I had planned to apply to the Jane Austen NEH Summer Seminar this June and July. I’m teaching a Jane Austen course in the fall, I need some professional development stuff for my tenure portfolio — all seemed to fit. Now I’ve decided against it. Why?
1. It’s five weeks in Missouri. Now I’m sure Missouri is a lovely place, but if I’m studying Jane Austen for five weeks, I really want to be in Bath.
2. It’s five weeks in Missouri. Figuring out arrangements for husband and by then 4-year-old is problematic to say the least. They could go with me, of course, but this would cut out possibilities of spending time with family in Alabama, of going to the beach, of doing other things.
3. My dear friend is getting married in July and the seminar would overlap. We’ve all been dreaming of this wedding for years; I’m not going to miss it if I can help it.
4. I don’t need it. For one thing, I’ve spent a whole lot of time studying Jane Austen in grad school and on my own, so I’m not sure I’m the person who would benefit the most from a program like this. And I’m fortunate to be at a university where publications are important, but I don’t feel the pressure to attend a five-week program while I have a small child just to fill a line on a CV. My friend and associate provost asked me my second fall semester here how my summer had gone. Wheeler was four-months-old at the time, and I said that I didn’t get any work done, which was disappointing, but I spent a lot of time with Wheeler. “Good,” she said. “Work will always be there. Babies won’t.” He’s not a baby anymore, but summers are magical growing times when he turns brown in the sun and lean and tall with running and swimming and I can’t miss that.
Seminars and work will always be there. Summer with a 4-year-old won’t.