TBH there's lots of time's I'm jealous of your kind of work. The thought of being able to focus on a single project or two and be able to follow an idea from beginning to end would be great. As is they'll be a 100+ different research projects I'll dabble in during a year, each one has their own unique needs and twists on the data.
The thing is, while I have ideas for my project and scribblings that look like srs maths, I have till February to make it work. If it works, I get first author on a paper that has the potential to get a crapload of citations. If it doesn't, it's time intensive enough that I might just be screwed. My supervisor keeps saying that it's technically a PhD level project.
I can solve it numerically and it becomes a bit more trivial, and a bit less useful. That'd definitely give me time to do some applications work and get second author on some rather irrelevant papers that no one's gonna cite, but I'd love to at least set up our next PhD student to continue my stuff, so it's a matter of "how much sleep do you need this year?"
Similarly, at graduate level... I've been talking to this amazing guy who'd be like my dream supervisor for a few days now, and my project proposal is right up his alley, but it's a very high effort and high risk kind of project and he basically said I need to do applications at MPhil level for now (because the PhD programme doesn't exist yet) but should just apply for that with him and stay on for the PhD.
At least at PhD level there are a few years to get this stuff done and it seems common practice for supervisors to just kind of dump extra applications work on students.
Anyway, it sounds like you have a secure job, which is awesome.
I don't actually get Aethien's sentiment because I like this stuff enough to prioritise it over my private life most of the time.