And then, during July, I glide. I use this month to recharge, relax, rejuvenate myself, and to reinvigorate my relationships with my three kids. I deal with work-related stuff that absolutely cannot wait, and I respond to email (for the most part), and I maintain a bare minimum of getting by with my career. But I don’t do anything major in terms of my work.
This isn’t easy for me psychologically/emotionally; it has been a big challenge to my psyche to learn to do this for July. If I’m honest, I’ll admit: it is hard for me to know that I am gliding for this month while my peers are putting the pedal to the metal, head down in their books, sitting at their computers, in their offices, pushing out the publications, and crushing me with their lists of summer-time-achievements. Summer is crunch time for academics. It is publish or perish. And it is hard for me to know that I’m not keeping up with the real go-getters.
But a few years ago I came to the realization that I’d rather perish than miss out on this precious time with my bambinos. Oh, and there is also the little fact that we do live on campus (and thus, justifiably, all deserve and need some true R&R and time away). And, dang nab it, for real, I have worked my butt off for 20 years to be able to take this time in July. So, I work really, really, really hard all year to carve out and protect the month of July for my precious three. It’s become almost sacred for me. This is one of the beautiful things about tenure’s flexibility: the ability to choose how and when to spend work-related time.
Braydon, however, doesn’t have quite so much flexibility. He doesn’t have tenure. And he works a lot. Owning and running a business means a lot of flexibility, but he cannot take very much time truly off. Luckily, he’s pretty mobile with his work. So, he comes to South Carolina. But he’s working most Mondays through Fridays.
Yesterday the bambinos and me spent a good chunk of our day fishing off the Hunting Island Pier. One of Kyle and Owen’s favorite activities in SC is ocean fishing. And if truth be told, Meera pretty much loves it too.
I have learned that squid is the best bait. I’ve learned how to bait the squid on a big ocean-fishing-hook. I’ve learned the right size weight to use on the lines, and the right weight line to use on the poles. And I’ve learned that our catch (or lack thereof) is not important whatsoever.
Yesterday was a great example of why July has become so precious to me. So, there we were. Fishing off the pier. And a big pod of dolphins showed up swimming, playing, and feeding within just feet of us. We could hear them coming up for air, blowing through their blow holes, and flapping their tail fins smacking the water.
My three had their lines in the water, the day was gorgeous, I’m watching dolphins play all around us. And I’m thinking, “Nothing could be finer, than summer in South Carolina.” Suddenly, all my peers holed up in their offices on their campuses don’t seem to matter so much. Suddenly, it is crystal clear that this is the whole thing: this right here, the sun, the salt, the sitting there waiting for fish to bite, the time to just soak it up and see my children see all this.
I tried to take photos with my iPhone, but it was pretty useless — there was no way to capture the life and playfulness of those dolphins. There was no way to actually capture any of the fishing with dolphins.
Honestly, the work matters. It really does. I’m fortunate to have a career that I believe in, that I’m passionate about, that matters in the grand scheme of things. It’s important stuff, that work that I do. But it is also important to have this time. In so many ways. And this time is what makes the rest of it possible.
And so. For now. I’m spending July in this crazy remote location, almost off the grid, almost about as back to basics as it can get. And my fingers are smelling like raw squid, and my hair is getting bleached out from the salt and sun, and my skin gets darker by the day despite my layers of SPF 30. And there is sand and salt everywhere. My office back on campus is just as I left it, and pretty much vacant. Although come September I’ll be full throttle at work again. And, for now, I’m right there with my bambinos, fishing with dolphins. Catching nothing, getting everything.