I'm coming clean: I am a teacher who hates summer vacation. I lie about this to civilians, because I get that everybody thinks they want my schedule and I don't want to make them too uncomfortable. But I am uncomfortable. Come July, I'm standing in the kitchen eating toast for lunch, lightheaded and wild-eyed, feeling marooned on another planet. I think it's that same planet where that that pale, itchy kid at camp was, there on the end of the bench, mystified by everyone else who's tan and athletic and happy.
It's not that I'm so geeky I pine all summer for homework and chalkdust and discipline. Maybe it's that thing that people complain about with Valentine's Day, where the pressure to feel a certain way torpedos any real romance you were feeling and you end up fighting about nothing and eating the chocolate you bought for someone else. In summer I'm supposed to be happy and recharging from my super-intense job, but instead I feel sort of like a rat in a lab — how does she function outside her habitat? How she functions is badly.
I think it's kind of a big set-up. Lying like a flounder on the beach that first weekend, my brain is still racing. After ten months of holding it together — performing to a hundred people per day, planning every minute, of navigating teenagers' personality shifts and taking their papers to bed — I can't turn off teachering. I shush kids I don't know on the subway. I answer tourists' questions at the museum. I'm not equipped for unscripted leisure time. Later in the summer I end up at the other extreme, becoming a real misanthrope, giving up on company, ducking around corners to avoid being spotted by my students, who'd be blinded by my pale legs in shorts. I interact only with the folks at Starbucks and the guy at the home store, which I haunt, mute and staring, obsessively trying to complete one project — the project I've stuffed like a foie gras goose with my identity as a productive, meaningful human being. I bake way too much for hot weather.
I wonder if my problem is the same one that makes movie stars act so frantically when they're between jobs. Now, I don't love sharing a trait with Lindsay Lohan, but I wouldn't mind having her support crew: a personal trainer, an assistant for company... electrolysis. Maybe I should take a page from the starlets' book...or blackberry or whatever. I'll embrace leisure and not apologize for mood swings. I'll buy really big sunglasses and drift moodily through flea markets in them. Since I'm married and can't afford rehab, I'll have to forgo the inappropriate boyfriend and the minor drug habit, but maybe I could have the orangy tan. There I am, see me? The bronzed, mercurial one with the fabulous glow. You know, the one at the end of the subway car, shushing those teenagers.
Emily Wylie is a public school teacher in East Harlem. She is dreading the last day of school on June 27th.