Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Concept of Summer Vacation

The mere existence of a "school calendar" has changed society's outlook on work and leisure and rest. During Gary's first couple of years out of seminary and in the parish, we had some friends who wanted to get together during Christmas break. We told them we weren't available to make a 10-hour roundtrip to see them the week before Christmas. Gary was a pastor. Pastors work on Christmas. There is the children's Christmas program. There's Advent services, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the next week is New Year's Eve and the Circumcision of Our Lord. Not exactly the time to run off for a fun-filled playtime with friends.

They didn't understand. They were both teachers. They'd spent decades governed by the school calendar, either as students, college students, or teachers. They didn't understand that most people have to keep going to work during Easter break, Christmas break, and the summer recess.

We have begun to notice the same thing at factories and other work places now too. More and more businesses are closing the week after Christmas. So many of the workers think they are entitled to a Christmas break, and so many will be no-shows at work, that the company admits defeat, shuts down, and uses the time for cleaning or inventory or some other tasks that require a minimal number of employees.

I am tired. I see no way of keeping up with my duties. Several of my friends are equally weary. They are teachers and students. I keep hearing them talk about "only two more weeks until the school year is done" or "fourteen more days of getting up early, and then we're done until August." I am jealous: I see no rest in sight, no break from routine approaching for at least 13 months.

With our entire society being raised with the mental acceptance of a School Calendar, we adjust our lives accordingly. Not only do we feel entitled to breaks, but we also overdo. During the school year, we pack too much work, too much study, too many extra-curriculars, too many clubs, too many lessons, into those nine months. Then we crash and need the occasional breaks.

Doesn't it seem like it would be easier and more reasonable to live a moderate life consistently, rather than the hustle-bustle and then the collapse to recuperate? (Now, how I convince myself to do it?)


  1. I have to tell you, Susan, I've struggled with this over the past year, since I started in the factory. It's hard work - harder than anything else I've ever done. And while I'm used to it by now, I'm used to it because I come home every day and crash. Those months when I've decided: I'm going to write. I'm not going to let myself crash. I'm going to push myself to work and work toward what I want to do for the rest of my life and spend time with family...

    Well, by the end of the month, I've usually worked myself to such exhaustion that I end up getting sick. And then my body forces me to take a break, whether I want it or not.

    Still not sure how to deal with this.

  2. I long for summer break! I could stay pretty focused on many things all year...but I always knew there would be breaks...especially around holidays. Now, life just keeps going...and I don't have that time to recuperate anymore. I'm jealous, too...but happy that they have some time just take care of the things that have been neglected...I'm still trying to figure that out. I am setting very little goals for myself in the way of projects...maybe that will help, I hope.

  3. Nathan, I know how to deal with it. I just can't do what I know needs doing. I have to pare back what I expect of myself, or what I expect others expect of me. I can do that in small measure, but I cannot axe responsibilities out of my schedule in sufficient quantity to make up for the time spent at work. And so I continue to flounder.

    And yes, Laura, I am most certainly glad our dear friends have summer with a lightened load. They need it, and I don't begrudge it to them in the least. I am happy for them. But yeah, there's still a lot of adjusting on my part -- not so much from expecting the summer off (because we spent most of our homeschooling years doing school year-round) -- but because I just have a lot of catching up to do.