Two-city living: It’s what you do if you work in UK higher ed?

I remember the first time I learned that one of the professors in my discipline commuted to Manchester for work but lived in another city several hours away (by train). He’d stay a few days then go back to his family on the weekend. I remember thinking this was completely crazy – who would voluntarily do this? Well, apparently it’s quite common in academia have what I call a “two-city” life.

Last September my partner moved to Brighton to take up a post at the University of Sussex while I remained in Manchester, so we’ve been in this two-city living situation ever since. So far, the practicalities of travelling every few weeks (I go to Brighton or he comes to Manchester) have been smooth, though a little surreal. We were both so busy at work that the reality of living in different places didn’t really sink in until later in the semester.

Oddly, it feels kind of normal but at the same time I’m still getting used to all this. Technically one doesn’t travel “home” to the other – we both take turns visiting each other (though currently Ben travels more to Manchester)! I also don’t really have a “life” in Brighton – no networks or close friends, and I get lost easily. So when I’m there,  the city feels more like a tourist destination than home.

It’s a weird kind of change, but the weirdness hasn’t come from the distance but rather how normal this transition feels. Like, it’s an inevitable (?) part of us both working in higher education. The move wasn’t expected, but when he got the job offer, it just made sense to live in different cities. Not for the long term (hopefully), but certainly for now. It’s what you do if you work in UK HE, right?

Things that make you go “hmm”! Feel free to comment below.

End of semester countdown

Yes it has been a long time since I’ve updated this blog. I suppose I’ve found it hard to draw the line between writing for work and writing my myself. This blog, in the past, has been a bit of both because it was created during my PhD. Now that I’ve got “Dr” as a prefix (yay) I’m still trying to find my feet with what to do with this blog.

So for now, I’ll share a little about where I’m at at this moment – Monday afternoon, just after lunch, at my desk, nearing the end of the first semester. To be honest I’m tired and literally counting down the days until Christmas break. It’s certainly a different kind of tired to “Phd-tired”. I suppose with everything that has happened this year with Brexit and the US Elections there’s an added sense of anxiety for the future that mixed in. I’m looking forward to seeing the back of 2016, but very cautious about feeling optimistic for 2017. New year with the possibility of new changes doesn’t really feel like it’s a good thing, and I’m tired to feeling tired.

So there you have it, my at the moment end-of-the-semester Monday musings. With a bit of luck next week should feel a little lighter!

Image New Year sign, courtesy of

An upcoming guilt-free holiday

In about 2 weeks I’ll be taking my first holiday in about 4 years and I mean the first proper going-away-to-a-different-location-for-an-extended-time kind of break and I am very, very excited. Well I will be. I suppose at the moment (at the time of writing this) I’m feeling rather frayed.

It dawned on me that during my PhD I didn’t actually take any holiday. I was entitled to annual leave but I mostly spent my summers working. Or thinking about working. Or spending the few days I did take off feeling like I should be working and compensating by taking work with me and doing bits here and there when I could. Taking work along during your holiday isn’t a  holiday and I knew it. Working at this kind of pace for years on end is bound to take it’s toll.

Post-PhD life has been a strange adjustment. It seemed normal to me to be working all the time and it’s taken me at least a year to accept the fact that I can relax. It’s also taken a lot of time and effort to learn how to take a break. It sounds absurd to think that one needs to learn how to relax. I suppose it’s a new kind of normal that I’m learning about.

So I am looking forward to taking my first guilt-free holiday from work and it is going to be very liberating.

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