Monday, January 30, 2017

Writing New Rules

Remaztered Studio via Pixabay
New semester, new schedule.

One of the most interesting aspects of this new life I took on five years ago is that no two days are ever the same. Oddly enough, I used to say that about my old job; clearly, this is a selling point for me.

When I worked as a school counselor, the working hours were pretty consistent. Some days I'd have meetings before and/or after school, but Monday-Friday, my working hours were basically the same. Sure, there were breaks, the longest of which came in the summer and required an actual, but welcome, time adjustment, but, for most of the year, my Monday-Friday schedule matched that of much of the rest of the working world.

When I first retired, I felt as though I were playing hooky every day. Then, when I started teaching at the college, a structure began to emerge. My teaching days were structured by a single class and one office hour, while my "off" days were spent creating materials for my teaching days. I got up when my daughter did and structured my days around hers.

As one class blossomed into two, then three, new textbooks and new courses created a steady stream of work to complete, but the when and how was all up to me. Early on, work began to bleed into leisure, and work hours began to move beyond the traditional nine-to-five and into evenings and weekends. I didn't mind. I loved what I was teaching and the preparation was a challenge I enjoyed. I still got up when my daughter did and, after a while, it was easy to feel as though I "should" be doing something during all of my waking hours.

Now, my daughter's high school days are behind her, and my days of rising before 8 AM are largely behind me as well. Not having to "get up for work in the morning" gives me an illusory sense of freedom. I can stay up as late as I'd like -- which is appealing to a night owl like me -- knowing it's up to me to decide when the alarm goes off, and how I fit writing, planning and grading into the hours when I'm not teaching.

But, realistically, the best hours for me to work are when the world is at work, too. It's quiet, there are no interruptions and I don't look like some sort of lazybones who can't manage to get out of bed and start her day when the rest of the world does.

Pexels via Pixabay
That last part affects me much more than it should. Early this morning, for example (2:15 AM for those of you keeping score at home), I had a great idea. My schedule being what it is, I should have gotten up and worked on it when it was fresh in my mind and I was excited about it.

Why didn't I? I'm not sure. I don't teach today, so if I'd worked from 2:15 to 3:15AM, I could've slept an extra hour to make up for it.

The truth is, it all feels so indulgent. I find it perfectly acceptable for my nineteen-year-old to set a schedule that revolves around her classes, but she's nineteen -- that's what she's supposed to do, and that's what all of her friends do, too. Outside my work space (home), my peers are keeping a traditional nine-to-five schedule -- or something resembling it -- and when I don't do the same, instead of feeling rebellious and exuberant, I feel as though I'm not measuring up.

It's silly, really. Most days, I get at least as much done as I did when I was working on someone else's schedule, but still, swimming against the tide feels awkward at best and, at worst, as though I'm breaking some unspoken rule of maturity.

Unsplash via Pixabay
The truth is, I've been apologizing for taking Frost's "road less traveled by" for five years now. And
this? This schedule thing? It's more of the same.

Maybe, just maybe, it's time to enjoy the path I'm on, and be content to let those who prefer the highway enjoy their ride.

Chances are, they're zipping by too quickly to care much about mine.

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