A Purposeful Summer

School is ending for the year. Our graduates have walked, and only a couple days of cleaning and tying up loose ends remain. The end of May is always a time for teachers to take a big sigh of relief and finally give in to the exhaustion that has been accumulating for the past ten months. Summer break makes people think teachers have it easy, but I always remind them that 1) it’s only two months now, not the three most of us remember from our own childhoods, 2) it’s unpaid, and 3) we still have a lot of school-related work that needs to get done during this time. Not to mention, I teach summer school, so I’m still working anyway. Summer school’s not a bad deal though. My school can only afford to pay me for half the day, so I have my afternoons free, and there’s only one five-week session, so I still have almost a month off in July.

Like many teachers and students, I always have great illusions about all the amazing things I’m going to get done with my extra free time during the summer. And then in August I wonder where the time went and why I didn’t get all that stuff done. My life has always been run on the academic calendar, so you’d think by now I’d know how much I can actually accomplish in this time and be able to make some realistic goals.

I don’t claim to be great at time management. I’ve written before about struggling with it (and even more so, about messages blaming women in particular for poor time management). When my toddler takes his afternoon naps on the weekends, I feel listless rather than purposeful. I feel like there are so many things I have to do that I don’t know where to start, and then I feel bad about wasting any of this little bit of time dithering rather than being productive.

Summer has the potential to multiply that procrastination. I figure there are two ways I know of to combat that listless feeling and the resultant dithering: 1) scheduling things, and 2) routines. I need to take my own decision-making out of the equation by making appointments I have to keep and committing to them by spending money. Summer means a new daily routine, and if I don’t take the time to think that new routine through, I’ll end up not knowing what to do with myself and wasting all this awesome summer time. Living by a routine might seem boring, but if you’re thoughtful about setting the routine and building in flexibility, it can allow you to be really purposeful about the way you spend your time, which is the ultimate regret-buster.

This summer I wanted to recapture some of the things that made me feel bold, beautiful, confident, and vital when I was younger. In high school, I participated in almost all of the drama productions we did. My favorite plays we did were The Diary of Anne Frank and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. So, inspired by my high school drama memories and Amy Poehler’s memoir Yes Please, I signed up for improv classes this summer. I liked the way Poehler described how improv taught her to trust her instincts and sparked her creativity. It would be awesome if the classes had that effect on me, but I’ll be happy if I don’t end up feeling like I made a fool of myself every night. I’m a little nervous about the classes, a good kind of nervous that tells me I’m stepping out of my comfort zone.

I also need to focus more on my physical fitness, and I don’t like working out for the sake of looking good (no matter how much that’s the real motivation). A workout powered by self-loathing makes me feel worse than I felt before I started, no matter how much stronger my muscles are. It seems more healthy to exercise for the sheer joy of it, and there are not many forms of exercise that make me feel joyful. However, I took dance classes from ages 4-16 and really enjoyed them. I could barely notice how much I was sweating when I was focused on executing complicated steps in time. So I bought a pass for several classes at the summer dance program at Vanderbilt. I can take a variety of types of dance classes, depending on which ones fit my schedule and preference each day. I’m most excited to try tap-dancing again. I hope some muscle memory lingers from half my lifetime ago.

One other big thing happening this summer: we’re going to try to put our house on the market soon. So de-cluttering, putting things in storage, and making this place look as if no one lived here, are going to take a lot of work. The last time we bought a house, it was easy because it was our first time. Being a seller is a whole new ball game. I’m also feeling nostalgic about leaving the home I came to as a newlywed, the place that sheltered our baby in his first two years. So this huge project is going to take some grieving and emotional work as well as physical labor.

As if classes and real estate weren’t enough to keep me busy for two months, I would like to post more frequently on this blog this summer. And my almost-two-year-old is at a particularly adorable stage right now, and I want to simply enjoy him with some of this extra time. He deserves some visits to the playground and the splash park and a few play dates. And I’m finally going to take the plunge and get a smartphone, so I’ll be that much more distracted as I try to accomplish all these goals.

So here’s to a deliberately planned summer of personal growth and necessary, if bittersweet, change. Let’s hope that in August I can look back and say I made the most of it.


5 thoughts on “A Purposeful Summer

  1. Good luck with all of your summer plans! Colleen Oakes blogged about how stressful it is to put your house on the market with a baby in tow while you’re still living there. She told all her readers to never do this because it’s insanely stressful. She had a *really* hard time with the realtor showing up for spontaneous showings (with ten-minute warnings via cell) and making the place look squeaky clean in minutes — things kept getting thrown in random places (cell phone cords in tomato pots, dirty socks in kitchen cabinets, toys in the dishwasher, etc.) so she recommended relocating *before* putting a house on the market — especially if you have young children at home. So I just thought I’d share that, since her experience listing a live-in house sounded like Total HELL to me and not something I ever want to go through. That warning aside, I hope you have a great summer!

    • Thanks so much! I’ve heard similar stories about what a nightmare selling a house can be. I’ve heard lots of advice going both ways about whether to sell first or buy first–one is stressful with constantly being ready to show the place, while the other sets you up for a bigger financial gamble. And either way, based on the preferences of the people you’re selling to or buying from, you might end up without a place to live for a month or two. Luckily, houses are selling FAST in our market. We’re not likely to be on the market for longer than a week or two at most. If we’re lucky, we might get multiple good offers after a single open house and not have to worry about realtors showing up without notice at all.

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