I find myself in an interesting situation as the beginning of July looms. For the first time since I was thirteen or so, I have the summer off. Well, not completely off… I do, after all, have a thesis to write. So I’m in summer school, if you will. But in terms of work obligations, I have relatively few until the last week of August. It feels a little weird.
Several decades go, it felt entirely normal, of course. We would anticipate the end of the school year with relish. I could predictably plan a number of activities: a couple of weeks with my father, usually at a cottage somewhere. Daily explorations on my bike. Weekly trips to the library, to acquire a stack of books, voraciously plow through them, and then balance them on my handlebars as I went back for more.
My days were largely unsupervised. As long as I was back home by sundown and dinner, I was largely free to do what I wanted. The word ’should’ was not yet rooted in my subconscious. I had not yet taken on the mantle of incipient workaholism. I was as yet several years away from believing that, if I was awake and unoccupied, that there were items on my to-do list needing my attention. I knew how to play. I didn’t feel guilty for whiling away an afternoon following the whimsy of my imagination in whichever direction it dawdled.
I’ve often of late missed those years, missed that freedom. After a year of scaling back my commitments and obligations, however, I am very nearly there. My to-do list is largely empty. I have no immediate deadlines, and no pressing obligations. I have a summer ahead of me (with a two week vacation planned, now with my wife) that is in scope and scale roughly the same as what I used to enjoy back in school. I have a great deal of freedom.
For all it’s temptation, a year ago that would have been a frightening implication to contemplate. I would have filled my time with things that I ’should’ and ’ought’ to do. I would seek out opportunities for improvement, to make sure that using such time was ’productive’. It’s a little frightening o contemplate having thought like that. I am still not wholly clear as to why it developed (although I have some ideas) and I am altogether happy that my perspective today is one of looking in the rear-view mirror.
Today, though, it is a delight. I am looking forward to reconnecting with play. With whimsy. With fun. And with a stack of good books.