Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What For Me Work?

Keep It on the Inside - Matthew Perryman Jones (mp3)
Dead Sea - The Lumineers (mp3)

The first days of summer are dark days.

Not for my kids. Not for my fellow teachers, who heard that last bell and soared away from campus so quickly they had those Road Runner zip-zip-twang dust clouds behind them. Not for the graduating seniors or the underclassmen who feel they've earned a too-brief reprieve.

When you are an "administrator," you keep coming to the school campus. The goofy adolescent soon-to-be-adults are all gone. In their place are squealing skittering young kids. The cafeteria's barely-tolerable regular food is replaced with summer fare: chicken patty sandwiches, pizza, pasta, hot dogs, PB&J, more pizza, french fries.

That first official day of summer, I think, "This is what it must have been to own the hotel in a Gold Rush town." The gold dries up, the people run for the next rush, and you're stuck with your empty hotel, trying to figure out your next step.

The beauty of remaining in the ghost town is in learning a different rhythm to things. The school year is filled with regularly-scheduled meetings, regularly-scheduled campus events, regularly-scheduled lunches and appointments and expectations. In-between this avalanche of being regularly scheduled, you shovel through emails, crafting responses you hope seem sincere and have little if any tinge of bitterness that it's just one more rock clogging up the cave entrance, keeping you trapped.

The adjustment to this new rhythm is never easy at first. It's like walking out of a mid-day matinee, squinting and sneezing, or climbing out of the cold river after your body had become accustomed to the water.

After that first week, though, summer becomes what it was meant to be, full of varying storylines, like some great Choose Your Own Adventure book. After that first week, summer becomes an epic battle, a summer blockbuster in my own little corner of the universe.

The battle, every year, is between the part of me dying to be carefree and the part desperate to get better. It's a colossal battle, a clash of internal titans. I pride myself in having both, in the ability to see the fun and lightness in life, and in the driving need to be unsatisfied with what I'm producing, what I'm doing, what I'm becoming.

Many a year, the fun part wins. I sneak out for a few rounds of afternoon golf. I sneak out for a few afternoon matinees. I sneak out for long coffees and reading. I sneak in a TV series I’m watching and catch a few episodes when I need “a break.”

Other years, I catch inspiration and hunger. I fire off proposals and ideas to my boss, my coworkers, key “change agents.” Some shots miss their mark, but the joy is in the firing, in the certainty that the ones which find their mark might really make a difference down the road. In moments of uncertainty or confusion, I back away and organize my surroundings, tidy my messiness, clean up my computer files.

Rarely does one side win in a landslide. Often it’s like a Presidential election, where the winner is lucky to get 55% of the popular vote.

The transition usually occurs this week, and I’m starting to be excited about summer. I’m starting to pull out of my discomfort in the change of schedule -- in the nigh-disappearance of schedule, actually -- and beginning to realize that this stretch of time is, with precious exception, whatever I want to make of it.

Will I be Wile E. Coyote, eager to build the newer and better mousetrap, or will I be Road Runner, giddy only while leaving smoke trails in my speeding joyful path? Who will win this summer's battle?

Let the Summer Games begin.

1 comment:

Bob said...

Dark, my friend, dark.