Goodbye to Another Summer
There’s something to be said for routines with regular responsibilities. They help ground us and give focus, so that the unscheduled activities and duties are in a greater context. The past academic year was my first as a teacher (except for two happy years, teaching high school in the early 1980s). I had a new experience last spring. People would ask me how I planned to spend my summer. I did not know how to reply. In the past, I’d simply say that my summer would be spent continuing the tasks I had during the regular year. Now I was a “teacher” and operating on a semester system. Therefore, my summer would look different.
Of course, I have ministry commitments beyond Regis College. They looked different this summer, but they didn’t really take a break. I also had the time for extra reading, books and articles that I will use in my academic work. I worked on some writing projects. I’m an organized and systematic person, so I had lists with deadlines, even if I often ignored the lists and fell prey to procrastination. Of course, the University of Toronto schedule meant that I was “free” from early May. So, I had a four-month stretch of “unscheduled time”.
During my years as a Novice Master, mentoring our young Jesuits, I often referred to the fact that how we use our unscheduled time is a good indicator of what is important in our lives. Some novices were fine so long as the schedule said they were in a particular place doing something specific. With that accomplished, they were left to their own devices (psychological, not digital!). Many were very focused and disciplined, working on their own self-enrichment projects (extra prayer, reading, exercise, learning a new skill or language, and so on). There were others who defaulted to television viewing or video games. This summer was a time for me to assess myself. I think that I did okay, though I did reward myself more than planned with a few games of Scrabble or “wasting time” with following people on Facebook or Instagram. But, hey! It’s summer.
Labour Day means that another summer is coming to an end. It’s always good for us to take stock of where we find ourselves in early September. There is the danger of criticizing ourselves or of reducing the “taking stock” to what has been accomplished or achieved? Or, worse, what has not been achieved! In that case, it’s good to recall St. Paul’s words: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what lies ahead.” The past is past and the best is yet come.
How have we grown in the past few months? Have we made new friends or strengthened existing friendships? What challenges do we have for ourselves this semester? I’ve noticed a Facebook friend, a Winnipeg physician, who started posting about his response to the PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) challenge of doing 22 push-ups as a way of raising awareness of PTSD and honouring those who serve. Or, do we follow the lead of Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and do things like commit ourselves to read new books or to eat only meat that we kill ourselves?
Remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. There are a zillion projects we can adopt for self-enrichment, while also making the world around us a better place by raising awareness and funds. How will I spend those long evenings in the fall or winter? Can I take on a new hobby? Does a project come to mind, a project with a personal interest that helps a cause beyond our personal life? Mention it on Facebook and see if there are others who share your interest. Meanwhile, let’s give thanks for the summer’s richness.