ought to be doing creative projects, like writing. When I was writing, I felt like I should be working on school stuff. And so on, around and around for two weeks.

Getting two Bonus Days Off was a nice surprise, and I definitely used some of that time to relax, but it also meant I had been given a gift and therefore owed it to the students (and myself) to get more papers graded. I didn’t get every single page graded, but I estimate I made it through 300 pages worth of papers over the break. That’s a lot. (In a way, I’m glad we’re back to school because it means I get to do the fun interactive teaching stuff again, rather than just the less-exciting paperwork stuff.)

In terms of leisure: I should have played The Last of Us, which I’ve had on rent from GameFly for months. But my PS3 is in the basement, and I usually don’t feel like going down there to play games. Instead, I played Gone Home (which is awesome) and Far Cry 3 (which is also excellent, but the story is atrocious). I also played Neverwinter, the free MMO, but there’s something odd about defeating a huge boss and feeling all victorious, and then watching someone else fight the exact same boss one minute later. It makes the experience less satisfying. And besides, it’s supposed to be this big social experience, but no one in the game ever talks about anything. So I began another playthrough of Kingdoms of Amalur.

I’ve been reading, too — Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, for one. I love his work, but Blood Meridian suffers from the same condition as The Road: It’s less a novel with evolving character arcs than it is an impressionistic series of scenes, conveying more emotional texture than actual plot. This doesn’t make it a bad book by any means, but it’s not as engaging as No Country for Old Men, probably his best novel.

I’m also reading Alison Bechdel’s memoir Are You My Mother? It’s an interesting book, but unlike her previous comics memoir Fun Home (which is simply amazing), this one brings in all kinds of psychoanalytic minutiae and long excerpts from other writers. I’m not so interested in whether Virginia Woolf ever met this other guy who lived at the same time as her — I want to know more about the lives of the author and her mom. Still, the artwork is great and it’s worth reading.

At the end of the vacation, I started to feel a little restless. I think it would be different if we had final exams before break, and a new year meant a new semester. But I was eager to get back into the swing of things, even if we only have a week and a half left in the term.

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