This morning while driving to campus, I had a strange realization.  It was still kind of foggy, both my mind and the weather, and I was enjoying a new yerba mate* I bought the other day in hopes that I would wake up enough before the 8 AM class I had to teach.  The radio was on, and Peter made a comment about the band that was playing.  The conversation went something like this:

P: “You know, this group is coming here for a concert”

Me: “Really?  Cool.  When?”

P: “September, I think”

Me: “Oh ok, so next year”

P: “No, this year”.

There it is:  I still think in academic years.  I understand that when Peter says “this year” that logically it makes sense.  After all, it’s 2013 and in September next it will still be 2013.  Yet, intrinsically to me “next year” is next fall, when a new school year begins (and you get to buy new pencils and notebooks!).  It is reasonable that I perceive time this way.  I’ve been in school for many years.  I often joke that I’m in the 23rd grade.  As I continue this path towards a career in Academia, I imagine that I will continue to think in terms of academic years instead of calendar years.

Is this problematic?  It’s probably not a major issue.  I’m sure other disciplines think in terms of their own calendars:  accountants, for example, probably speak of fiscal years.  I’d also argue that parents of school-age children might be more accepting of my use of school years.  Yet, I think I’m the only one of my friends (almost all of whom are still in school) who continually causes conversational confusion when I bring up “next year” or “last year”.

This issue, I believe, speaks to the greater problem that I classify as “details I tend to ignore”.  For example, now that I live on the west coast, I often refer to my previous experiences growing up and living on the east coast.  However, many of my east coast friends living out here like to point out that Ohio is not on the east coast.  Ok.  So that is a true statement.  I realize Ohio is not exactly on the east coast.  But, it is still in the Eastern Time zone, and still in a much more easterly direction from where I am now.  When I lived in Virginia, I was nowhere near the coast, in fact, I lived about the same distance away from the beach as I did in Ohio, but it’s still considered an east coast state (right?).

United States

(look how Eastern Ohio is for being in the “mid” west!)

I guess I’m not a particularly detailed oriented person in this regard.  I tend to assume that those to whom I am speaking will know what I am talking about.  I remember reading about stages of development once and there’s this level where kids assume that people know what they mean, even if they say random things out of nowhere.  Apparently, kids eventually grow out of the ego-centric, context-assuming meaning-focused conversational habit.  Maybe I just never grew out of it.

Anyway, if I make any plans with you for next year on the east coast, you know it means I’ll see you in Ohio (or some state in the Eastern Time zone) in the fall.


*I got it at Whole Foods.  It was their “365 Everyday Value” brand, with green tea and peppermint, it’s really quite good.


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