I am glad to see summer go.
That may sound strange coming from a campus minister. Many people, including not a few of my clergy colleagues, believe that I get summers off. And they are right—if by “off” they mean a frantic, irregular schedule marked by camps, retreats, fundraising, groundskeeping, building maintenance, and recruiting. Throw in annual conference and a family vacation, and I’ve had about all of the so-called freedom I can take.
I don’t believe I’m alone in this. I know there are plenty of other geeks like me who trudge through their summer jobs, pining for the classroom and the chance to learn. And I know there are plenty of socially awkward people like me who crave the kind of defined boundaries for human interaction that the academic setting provides.
But I think there’s more to it still. American summers send us into a hyperawareness of how quickly time moves. We realize how much we want to do and how little time we have to do it in, and so we pack the longer daylight hours with as much “life” as we can.
Only it’s an illusion. We may have more daylight in the summer, but we still have only 24 hours. We may have more flexibility with our schedules, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into more freedom. No wonder so many involved in education dread the start of school. We are exhausted from summer hysteria, like sprinters chasing a retreating finish line. The thought of how much work classes require makes us want to crawl under our desks and eat glue.
For me, however, I know that the start of school signals a return to normalcy, the crazy hours of Wesley’s Welcome Week notwithstanding. By mid-September, I will be back in a rhythm of working and eating and sleeping and praying. I will be more disciplined in my writing and more at ease in my relationships. Even baseball will lose some of its power over me, drained by the perspective that comes with living my own life again.
We humans need the recreation that summers afford, but we need it in much smaller doses than we think. More than the perfect vacation or the best camp ever, we need rhythms of work and rest, strain and sleep, accomplishment and release. For my family at least, the return of routine makes these rhythms much more possible.
So welcome, fall semester! God, but I’m glad to see you arrive.