Teaching is supposed to include a built-in restart button and enforced down time—June arrives, a cycle ends, and another waits two months to begin. Non-academics never tire of telling me that being finished, if only for now, is a rare and special luxury.
My first few years as a teacher I certainly thought so. I bit my lip through graduation ceremonies, but the moment I closed my car door after that last meeting, I’d spin the volume knob on the radio to the right and scream elation. I’d survived. I’d rest. I’d become a private citizen. September wouldn’t be real for at least another five weeks.
But now I wonder where that life went. Summer school is a financial necessity for me, but even without “moonlighting,” I’m never really not a teacher. Perhaps the role has soaked into my body like spice that sweats from me and rides every breath. But I’m also never out of contact. My school wouldn’t allow it.
I’m sure a working summer makes me a better teacher. After all, June, July, and August aren’t as hard as the rest of the year, and it’d be unfair to complain when so many people slave through heat with nothing like leisure. I, at least, have daydream time, and daydreams give birth to the best innovations. Maybe all anyone needs in any job isn’t vacation but a little unharried time to think. A retreat maybe.
Still, I miss clear transitions, the times I’m decidedly, definitively off.
I can’t be alone, just the latest victim. The 24-7 malady of e-mail and cell phones has already hit a working world where each task dovetails so seamlessly with the next that finishing a task means you can give full attention to another already underway. Readiness and steadiness and ambition—faith you can make the time—are the bywords of the age.
Which may be why I am so over caffeinated, so perpetually worried, and so very tired, too tired and too busy even in June to dream of a solution. And why I am always behind, why I am always ashamed of what I haven’t done yet… though this period off is supposed to be a time to get things done.