Growing up, I didn’t just love summer vacation – I based my entire perception of time around it. When I’d picture a twelve month calendar in my head, I saw the months in three rows: At the top there was January through May, in the middle there was June, July and August, and then along the bottom there was September through December. In my head, the school months in the top and bottom rows appeared bland and dreary, like dead grass or an empty parking lot, while the three months in the middle had a bright, happy sheen, like the shots in an allergy medication commercial after the person uses the decongesting nasal spray.
It was like a shit sandwich in reverse – three months that made life worth living stuck between two lengthy blocks of waking up early, trudging to school in the rain, and looking at the clock after an hour of science class only to find that I’d been there for eight minutes. On those cold, dark mornings, the thing that kept me going was the knowledge that eventually I’d make it to the middle part of my mental calendar, when I’d have three months to just do me.
I’ve read that summer vacation is an absolute disaster from an educational standpoint – that one of the reasons America’s test scores lag so far behind other countries’ is that teachers have to spend the first couple months of the year re-teaching kids things they learned last year but forgot in the intervening three-month haze of Capri Sun and video games. I’m sure that if I’d known all those lazy childhood summers were making me stupider, I still would’ve been okay with it. Then and now, I think spending three months hammering out video game fan fiction and making repeated trips to the video store did a lot more for my personal development than three more months of trying and failing to understand how to multiply fractions.
The thought that one day I’d have to work twelve months out of the year made me regard adulthood with fear and dread. What was the point of being alive if I couldn’t spend a quarter of the year doing whatever the hell I wanted to do? It made growing up look pretty bleak – I figured that lack of summer vacation was the reason adults were always the ones starting wars and murdering people.
But since leaving school I’ve been surprised to find that I really don’t miss summer vacation at all. I’m not even jealous of the kids I see out messing around on their bikes as I drive to the office on summer mornings. What I’m realizing is that I spent so much of my summer vacations dreading the end of the summer that in a way it’s kind of a relief to not even have it in the first place.
Because I spent the whole school year putting summer on a pedestal, the end of it could get pretty traumatic. By the time I was in middle school, I’d start fretting and moping about the impending end of the summer sometime in early July. August was my least favorite month of the year. All those progressively earlier and chillier evenings just felt like a cruel reminder from nature that school was going to start at the end of the month and adults would once again try to teach me how to multiply fractions.
I dreaded the fall exactly as much as all the pumpkin-spice craving white girls in your news feed right now love it. By September first I’d be settled into a deep malaise that would slowly lift one day at a time over the next nine months as the following summer grew closer. It was an exhausting thing to do to myself every year.
For me at least, it's a lot easier in the long run to handle 12 months of work than nine months of school. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I love my job, but at least they pay me to show up and nobody there tries to make me do math or play dodgeball. There’s no homework to do after I leave, somebody’s always bringing in donuts, and I can usually count on pockets of downtime during the day to just do me, even if all that means is writing a blog instead of playing Goldeneye for the afternoon.
That isn’t to say it wouldn’t be relaxing to have three months off. But honestly, it’s almost more relaxing to finally be able to enjoy the changing of the leaves without experiencing a full blown existential crisis.