It’s June 30th, which means I’m unofficially bringing a certain phase of “summer vacation” to an end. June has been good: a quality trip home, a few weeks to (re)establish some daily and weekly rhythm and routines, good sleep and good time with friends. And minimal work: mostly emails and the occasional in-person, on-campus conversation. I’ve got responsibilities, though, that require the school year start a little earlier for me than for others, and I prefer easing my way into that instead of crashing and burning at the last minute.
Which isn’t to say that I’m ready to go back. My mind is still a little scattered, my attentions a bit distracted. I recently, I’m not sure how, got directed to this April 2021 blog post by Austin Kleon about the late-April New York Times article on languishing. The title says it all: “I’m not languishing; I’m dormant.” It’s a good read, and a necessary perspective when trying to make sense of the last 15 months. Lots of gardening imagery, which falls in line with our school’s recent theme of Cultivate. In the weeks leading up to the end of the school year, I pressed for some kind of conversation about the fall. I got dismissed and rebuffed, which was not a surprise. But I pressed for the early conversation because I knew the summer would need to be for re-charging. I implored those I spoke to at the end of the school year to put things away and to rest. And I’ve tried to do that myself. Perhaps a kind of dormancy?
I’m not languishing, I’m dormant.
Like a plant. Or a volcano.
I am waiting to be activated.
I like the idea of “waiting to be activated.” And I think it works on a deeper level than just just getting work done. Something, perhaps, about coming alive in a deeper way? Maybe, maybe not.
It seems to me that the reason that so many of us feel like we’re languishing is that we are trying to flourish in terrible conditions. It is spring outside — or the “unlocking” season — but it is still “Winter in America,” and, as any gardener knows, if you try to wake a plant out of dormancy too soon, it will wither, and maybe die . . . It is a mistake and a misreading of nature to think that you, a living creature, will be flourishing all the days of your life.
It’s a great post with lots of links, quotes, and images to help us see things just a bit more clearly.
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I recently had lunch with a staff-member from church. One question asked: do you see the summertime as a chance to prepare for the fall or a chance to do other things? They are connected, in a way, but not in an immediate-fruit-production kind of way. Part of that is because whatever sense of calling or vocation that I have isn’t strictly about what job I have. I’ve been fortunate that it all connects, but the two are not totally synonymous. It can be easy to forget that. So sure, as I read The Problem of Pain or A Secular Age, things I talk about in class come to mind. But I’m not reading them solely (or mainly) for using them in class.
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So the plan starting tomorrow is to keep my morning routine (with modifications for Mondays) and to use the afternoon to get things done on-campus. That should be a nice balance of things. And I imagine I’ll still get a little bit of the afternoon for some summer vacation. The nice thing is that the work needing to get done isn’t all that verbal: it’s mostly putting things together, ordering things. So while it’s work, it isn’t as draining as verbal communication often ends up being.