Summer Time--by Ellen Jensen Abbott

“At loose ends?” my husband asked me this morning as I wandered around the kitchen, sitting at the computer for three minutes, putting a few dishes away, listening down the basement stairs to see if the dryer was still running, and then heading back to the computer to check the email I had checked a mere three minutes earlier.
Yes. It’s the fourth day of summer for me and I’m already at loose ends. If I was twelve I would come dragging into my mother’s room to say, “I’m bored.” In fact, there is a lot about the start of my summer that is akin to that twelve-year-old’s. I’m a teacher and for the past nine months, my life has been full of lesson planning, arranging and moderating discussions, doing dorm-duty and grading, grading, grading. Like that twelve-year-old, I had the euphoric moment when I was done for the summer and I had that first day of lazing around and feeling fine about it (I watched Pride and Prejudice for the eleventh time). But now I’m four days in, and I don’t know what to do with myself. Oh, there are plenty of projects crying out to me: finish that novel! Write that blog! Paint that wall! But it feels impossible to prioritize with these wide open days in front of me.
That’s the promise of summer to me: time. From the craziness of the school year, it seems like the ultimate luxury. But there’s a discipline that comes with these wide open days that, at the moment, is eluding me. This is a new feeling. My kids are in their late-teens and twenties. During previous summers, I had their swim meets, playdates, and day-camps to organize my days around. But now, they drive, they have jobs, they report in but don’t rely on me. I’m left to my own devices.  

In a few more days--unfocused, loose-ends kinds of days--I will impose some structure on the time. I’ll get up early and run; write for a few hours; take care of house stuff; read. I’ll work hard enough that I will give myself days off for a trip to the beach or to the mountains. When late August gets here, I’ll get mopey again. What’s going to happen to all my lovely time? I’ll moan to my husband who works in a twelve-month job and is a good enough man that he actually feels sympathy for me. But right now, I haven’t changed gears yet. That’s coming. And I’ve already been able to check on thing off my list: write that blog post!


  1. I can so relate to this, Ellen! I was a college professor for 28 years (and a TA for who knows how many years before that) and switching gears at the beginning and end of summer was always soooo hard. For me, there was no way to force it--one day I'd wake up ready to buckle down to all those things I longed to have the time for during the academic year and that suddenly lost their appeal once I could actually do them. Good luck with the transition!


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