I’ve had a hard time focusing to write since summer break began. During the chaotic school year that it was, I took on the #sol challenge in March and even extended the student #sol challenge to my second graders. I continued writing on Tuesdays more or less, and enjoyed reading other slices. I looked forward to summer break and the ending of such a stressful, unprecedented year. I looked forward to more down time and a time to regroup and just being. But that’s not how summer break has felt at all.
Somehow I managed (without fully paying attention), to book mostly everyday in July with some sort of commitment either for myself or my children (which means I’m technically booked as well since they’re little and I’m the mode of transportation). I felt down, insecure, ungrounded, unsure, and generally short-fused. I realized over the past school year I was so super focused on work that school and teaching became what I felt confident in and the other parts – mother, wife, daughter, friend – took backstage. Suddenly that ended, and although summer break is typically a difficult transition for this routine-centered girl, this transition became even harder than normal. I’m a teacher. People expect me to be so thankful I have the summer “off”. I get to spend extra time with my children, go to the bathroom when I please (truthfully probably only other teachers realize this bonus), read books for pleasure, workout, listen to podcasts, catch up on house projects, do laundry (it was apparent the last time I had put laundry away was during spring break). Instead of embracing these things, I just became overwhelmed and somehow felt lonely.
Maybe it was because this year forced me to be closer than ever to the colleagues who I taught with in our cohort and I suddenly was without them. Maybe it was because this year I found myself pushing away from colleagues who I thought I knew well but I had seen a different side of that I didn’t care for and moving away from them felt awkward and judgy. Maybe it is because I am an over thinker and find myself always searching for the root from which to grow and be better (which can be isolating and exhausting). Maybe it has something to do with the fact upstate New York has had a ridiculously rainy and gloomy summer with insane storms.
I recently started reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown and listening to her Unlocking Us podcast sister summer series on the book. It hit home to the core. After a lot of talking to my phone and the book with “Yes! Yassss!”, crying, more yesses, more crying and so on, I’m starting to come to the realization that this crazy, stressful year is leaking out of me in a delayed reaction.
I had to let things go this past year and that is not easy for me. In addition to teaching in a pandemic and feeling anxious that I was going to somehow transmit COVID to my family members, we moved to a new town and didn’t exactly get to meet anyone other than in passing outside, my husband’s best friend died unexpectedly in the fall, travel ban restrictions from my school district deterred me from seeing my parents until they could visit in late April, I turned 40 in February and was bummed I couldn’t celebrate. I think it’s taking awhile to notice and name all these things, as well as shift my thinking about them – we have begun to meet some people in the neighborhood and I need to be patient with that, my children have made friends and have gotten to have play dates and birthday parties, the crushing blow of our friend passing away made me realize how I need to let small things go because it’s not worth arguing about, we are regularly seeing my parents again, my friends made my birthday the best it could be as they brought me dinner, masked and to my doorstep back in February and I realize what an effort that was.
Looking ahead to the rest of July and August, I felt relieved when I noticed I hadn’t booked our weekends with commitments. My husband and I recognized we have little time to fit in all that we’re trying to do and will make a concerted effort to schedule (dare I use that word) family time for hiking. There is certainly a shift going on within me and part of me feels hopeful that I’ve done enough retrospection that I can move on and look forward and actually start enjoying summer break before it is over.
Has summer break seemed different to you this year? Have you felt a feeling of relief only to realize it’s not as peaceful as you were picturing? Certainly there is a lot of good. As I write this on my patio in my pajamas with the sun peeking through the trees, my coffee, and a gentle summer breeze, I breathe in the smell of marigolds and basil next to me and tell myself today will be a good day.