Saturday, August 10, 2013

Take a Moment…

School will resume in a few weeks. 

Around the Midwest, the date of the dreaded "first day" varies considerably, with some schools returning as early as mid-August. That time line must have been structured to allow for snow days, early dismissals and teacher conferences.

Remember in days of yore when school began immediately after Labor Day?

It's already beginning to feel a bit like autumn is approaching. The weather isn't as warm as it was in July. Days are growing noticeably shorter. Early mornings are actually cool.

Fall signals the start of several things. Another season brings the return of long sleeves and sweaters. The local swimming pool will close until Memorial Day. Ice cream will sound less appealing. The cycle moves on.

September demands that we return to old patterns. One of those cycles that has been an important part of our lives is the school year. We became acquainted with it from the day we started school.

Each year, we would begin a new grade, absorb what was taught, complete that grade and move on. Nine months, give or take, certainly long enough to have an impact on our lives.

That particular pattern became entwined with our lives at a very young age. We experienced the same schedule from kindergarten through four years of high school and on to college. There are some exceptions, including schools which have classes year around and some districts with a quarterly routine. But for at least 12 years and probably longer, we thought in terms of nine months in school with three months off.

Considering how we are all impacted by the nine month schedule, it's surprising that we are then expected to morph into workers who have to be at a job for 12 months of the year. That schedule seems almost abnormal after all those nine month intervals.

As a result of the impact of this cycle, I find it natural to pause each September and take a look at where I am. Almost like a kid who reviews the back-to-school items I need to bring to class, it seems only natural to think about where I am on the path and what might lie ahead.

Sounds a bit depressing, but that's not how it is intended. For instance, when a child is having trouble with some subject, math, for instance, he/she naturally gets nervous about learning another part of math. Perhaps going into the fourth grade, that student knows he will begin to explore long division. Having trouble with math in the third grade was bad enough and now a new function awaits. Rather than wait until opening the new math book when the year begins, it's good to at least anticipate that you might face trouble. Pondering it now and again simply makes the entire episode less intimidating.

I think people in general should face up to what might await and ponder it once in a while. Things like: What would happen if I lost my job? What would happen if I got really sick? What if…? That's not being worrisome. It's the way a realist thinks. None of us wants to become a worrier but it might be a good idea to think more than five minutes into the future.

Every day we hear about truly dreadful occurrences. Aside from the natural disasters which could devastate any community (earthquake, fire, tornado, hurricane), there is an assortment of awful stories unraveling nearly daily. People being imprisoned for years in a house in an American city. People killing each other with increased intensity. Moguls getting rich off the money that other people struggled to earn.

The list is long and perplexing. You have to wonder about the state of the world.

Yet, there are many things for which to be grateful. When you look at the many conveniences that we have, the comfortable life despite all the unpleasantness, it's really not that bad. But the only way to grasp how good we have it is to stop and savor the moment.

So with the approach of another school year, take an occasional moment to think about where you are and what might lie ahead. Sure, life can be a little intimidating. But so was long division. And most of us even went on to survive algebra, too.

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