This is the time of year where I feel a cool rush of air across my face, and it isn’t just the blustery winds of late fall in the Carolinas, but that recognition that the fall semester at South Piedmont Community College is nearing its close. Sure, the days leading up to the last day can be as stressful as any days at work can be, what with all the papers (digitally) piling up, all the boxes to check and hoops to jump through before I’m officially free. But the reality is that once I get where I am right at this moment–where all the papers are graded–the calm sets in and I realize just how close to vacation I really am.
I’m a big fan of this time, even as the holidays threaten to complicate those feelings (something I’ve written about extensively before this), mostly because of the extended opportunity to reconsider my life, a statement which sounds grander than it actually is. As an educator, reassessment is a vital element of what I do on an almost daily basis. I give a lecture, I immediately have to consider how it went (or sometimes how it’s going) and what I can do next time to make it better. Same for every assignment I give, as I am expected to be sure that the expectations match what the students actually get out of what they’re doing in my classes. Evaluation, then, is part and parcel of what I do for a living. It’s only natural that it would seep its way into other elements of my life.
And so the week or so between the end of the fall semester and when Christmas truly begins in earnest tend to be bizarre reassessment rituals, usually dressed up as doing very little. I know. That’s super strange, but step one is honestly just to allow myself not to think about it. That’s step one, but it’s also vital; it’s decompression.
To be sure, life continues during those weeks, and in some ways it’s unfortunate that the best opportunity to relax and refresh comes during one of the wildest, categorically least calm periods of the calendar, but each year, especially over the last three, I’d like to think I’m getting a little better at handling the whirlwind. That’s the point, really, to keep reconsidering and reassessing until I’ve got it down, even if it’s one of those skills I’m likely never to quite get right.