In less than 36 hours, my "summer" break will officially begin (despite the snow coating the great outdoors). I turned in my last assignment more than two weeks ago and received my last individual grade last week. So, for all intents and purposes, my semester has been over for a while. But until the calendar says I'm done, I don't really think of school being "over" for the year.
Once upon a time, when I was in university, our semesters went from the beginning of September to the middle of December and the middle of January to the middle of May. There were some long weekends built in throughout and a week or so of exams that freed up time as each semester wound down. But they were pretty predictable timeframes, in general.
The scheduling now is a little wacky. I've undertaken my graduate work through a low-residency program, so we have a "long" and a "short" semester each year. "Fall" starts the first of August with two weeks of classes on campus in Halifax and then continues on our own, from home, through late November, leaving time for grading by early December. "Winter," which I've always thought of as "spring," begins in mid-January with a week of workshops in one of North America's publishing centers (Toronto or New York, depending on the year) and concludes in late March, with grading completed ... now.
Some of my classmates are working full-time while writing their manuscripts and taking care of our other coursework. Others, like me, have alternative schedules that allow us to mix work with writing and schoolwork on our own timetables. Still others are able to dedicate at least part of the school year exclusively to research, writing, and course requirements. In most cases, there is some outside force affecting the day-to-day, whether it's family or an employer or some other responsibility. Some reason to look up from the screen, cook something more complicated than canned soup, go to bed at a reasonable time, or step away for a few days to celebrate something or go adventuring. That's not the case for me, although I often wish it was.
If this school year has given me anything, beyond invaluable input on my writing and extraordinary lessons in the craft and business of nonfiction publishing, it's the knowledge that I'm not fantastic at adulting. I often have a one-track mind and a level of focus that can rapidly veer toward the self-detrimental (late nights and equally late mornings, skipped meals, lack of exercise, isolation, etc.). Over the course of my post-university life, it's led to a haphazard existence that isn't at all pleasing when I view it from outside the bubble of the moment.
I noticed those faults less when I was working in an office full-time. I am a hardcore introvert and an only child, so being alone has always been a solace and a time to recharge. Being surrounded by people all day made me want to crawl into my home in the evening and pull the world closed behind me. Wednesday evenings, I'd teach drumming. Every few weekends, I'd see friends or my folks. At times, I might have been taking part in a Bahá’í study circle or devotions, hosting Feast, or attending a holy day celebration. But I couldn't handle more. Getting involved in people-centric activities, or even getting myself moving, was just too much of an energy drain. As a result, I never developed a healthy approach to my hours and days. I simply coped and hoped no one would notice.
Depressing, right? I certainly felt it was. It's only now, after a school year of shifting gears, that I'm really recognizing what a messed-up existence I had. And continue to have, in many ways, because I am still learning that it's okay to live the life I want. Plus, I have a lot of bad habits to overcome and, at the same time, replace with habits that I prefer.
After a hectic couple of weeks that reminded me far too well of my own faults, I'm facing this "summer" head on. Yes, there is a livelihood to earn, research and writing to continue, goals to pursue. But there is also the opportunity to create a daily routine for myself that makes me feel healthy, relaxed, confident, and open to new experiences. It's been a lifetime since those words described me in a whole way, instead of as a worker bee. It's about time, I think!