This month, I’m starting the third year of my PhD program. In other words, I really need to start turning some of my research into papers. And since I’m apparently incapable of quitting journalism, I’m still looking at magazine deadlines, too.
So when I started thinking about vacations last spring, I realized this was not a year where I could just unplug. However, as a freelancer/graduate student, my workload was portable. So in July, I brought my laptop to Pittsburgh for a month.
Much of my family is in Pittsburgh — very far from my home base in Berkeley, California. One advantage of the freelance life has been the ability to visit even if I can’t take the time off. Of course, I did take some time off on my trip. But during the work days, I mostly worked.
And that worked out well. My sister and brother-in-law have intense jobs and are remodeling a large house. My niece is 11 and excited about her summer day camps. My parents are retired, but their version of retirement means working on papers and books in their home offices instead of on campus. That is, they’re all pretty busy.
But in the evenings we hung out and talked, went to hear good jazz, or played music on the porch. I got to see my sister’s soccer game, hang out on the couch with my niece being silly, and have lunch at Whole Foods with my dad. Many afternoons, my mom and I shared a table at the Barnes and Noble café, she working on her current novel while I either edited a magazine piece or coded a survey analysis. All these things I miss not just when I’m in California, but also when I’m off the grid.
It wasn’t an unplugged vacation, but it was something equally special. A chance to be there for day-to-day life.
Image credit: All images courtesy of Robin Mejia.