I don’t know. Is it just me or did the summer wiz by? Really, normally, I’m okay with that. If you’ve read some of my other posts, you’ll know that the autumn is my favourite season. The ease, for lack of a better word, of the summer though makes it special. By ‘ease’ I mean that I don’t have to plan lessons, there aren’t any meetings to attend or assignments to grade, and I don’t have to worry about always bringing my A-game when performing for my students. Teaching is performing, after all.
Well, it seems that this summer wasn’t that easy.
I worked, as I’ve done since 2002, for my school district’s maintenance department with male teachers from schools in my district. Our dynamic is pretty mellow. As long as we get the jobs done, all is good. We joke a lot, usually taking jabs at each other, like we were a frat house or good old boys club. Don’t get me wrong. There is thinking to be done - planning how to tackle the jobs we’re assigned – but it’s not the same kind of thinking needed for creating assignments, getting the most out of students, analysing test scores, overcoming the achievement gap, etc. On some days, the most harrowing decision we make is where to have to lunch.
What made this summer less summer-like was how busy it was. Even before last school year ended, I began night practices for returning and incoming volleyball players. I continued this, switching to late afternoon sessions, in July for a total of seven and a half weeks. Every year, tryouts begin mid-August but in an attempt to make us more competitive and to continue on the improvements we made last year and to pick up the slack that’s been left from the seven girls who graduate I ran the free camp. It’s proven to have been worthwhile. The level of play that came into tryouts was much stronger than in past years. Now that tryouts are concluded and the team (JV and varsity) are made and we’ve had some scrimmages, the summer is truly over and the school year has begun.
Since the start of last school year, I’ve also been on our Health and Physical Education curriculum writing team. Granted, I chose to be on it and I get paid for every hour I work, up to what the school board approves, but it’s still another thing I put on my plate. And, I spent time meeting with my department supervisor and my fellow team member as well as working on writing the curriculum at home and school during July and August.
I’m not looking for sympathy or anything like that. I chose to do all these things but there are prices to pay. I’m scheduled to run in this year’s New York City Marathon. I was following my schedule to the kilometre but suffered an injury setback and then the summer hit with its mad timetable. I had to be at work by 7am, end at 3pm. Then there was volleyball followed by picking my son up from day care and then the home things. Running? What’s that? I’d get and continue to get runs in when I can. I just hope that I can get back on some kind of schedule once the school year starts and that my experience having run three previous marathons (NYCM 1995 and 2005, Disney World 1999) will help me get through this year’s edition.
My writing has dramatically suffered too, which is the worst part of it all. The most consistent writing I’ve been able to do is this blog; a post once a week if I’m lucky but, really, less than that. I wanted to have a first draft of my novel, Sage of Heaven, completed by summer’s end but, alas, that’s not going to happen. My reading, too, is two put offs away from flat-lining.
And, then, there’s my Taekwondo teaching and training. That, like everything else, requires time and there is only so much of that to go around. I also don’t have a place to train. My classes have folded due to no new sign ups and no renewals so, while I’m keeping the school namealive, really, my attempts at running a Taekwondo endeavor and passing on my soon-to-be twenty-seven years of knowledge has failed again. I don’t even have a place to train my son so I’ll probably end up bringing him to one of the schools one of my friends owns. I’m going to be the only Taekwondo master I know of whose own son didn’t carry on the Taekwondo tradition directly from his father. At least my son will be able to train, however, and become a master in his own right.
So, what’s the point to all of this? There are two and I address this to teenagers who are starting out on new paths in their lives and to the not so young, twenty and even thirtysomethings, who have recently left the safety net of education or the security of an established but unfulfilling job, and are trying to make their own marks on this world. Here they are:
1. Try everything when you’re young and be fearless about doing it. I’m talking about opportunities in arts, sports, industry, and academia and, even, religion and not in drugs, alcohol, other substances and promiscuity. Make yourself well rounded but also don’t be afraid to pick one or two things to make them your own; things that will shape who you are into who you want to become and things that you can, in turn, shape and help evolve into something better than it was when you started doing it. Don’t take “No” for an answer and be willing to prove people wrong when they say, “You can’t do that” or, worse still, “Why?”
2. For the not so young, as you endeavour to make you mark, your fame and your fortune, don’t forget to be fearless and don’t forget that thing or two that shaped you and you helped shape. Anyone above, I would say thirty or thirty-five, will tell you that life isn’t always rosy and the plans you make don’t always fall into place. You’ll have to be flexible and maybe even change your plans for a bit. When those harder times come - and they will – you’ll need to turn to that thing you did when you were younger. It’ll ground you and, even for a little while, make you feel like the world is once again at your fingertips.
There’s an adage that says,“Youth is wasted on the young.” Looking back on my life and recalling conversations I’ve had with friends around my age, I have to admit there is some truth to that. I hope this post can help young people take a minute and think about who they are, who they want to be, what they want to do, where they want to be, what they need to do to get there, and why they want it. Young people don't often have enough knowledge or experience to know the Whats and Whys but today's young people are smarter and experience more at younger ages than my friends and I did at the same age. Most people will say they just want to be happy. Happiness is easy to achieve. It’s fleeting, after all. Contentment and satisfaction are really what one should pursue. At forty-three, I’ve not (yet) found them. I hope to, someday. I hope you do, too.