It’s that time of year again, for me anyway, when I start back to school (work). So I thought it would be good to take some time to reflect on my summer and my thoughts about the upcoming school year.
My summer started out with me feeling vaguely apathetic towards the break. I am usually much more excited to escape the daily rhythms of life as a teacher. The idea alone of sleeping in is enough to bring a smile to my face – hey, getting up at 5:30 a.m. gets tougher the older I get. However, this year I’d managed spontaneously to decide that I wanted to take a position as summer camp director for a nature camp. At the time, it seemed liked a fantastic idea. I’d get to spend time in nature, have some structured activity to my summer, and earn some extra money. But as summer approached I became extremely apprehensive about the prospect of giving up three weeks of my “me time,” the idea that I would be in charge of 35 children and a few teenage volunteer counselors, and that a whole host of horrendous trauma inducing events could potentially occur to myself or the children I was in charge of. (Yes, my anxiety was highly involved with my imagination pertaining to the potential traumas, but that didn’t make them any less real in MY mind.)
As so often happens with my well-intentioned spontaneity, I had begun to regret my decision. What had I gotten myself into? Surely someone was going to suffer a broken bone on my watch, or worse yet, a fishhook injury the likes of which the world had never seen before, or even a snake bite, and don’t get me started on the thought that some child might wander off and drown in the lake. Aaaakk! I couldn’t handle the pressure (self-imposed, yes, but still), how was I ever going to be able to do this?
My first week off from school I spent preparing for the following week that would be the first week of nature camp. I had plenty of activities planned. The campground owner thought I had great ideas, and things would go very well. I wasn’t convinced, but I was going through with it, ready or not.
The first week of camp was a good week. Everything went well, and there were only two bloody noses the whole week. I can handle bloody noses. As long as it isn’t my blood, I’m usually good to go.
After the first week of camp, I had a week to myself to decompress. It was a relief to have made it through the first week of nature camp, and I felt more prepared for the remaining two weeks I’d have later in July.
Then there was a week of vacation with my husband at Rehoboth Beach. Vacation was good though my moods fluctuated frequently. You never think of anxiety and depression fucking with your vacation time – a time when you’re supposed to be relaxing and having fun – but mental illness doesn’t give a shit about that sort of thing, it does what it wants when it wants. Despite that, we still managed to eat several delicious meals out, enjoy kayaking, take two boat rides (an eco tour and a sunset cruise), take a day trip to Assateague, see two plays at the local theater, have dinner with friends, and take two separate nature/bird watching hikes. All in all, we still had a great time.
Upon returning from vacation, I had a week to prepare for the next two weeks of nature camp and the arrival of my two younger cousins. They were going to be visiting and helping me as camp counselors. I was extremely glad to have their company and their help.
The final two weeks of nature camp went fairly well. Only one small glitch with an unhappy parent caused me a significant deal of stress and anger, but in the end, things worked out. I managed to please the majority of campers and their parents who were supportive and kind. I even managed to have some fun in the process.
Looking back on the camp director experience, I think it went well overall; however, I would hesitate to do something of that nature again. On the other hand, it was wonderful to have my teenage cousins visit for two weeks. And we’ve made tentative plans for a visit again next summer.
Following the camp experience, my husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary with a trip to Cape May, NJ. It was an amazing weekend getaway! We went to a crab and beer festival, took an ecological boat tour, did a small bit of hiking (it was exceedingly hot), and again enjoyed some amazing food.
The past two weeks have provided me with some down time for which I am extremely thankful. I’ve spent my days wandering local parks, taking pictures, reading, and writing. I’ve visited all of my favorite downtown coffee shops and just generally had time to mentally relax and feel like I’ve had some much desired time to myself. All topped off with a visit from my mom this weekend and a trip to the Mt. Gretna Arts Festival.
I went into my summer rather apprehensive about what was in store for me, but looking back (as is usually the case), I didn’t need to be so worried. I’m very grateful for the summer that I’ve had.
A lesson I should currently be applying to my impending school year; I’d like to say that I will, but I know myself better than that. There will be anxiety. There will be stress (self-imposed and otherwise). And there will be challenges. And even though I know that I am strong and capable of handling all of that…it still worries me.
I haven’t been sleeping well the past few nights, and I’ve had several stress-dreams, so this afternoon I’m doing something special for myself. I’m going for a massage. I haven’t had a massage since our honeymoon ten years ago, and I’m excited by this opportunity.
So here’s to the new school year: may it be filled with fun, amazing students, opportunities for growth, and a sense of fulfillment.