Getting over the back to school blues

I returned to work this week, something I’ve been feeling less than great about.  I’ve been feeling bugged and bummed because I didn’t get the summer I’d hoped for–something I normally would admit to no one but a fellow teacher (or my mother).

I know that no one other than an educator (or my mother) would sympathize or understand how I could be feeling anything but grateful to have had such a lengthy break from work and a good job to return to.  Nonetheless, bugged, bummed and less than great is exactly how I’ve been feeling.

As I explained whined to my parents in an email earlier this week, the last five or so summers have just been one kind of hard or another.  None has been the rejuvenating break I’d hoped for.  Each has left me feeling more wiped out than revved up and ready to go for another school year.  I’m tired.

But, as I ruminated about all of this (as I’m so often wont to do), it occurred to me that perhaps it is not summer (or my life) that is the problem, but my stance toward it.  My expectations.  It occurred to me that perhaps the summers that live in my memory are not exactly true representations of summers past.

In my memory, summer has been a time of long days filled with slow hours.  Leisurely mornings and afternoons filled with time to read books, cook real meals, complete projects, sleep.  That’s not what my summers have been looking like these past few years.  Yes, books have been read, meals have been cooked, projects have been completed, and naps have been taken–but the pace has not felt slow or leisurely, and there have not been enough books, meals, projects, or naps.  Not enough for me to feel filled up and rested, anyway.

But I started to wonder if those summers I think I remember were ever really that way.  Or, even if they were, if it’s just unrealistic to expect that they will be at this stage of my life.  I’ve got two teen-agers, a romantic partner (who comes with a daughter), parents, extended family, and friends.  Almost everything that’s filled my summer days has been someone/something I love having in my life or something in service to someone/something I love.

Yes, I’m tired.  But I’m also really frickin’ fortunate.  I’m tired because my life is so full of so many good things (along with the usual mundane/irritating/difficult things that we all have).  And what I’ve realized, as I returned to work this week and the prospect of even fewer books, meals, projects, and naps, is how futile it is to think I can somehow squeeze all the things I really love/want into the two fleeting months that is summer break.

I realized that in my way, I’m not so different from those people who live their lives waiting for someday.  Someday, when I get a really good job/my kids are in school/my kids are grown/I can move/I can retire/, then I’ll really be able to live the way I want to.

I’ve just been doing it on a shorter scale:  In June, I’ll be able to… .

Problem is, that kind of stance is just as problematic for me as it is for anyone else who thinks life will be perfect if they can only get to this one thing.   Life is still going to happen–and life always has lots of what we don’t want. 

Today, I’m grateful for my job not only because it’s good work that provides so many things I want/need, but also because returning to it has helped me see that I need to keep working at making changes in my life that will help me be healthy and feel good all year round.  I don’t want to live my life feeling that only one season of every year is really good time for me–and then feeling discouraged and disappointed when it doesn’t live up to my hopes and expectations.

I’m grateful for the reminder that most of the time, it’s not our situation that needs to change for us to be happier.  It is ourselves.

Yep, it was a hard summer in some ways.  Lots of change and transition and unwelcome challenges and not as much time to rest and recuperate from the school year as I’d like.   But there were some sweet moments in there, too–many of which I’ve already shared through this blog:

Grace floating through an afternoon at the Rim pool.

Cane giving me a photography lesson at the Japanese Garden.

Giving Will a hug before he left for a week in DC with my parents.

A summer evening scooter ride up Lolo Pass to watch the sunset.

Playing at the river with the dogs and kids.

Both kids not only getting along, but reading. For fun, on their own.

First day in our new house.

Ella cooling off after a long day of house projects.

Cane refurbishing the old art classroom cabinet we scored at City Liquidators.

Grace putting on the Cabbage Patch Kid face--our idea of the new owling.

There were  hard days, and probably hard moments in every day, but it was a good summer.  A good life.  I’m grateful for all of it–and for return to doing good work with good people I’ve missed during these weeks away.

I’m grateful that the coming months are not ones I’m hoping to simply endure until I can get to the good times again–and for the ways in which returning to work has been catalyst for the change within I needed to be able to feel that way.

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5 responses to “Getting over the back to school blues

  1. Hi Rita, I was having these same thoughts the last few weeks of school in June! I just kept thinking “if I can only get to the finish line, I have a summer in front of me and I can rest”. The problem is, the summer was not restful and blissful, so now I go back to school with the “blues”. I agree with you that the trick is to realize that life has it’s ups and downs, all year long – they don’t take a break in the summer! My goal this year is to find balance. I think this is hard for anyone who is juggling work, teens, etc, but especially hard for teachers who don’t get to choose their vacation times, and their is definately a stigma out there that we have it so good with our time off. It may look that way, but we just have challenges of a different sort. Thanks for the reminder that I need to live one day at a time, and to be thankful when times are good!

    • Hi Carolyn–
      Me, too! I (and just about every teacher I know) feel that way in June. What I’m realizing is that the load I’m carrying then just gets replaced by a different one. Love my children like nothing else, but they are very much my job in the summer. I’m with you in the quest for balance. Maybe that’s what this post is really about–realizing that I need/want balance throughout my year. I want to let go of the idea that summer will somehow make up for the stress of the school year. It doesn’t. And that idea, maybe, has kept me from doing more that I might do to live in a more manageable way during the school year.

      Wishing you a great year. Will be thinking of you next week–

  2. Boy oh Boy Rita! you hit the nail on the head again. It does feel like we are walking down parallel paths. In many ways, I can’t complain either, but I want to complain, because I don’t feel like I had a summer, either. So the reality check is that moving is a hell of a lot of work. I didn’t get much of a break and am also physically worn out for my own reasons.

    You are right, tho. We now get to learn how to pace ourselves in our “regular” life – meaning throw work in on top of it all.

    Happy balance! Have a good labor day weekend.

  3. Oh yeah, moving is a hell of a lot of work. Writing the post and looking at pictures, I realized I did get quite a bit of what I hoped for until the move. The last month has been a lot of hard work (physical and emotional). Don’t know about you, but I’m planning not to move again for a really long time. Like, maybe one more big one left in my life. That’s been a weird thing to realize. Among a lot of other weird things. Hang in there–we can do this. :-)

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