School starts back up in just over a week. (Can you tell that I'm ready?!)
Photo credit: C. Bare
At Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards, North Garden, VA
As Making Mindfulness is the name of the game, I am trying with all of my might not to count down to when I'll feel like I'm back in my groove. I don't want to count down (and I don't want to even be tempted to count down!). This is the last year of my program, with only a few months before I decide whether I am pursuing a Masters, a PhD, or leaving Classics entirely for yoga and wellness. Life, right now, is both scary and exciting (as is now my norm, it seems...).
As a high school teacher, I had ever summer off, but this has been the longest summer vacation of my life thus far (beginning of May to the last week of August). In many ways, it has been marvelous. I got a grant and completed a project with a professor, finished my yoga certification, took a summer class, attended a Classics conference at the Center for Hellenic Studies of Harvard University, started teaching in a new yoga instructor position, and spent glorious hours and days with friends and family. In the last several years, around the beginning of August, however, no matter what I do, I start to feel a little strange; if you're a teacher or a student, you may understand. If not, I'll try to explain.
Like your children or the children you know, August represents the end of the party. For kids, this is usually a sad, sometimes dread-inspiring time. Whether teachers want to admit it or not, most of us get a little weird about the beginning of August, even more by the middle of the month. Not weird because we necessarily want the endless party and are dismayed to leave it, but more so a I need to feel productive and like my time matters type of feeling. Not that many humans want to give up vacation for work, but many teachers, deep down, kind of do.
The reasons for this are simple. Many teachers I know like order. We like structure. We like schedules. We like to know what to expect. Get to know our new students, start into a routine, and do a great job--these things are all important and exciting aspects of teaching. So, with fewer structured/ planned/ important appointments and tasks in the summer, some teachers feel lost. Though I have been working through the "I am not a teacher"-ness of my identity all year, this summer reminds me perhaps I am still more of a teacher than I have convinced myself. Just like in the past, August 1st came this month and brought along my usual summer funk. (This is the time, in years past, where my husband would say things like, "Wow, you really need a job!")
Some of the questions I've contemplated, though not particularly uplifting, are:
What am I doing with my life? Why do I feel so unproductive? When will I be back on a schedule? (Am I the only one feeling like this?)
I don't mean--at all--to sound like a complainer. Obviously, non-teachers may be thinking, and rightly so, Wah! I am so sad I have so much vacation time! Poor me. I get it. Let me try to explain further. I love time to myself and I love getting things done when I've got time to do them. Having the summer to myself is a fantastic perk of being a student. It's something, just like I had with teaching, I've chosen--for good or bad--when I decided to return to school. But, as anyone with a passion/ career/ schedule knows, it certainly is nice to feel needed and productive; it aids tremendously in happiness and feelings of fulfillment.
Sure, I've created a summer schedule for myself. I have a nice little routine of waking up around 5:00, working out, making breakfast smoothies and tea, writing, showering and going about my day. Actually, when I look at it on paper, it's not really so little, but it is quite nice. After that, each day has some new task to achieve before I return to school.
paint the hallway [check]
call the insurance [check]
pay for school [check]
practice translations [check]
place orders on Amazon [check]
lunch date(s) [check]
schedule yoga class [check]...
Just like the to-do lists in your life, mine seems to go on and on.
It hasn't been a particularly unproductive few months. So, why the feelings of blah?
Summer vacation and the temperatures associated will be gone before I know it. My busy schedule will be back in full effect. For me, change is hard. It always has been. Your life might also be turned upside down at the end of the month, with kids back in school, sports and clubs picking back up, and life right back on schedule. Today, work to relish the time you have for what it is, but know that if you are a little strained/ stressed/ insane, that's ok. Guilt about how you aren't embracing life enough never (ever!) helped anyone to embrace life more. Work to look for the positive in where you are and try to see the potential for growth, but know that if you can't right now, it will come, if you're open to it. (And I'll try to do the same.)
Reflection sidewalk stone at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Today's post is simply a reminder for me that although some unstructured, no-rules times are necessary and welcomed, I now recognize that I generally thrive under a routine and consistency. And maybe you do, too? Because my new lifestyle is more go with the flow (teach yoga, take class, tutor...) than I have ever been--or ever expected to be--and my only constant is change every three months, I am finally starting to understand how much these things are helping me grow. Now that I have identified the pivot point between my stress and sanity, I can work to balance my life, prepare for another big change, and try to enjoy my last few days of summer.
What helps you come back to earth at the conclusion of summer? What brings you calm in a time of transition?