So my plan for this summer was to reset.
I needed to reset for two reasons. First, I’m a full time professor at a local community college here in Charlotte (the best one obviously – Central Piedmont Community College), and I have a 10-month contract. Between the teaching and the grading and the responsibilities, I always need some time to step back and reset. Additionally, this year, we bought a house in February (which you can read about here, too), and since we bought the house, I feel like I just keep pouring out money, and my thought process has been simply, That sounds like a good idea; let’s see if it works.
After all, it’s like Marilynne Robinson wrote, “When things are taking their ordinary course, it is hard to remember what matters” (Gilead).
So I budgeted my money for this summer; I didn’t save enough to not have to teach, but I did save enough to choose how much I wanted to teach. I chose to teach less than usual and to be a little more broke than usual.
I just wanted to be conscious again, especially about my teaching and my spending habits.
I also wanted to pay attention to how I spend my time a little more. Annie Dillard says, “The way we spend our days is the way we spend our lives,” and, man, that is so true. This is tricky because it means that I wanted to make more room in my life for creating: writing, decorating, diy-ing, maybe even crafting and painting projects. I also wanted to be a little more deliberate and smart about my triathlon training. And I wanted to sit and enjoy my time with the pups, read a lot of good books, and cook some delicious meals.
I say this like I’m not one of the most self-reflective, conscious, and deliberate people I know, like I don’t make time for what I love from August to May, like I’m not a conscious-consumer or a good teacher. I know I am all of those things, but I wanted to use my less-structured time this summer to get into a rhythm or habit of doing that well. After all, Gretchen Rubin writes, “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in awhile,” and I wanted to make sure what I do every day is what matters.
So did I do it? Yes!
And here’s really what I learned:
- If you take on less when you don’t have to, that frees you up for the opportunity to help out. I have to admit that I did end up teaching a little more than I wanted to, but the best part about not taking on too much or too many classes was that when my colleagues needed help to teach a class that lost an instructor this summer, I was able to step in and team-teach the class with them. And it was fun! I framed it in my mind as teaching all of my best lessons in two weeks; who wouldn’t want to teach all of their favorite lessons in two weeks!?
- Switching the laundry doesn’t matter. I am a creature of routine. I have real OCD, and although I’m always fighting obsessive habits, routines keep my anxiety at bay. However, I learned this summer that sometimes I have to be a little better at foregoing routines to spend time with the people who are important to me. This means not switching the laundry or running the dishwasher or wiping down the counters, but instead meeting my friends who I haven’t seen in months for drinks.
- Everyone wants to give you advice, and that’s really frustrating. As far as triathlon training goes, I said I wanted to train smarter. So I asked a lot of people for advice. Everyone gives advice that’s expensive. And usually that expensive advice is easier than something free. Your run isn’t where it should be? Try these shoes. Instead, ask one or two people who really care about you for advice. I asked my dad what his one piece of advice would be, with the caveat that if it cost money, he’d have to consider giving it to me, and he said to lose weight. And he’s right, but that’s not easy advice to give or an easy thing to accomplish.
- So many projects! When I had an apartment or one room, I’d decorate it in a day. Now I have a house. Decorating a house goes slowly, and a lot of the changes I’ve made are just small iterations over a longer period of time. Also, I’m sure that before I’ve finished everything, I’ll start redoing things. I’m not worried about getting it “done” anymore. Right now, this is my favorite room: