Thinking about summer

The last things on my end-of-the-year list

I got from 162 emails down to 26, packed the remaining things in my classroom, zip tied the cabinets, labeled everything left out of the cabinets with my room number so the custodians can put things back in the right classroom after they empty it to do the floors, finished my to-do list, drank my water and turned in my keys. And then, in an instant, this year was over. I walked out of the building feeling strangely stuck between worlds.

I’ve never been so ready for some time off. I’ve also never felt so much like it wasn’t actually summer vacation. Over the past year and a half, we have gone through such dramatic changes that I don’t even know what it will take to feel like this year is finished.

In the seemingly never ending time that has stretched from last March until now, we have gone from organizing packets of work to take home, to teaching asynchronously (meaning we have online lessons but did not teach directly to the children, like through Google Meet or Zoom), to teaching synchronously (meaning we spent the day going from Zoom meeting to Zoom meeting to Zoom meeting) from home, to teaching synchronously from school, to teaching in person *and* synchronously online at the same time.

I have never been so tired in my life. The day after school let out I slept for 12 hours. In the past couple of days, I have taken several naps and continue to sleep a full 8 hours at night. I’m even yawning right now as I type this post. No, I do not have sleep apnea or any other issue, I’m just bone deep tired. I have never worked as hard as I have for the past fifteen months. I was so tired and knew I needed a break so clearly that I turned down an opportunity to earn a significant paycheck this summer teaching summer school. I needed this summer off. My brain is fried, my bucket is empty, I’m running on fumes…however you want to express it, the end result is the same I. Am. Tired.

So as I stop and think about summer I am reminded that for most people there isn’t an option to have an extended time off, which I am truly thankful for, but also that I need to be aware of the gift that it is in an active way. I have gone for a walk every morning since I got out of school; I have eaten more fruits and vegetables, and I have tried to start to figure out my writing schedule for the summer (because this is the summer I finish my book).

Thinking about summer, I recognize I need fireflies and BBQs and swimming and lazy afternoons walking down forest paths, but I also need to get my mind right with going back to school in the fall. Right now I’m so tired I’d quit if it were an option. But I love my kids and I love teaching so I know I don’t really want to quit, I just need to rethink how I approach things. Which is going to commence with stopping to think about summer. When I think about summer, I think about the vacations we took when I was little, the backyard craziness my brother and I would get into, the weird experiments we would do using extra stuff from the kitchen. I also think about the smell of pine needles that are years deep as the ground cools at night after a hot day and the scent of the needles escapes. I think about the way the crickets and cicadas sound droning on in the tall grass during a long sultry afternoon. I think about my brother catching frogs in the cove, my mom riding bikes with us down to the swimming hole, my family hand cranking ice cream on the deck before dinner.

Then I think about missing the structure of school, the friends I saw less, the hot nights in a house that wasn’t built for summer…and I wonder why the good memories outweigh the bad so completely. We had a week, sometimes two when my grandparents would let us stay for their week as well, on the little lake we vacationed on in the tiny little cabin with linoleum floors that were always covered with sand no matter how many times you’d sweep it, and the weird plastic cushions on the outside chairs, and the scratchy couches, and the mosquitoes. How does none of that make its way to the surface when I’m thinking about summer? Why do none of the inconveniences or uncomfortable sleeping arrangements make me unhappy? How do our brains do that?

When I stop and think about summer, I vastly prefer to think about summers past. But why? Why am I forgetting the pain of skinned knees, the never ending itchiness of bug bites, the painful bee stings, the sunburns, the sweaty nights tangled up in sheets and a pillow that no longer had a cool side? Even listing those things now, I find myself feeling nostalgic. What is it about summer that makes for such a strong set of memories?

Thinking about summer brings up a whole well of emotions. I used to think I didn’t have ‘bad’ memories, but when I really thought about it I realized that I had all kinds of memories, but even the unpleasant ones make me feel more comfortable in a ‘faded photograph’ kind of way than any of my current plans do. Which is bothersome because I’d like to believe that I have some of my best experiences ahead of me.

So how do you get your present day plans to compete with your past when your past is all rose glasses and fun? I’m going to have to think about it.

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