About this time of year, my non-teacher friends get a little envious that I’m “off” for the summer. They imagine all the possibilities of two-and-a-half months away from work, and it makes them wonder, if only for a moment, if it’s not too late to change careers.
And they’re right - summers off are fantastic, one of the perks of being a teacher, and even if I told them about the in-summer training we attend or the preparation we put in for the next year or the extra jobs we often work, they would only roll their eyes and laugh at me.
So I don’t tell them those things, but I do tell them that summer break for grown-ups isn’t the same as summer break for young people. The calendar says summer comes once a year; I say it comes much less than that, at least the kind of summer that I’m talking about and the kind that I think they imagine.
For perspective, let me tell you about my first week of summer: I replaced the hardware on the kitchen door, weeded the garden, cut up a tree limb, sprayed the drive with weed killer, scooped the leaves from the gutters (and got chased by a wasp while doing it!), washed the windowsills, planted some shrubs and, oh yeah, scheduled a colonoscopy.
Not exactly the magical summer of youth.
The other day I stopped for lunch at a restaurant. I won’t name names, but it’s the only place in town with a big stone fireplace in the dining room and a gift shop in the lobby. Well, my waitress was an HHS student whom I had had in class, and she told me she was working this job and another one at a place across the street to make all the money she can before she leaves for Europe later this month. She didn’t seem stressed or tired or worried. This was just something she was doing now so she could do something awesome later.
And that’s the difference between summer as a kid and summer as an adult. When you’re young, everything is an adventure, and there’s no obstacle or inconvenience that can make something not worth doing. Stay up all night with friends then go to work the next morning? No problem. Drive four hours to a concert with no tickets and no place to stay? Sounds good. Head to the beach with so many people and so little money that you have to sleep on the bathroom floor? Let’s go.
That’s what gets lost as we get older, and it’s a big reason why summer at 18 is a lot different than summer at 38.
This doesn’t mean that summer is a bummer for us older folks. Two-and-a-half months off is a long time. There will be road trips, naps on the porch, tomatoes from the garden, late movies on Netflix, the smell of honeysuckle through the screen, steaks on the grill, books crossed off the list, bass pulled from the pond, cool below the trees.
So I’m not complaining, not even a little. And even if I were, who would listen?
By journalism teacher John Gerome