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One of the best things about working in a university is ‘the Christmas break’. My workplace actually closes down from midday on Christmas eve until just after New Year’s Day – this year it’s the 5th January. So there’s no booking of annual leave, no negotiating over who gets what off, and if you really need to go in for something (there’s usually something in some lab or other that needs attending to) you can make special arrangements, and of course, the library is open for studying. But it’s bliss knowing that at the end of December you will definitely have at least a week of not going into the office. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be working – for academics there is always something to be done, analysis and writing, teaching to prepare for, reviews to do, marking, email or Skype supervision, reading  – but that Christmas ‘break’ usually can’t come soon enough for most of us. It’s the only time of the year when this happens – some people think that academics have the whole summer off – not so, that’s usually when the booking of leave kicks in, and the negotiating of who’s around and who isn’t, and the emails don’t stop, or the meetings, or the research activity or the postgrad activity. But I digress.

That Christmas break – for me it’s an opportunity to spend an extended period of time at home (I live close to work Monday to Friday) and to just reflect on how things are going, what I want to do in the coming year, and check – as they say – that all my ducks are still in a row, and still, as it were, facing in the same direction as my husband’s. And, I’m pleased to say, all is well with the Girvin ducks. But there are some big things to think about.

This year both my husband and me will be 60. Sixty. Six-oh. We’ve both been ignoring it for a while, but it doesn’t stop approaching. So, I’m going to be seriously thinking about the following:

How many more years do I want to work full-time for?

What do I want to do whilst I’m still earning and can afford it?

What does the next ten years look like for me in terms of work, or making a contribution?

What sort of network do I need to take advantage of now, so that I can do the things I want to do over the next ten years or so?

What’s on that list of things to do before you’re 60/70/80?

It’s a surprisingly exciting prospect, I have to say. I’m not talking about retirement – I’m talking about refashioning my working life into something perhaps less structured – and doing that incrementally over a period of time. I guess it’s what everyone thinks about as they reach this point, but not that many people actually plan and make it happen on their own terms. I’m going to try. 🙂

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