Ryan: Dogs Days of Summer

I’ve been in school for my entire life.  From the first day of kindergarten through elementary school, middle school through high school, undergrad, then years of teaching high school English and getting a Master’s degree, to the present day, my life has revolved around a traditional school calendar.  In my world, there is school…..and there is summer vacation.  

I understand that most people do not have the luxury of such a long vacation every year.  I can’t count the times that total strangers who learn I’m a teacher point out that fact.  I get it. The idea of a whole summer off evokes images of beach trips, round the clock relaxation, and endless fun in the sun.  With all that time off, I must be catching up on good books, reconnecting with old friends and taking up a new hobby or two, right?

Alright.  I have a confession to make.    I don’t love summer vacation. I like it a lot, but I prefer the structure, routine and interactions of the school year.  From September to June, I feel a sense of purpose and direction. A school building feels like a second home to me. The bulletin boards, the books, the water fountains, the distant sounds and smells of a school cafeteria, the laughter and commiseration with fellow teachers, the goofy energy of teenagers.  I might grumble about it sometimes, but I dig it all.  

Teaching is an intense experience, and by the end of the school year, I am ready for a break.  I always anticipate summer with excitement. It’s going to be awesome. This is the year that I’m going to paint the house!  This is the year that I’m going to go skydiving! This is the year that I’m going to take a philosophy class for fun! This is the year that I am going to stop overthinking!!!

For many years, summer was the time that I promised myself that I was finally going to take charge of my health and lose weight.  Two years ago, I actually accomplished that goal with intermittent fasting, but in an ironic twist, removing the obsessing about food opened up even more time for obsessing about things I “should” be doing.  What’s the next goal? How can I be more productive? What’s the point of two months away from work if I don’t push an entire year’s worth of living into it?

All that overthinking hasn’t served me very well.  Inevitably it has created a sense of pressure that leads to procrastination that leads to a sense of “better luck next summer”.  Isn’t it silly to beat myself up for not using vacation time the “right” way?

It’s an ongoing process for sure, but I’m figuring out something pretty important.  

 I’ve been focusing on the wrong things.  For me, summer is VAST and thinking about that has led me down a road of expectation and disappointment.  BIG goals. BIG plans. BIG improvements.

Summer is really about the little things.  The small and sweet moments that I often miss during a busy school year.  Drinking coffee on my porch. Holding hands with my wife. My dog’s face when he pops up on the side of the bed to see if we’re awake.  His pure joy when he sees that we are. The intense blues and greens of the river near our house. The singing of the birds.

The school year is a time for intensity and productivity, but summer is really about slowing down and learning to just be in the moment.  I dig it all.