Finally, it is here. That long expected first day of summer vacation. Timeless days flowing inattentively without beginning or end. The perfect relaxation and the unrestricted mind let free by undisciplined summer breezes. Putting away the schedules and the rigid posture leaves us with an empty moment in the beginning of the summer. The sudden realization that we finally are there and the overwhelming emotional reaction to the fact that everything went so well after all. And then the awe of discovering everything else around us that has been neglected for too long and the turning of the page to another life that includes quiet moments and non-evaluative interactions.
This morning my six-year-old son asked me lots of questions about summer vacation. He was confused about the fact that not everyone has holiday yet. I had to explain to him that his brother who goes to school has ten weeks off and his mother who is a teacher has that too because the schools are closed, but everyone else has only four weeks. At that point he was very happy about the fact that his mother is a teacher, but he still didn’t think it was fair. This is one of the topics that media likes to bring up every single spring as well. Also many other people besides my son find it unfair. The truth is of course more complicated than that, and every single time someone complains about this to me, I urge them to become teachers because we do need more people to work with teenagers. For me the ten weeks ahead is a life-saver. To find the peace to concentrate on one thing at the time and to really stop to listen to the people close to me and to let the more important things fall into place before the show starts all over again. I remember reading a study once that said that of all professions teachers make the most decisions during a work day. Running around according to a minute schedule at least two things happening at the same time for most of the year makes the ten weeks at summer without a schedule very therapeutic. I remember when I started my first autumn as a teacher, one of the older colleagues began her term with a deep sigh when she stepped in to the hall and said “this is where the total chaos starts for the next nine months”. Then I thought she was exaggerating but afterwards I learned it was true. However, I seem to have developed a way to cope with that chaos but still I wouldn’t be able to do it without the ten weeks to balance it out. And yes, Finns really do have at least four weeks off in all occupations, that is a rare thing in the world scale, I know.
Finding yourself in the empty space after clearing your way out of the chaos does present oneself with questions, and the amount of choices might become overwhelming. If I let the summer go by without any plans or goals to achieve, have I wasted it? If I plan trips to dozens of different locations in order to make the best of my vacation, does it mean that I will return to teaching more stressed out than at the end of the term? I guess a little bit of both is in order. And it has always evened out without much planning, so I’m quite confident that it will do that this time as well. I have only one goal in mind for the next ten weeks. I hope that I will be able to seize the moment and enjoy the little things in life. I enjoy working with teenagers but there are some among them that have huge issues and sometimes it starts to feel that the world is a humongous burden to carry on our small shoulders. And among adults there are too many who take life and themselves way too seriously. That is one of the things I miss about living in other cultures that people are more playful, they laugh and joke, hug and comfort each other more than Finns do. There is code of honor here in Finland very similar to that of in the Japanese culture that makes it very difficult to express weakness or failure. There is the grand illusion of having everything under control and the deceiving false feeling of security that follows. Most often the person who goes through hard times is left alone to cope with the situation almost as if other people were afraid to catch something contagious. In an otherwise well-organized and functional society I find this a huge drawback. Also the way in which competing is emphasized in our culture can get quite tiring along the line. The idea that if someone gets something, it is less for someone else, is a way of thinking that rules here, and I have never quite learned to grasp it. Not to mention the way some people act who so desperately want to prove that they are right that they don’t even listen to you. Just like that main character played by Robin Williams in the movie “Hook”, Peter Pan who forgot how to fly when he became a grown-up.
I only have one wish for the summer: I hope I will be able to hold on to my happy thought and fly. I am feeling lighter already.