During the school year, I’m very anti-social. I don’t always realize it, but phone calls go unreturned or there just never seems like a good time to call a friend. How can I fit happy hour in between work, gym, sleep? The truth is that by the end of the day, I’m all talked out. Friends who have known me a long time would be shocked to know that such a thing is possible. Frankly, I was surprised when I realized it myself. Where there used to be endless chatter, I find that a solid day of teaching and interacting with people, I find that there actually is a point where I will sort of be tired of interacting with people.
The same is true of making decisions, though that’s something I never really enjoyed. But, my students ask a lot of questions. Some of them are interesting or thoughtful, a lot of them are along the lines of “What is the last possible second I can turn this in?” or “Can I redo this assignment?” I could do a better job of being consistent about some of these things. Assignments are due at the beginning of class or by 5:00 pm. But, there are always extenuating circumstances, some of which are legit, some of which are not, and all of them have to be heard–not because I am fair and balanced that way but because they will always offer an explanation even when it is a hail mary pass. The desperate explanation of why something is late will be presented more fervently than all the rest. So, you make a lot of decisions. There is also the decision of what our next project should be that contains multitudes of other questions: what should they make? When will it be due? How are we going to teach them this thing? What should the groups be? And then, things interrupt your daily schedule: What should we do about TAKS testing? Half the juniors will be gone in the morning, what should we do with the half that stays? And what about the half that is gone?
After a day of that, I’m incapable and uninterested in answering the question: Where should we go for dinner? I don’t think Eric has ever asked that question and gotten a definitive answer. I’ve made 1,000 decisions that had to be made, so take me to a place with food: restaurant, grocery store, gas station, I’ll figure it out. Or I’ll stay home and have a bowl of cereal.
So, now I’m on summer vacation and I have the opposite problem. I have time to hang out, and my friends are at work. I’ve decided to stop deciding things because it was so exhausting and now I can’t decide what to do with my day. I don’t have to go to work (yay!), but now I don’t see the people that I regularly eat lunch with. Now, it’s just me and a sandwich and Netflix instant streaming. Not only that, but during the school year, I longed to have more time with my Netflix queue to watch documentaries and finally check out Battlestar Gallactica. That was going to make me happy, and now I’m spending maybe too much time doing it. I am lonely and miss people. The same people that I was too busy to call back during the school year.
This may well be a personal problem, but I find it really hard to find balance when I’m a teacher. For all that the school day ends at 3:35, my professional work day does not end then. And it doesn’t always end at 5:00 either. It also doesn’t end on Friday and stop there until Monday morning. I work more than 40 hours a week, and the reward for that is supposed to be–among other things–two and a half months off. In May, I’m living for that time off. The epic break within which to relax and unwind. But I find that having nothing to do for days and days and weeks and weeks, is weirdly oppressive in a different way.
My friend Megan called today, and that was great because she is also off this summer and she is less lazy than I am. She’s got plans to leave her house and do things, which is inspiring and I’m also making plans to tag along on a few of her adventures. Maybe I won’t squander my summer after all. Still, I sometimes miss the life I had where, though I had to request time off, I almost never had to work weekends.