It’s the first of September and the second week of the fall semester…already. I know that sounds early for those of you living in places where school hasn’t started yet and who are still in the midst of feeling the loss of summer. But for me, I’m in it. Like full on, 0 to 60 in 2.4 seconds, kind of in it. While prepping my two graduate level courses, updating syllabi, and teaching my first classes of the semester, I made my list of papers and book chapters I need (and want) to write for the semester. I prioritized them, moving them around on my list according to which months I would focus on each of them. I scheduled time-frames and set deadlines for myself. Check, check, check. After talking it all through with my writing buddy, proudly showing her my orderly list, I convinced my brain that, “Yes, that sounds do-able. Ambitious, but do-able.” And then, on the fourth day of the semester, I left town.
Suffice it to say, not the best timing to get outta Dodge, especially since my trip would also cut into the beginning of the second week of classes. But, birthdays aren’t the type of event that one can schedule or have control over (but wow, would that make a control freak like me happy). And it was, after all, an important birthday. A milestone birthday. A birthday being celebrated with a big surprise party and lots of family and old friends in attendance. And… it was for my Dad. The man who raised me, read to me every night before bedtime, got up with me when I was sick in the middle of the night, took me to amusement parks and the beach in the summers, and taught me that arriving 5 minutes early is being “on time.” I needed and wanted to be there. And so, I left town, even when it was totally not a good time.
The trip was lovely. One of my best visits, actually. And that is saying something as many treks back “home” are tricky, a bit stressful, emotionally hard, and disappointing. But this trip, this one was really pretty great. My father was truly surprised, grateful, and touched that I was there, that I came just for him. He was shocked by the party, too, and he’s a tough guy to pull off a surprise for. I also got to spend more time than usual with my favorite family members, and the foodie in me was thrilled to have some of the food I grew up with that I just can’t get out here in the land of beef and corn.
And then something happened. The stress, the anxiety, the looming to-do list all came flooding back. The plane hadn’t even touched down in the Midwest. Who am I kidding? It hadn’t even taken off from the east coast, and I was already swirling with work pressures, thoughts of the semester getting away from me, and fears of running out of time to “get it all done.” This is nothing new, I’m ashamed to admit. My gratitude and ease from a vacation or trip is so sadly fleeting, it diminishes long before I even arrive back home. And as much as I’ve been practicing refocusing, trying to center on what really matters, I realize I have a long way to go.
I’ve been back for two days. And I’ve ridden an intense, stress-full roller coaster these past 48 hours. But, I’m revisiting my last post for reminders. I’m sitting down with my journal each morning. Breathing. Re-centering. Refocusing. And it’s helping. I wouldn’t change the past week for anything. I’m grateful for the time I had with my Dad. I’m thankful for the time I had with my family. And isn’t that the stuff that matters most?