The last few weeks have been hectic, and last Friday turned into three days in one. After going for a run – another pleasure of being here is the closeness of meadows, and the ability to get home and shower in peace on my return – I had to grab a bag, spare work clothes, get dressed and leg it out of the house to get up to the shop for 0830, where I helped our Unitempers open up (for various reasons, myself and the other permanent staff were all away that morning). I then high-tailed it up to the other University for 0915, where I was to launch my publication for the Enterprising Researcher project which I’ve been working on since last year. It was a great morning, actually – it sort of brought me back to myself. I met people I had not met in a while, real researchers, real academics, and I had real conversations with them which didn’t make me sound like a fool. I even managed to persuade one that a semi-crazy project idea I have had is not completely mad after all: I spoke to him, and he seemed keen to be involved. One thing I’ve learned during my long unemployment is that, even though I’m not yet a fully fledged academic (or anything, really), I have the skill of bringing together those who are, and facilitating their collaboration – and that in itself, is a pleasurable thing. After the event, I had to run back to work at the shop til 1730, then home again to proof read.
People ask me what I do, and I laugh – my life, like those of many ECRs, is multiple: in that sense, it is a menagerie of a different kind, but in the sense that it is faceted, accretive, complex, and slow to form, my life is also a precious stone, a jewel.
The Enterprising Researcher was a project where I really could have done with my own space to work, but that wasn’t possible. I had to work at the kitchen table. Now, I can listen to my music without being antisocial, I can sit with the light on or off, and I can avoid being interrupted: I cannot tell you how much this means to me.
Having space means many things. It means being able to use your time more as you wish; being able to sit up late, and rise early – or both, if you wish. I have been doing these things, and it has brought me expansiveness – physically and psychologically. After dinner, there have been many nights when we have just come straight back up here and worked; because we wanted to, because we could, not because we have to. When W has gone to bed, I have sat up here, in this room, enjoying the quiet, the silence, writing, or reading. And that is another facet too: the time of serenity, when it is possible to get drunk on just being able to think.
Space, in the menagerie of the ECR’s life, is crucial. Physical space to breathe in, to live, of course, but also emotional, psychological space, which it is possible for you to fill with flights to fancy, with tangled webs of notions and skeins of reason. And as my menagerie grows, I can fly higher.