I forget that not everyone lives on the cycle I do. It was easy to forget during the time my children were in school--all the way until they were in college. It's easy to forget, too, because I'm surrounded by so many people who live on my cycle, this cycle being a school year, more specifically, the semester system.
Since approximately 1981 (I don't count high school because I barely attended high school. I was graduated, I think, in order to get me out of their hair), my August/September and my January are about preparation. Everything is gearing up and toward this long haul of work. There is excitement and bitching and moaning. There is a lot of reading and typing. There are many new clothing purchases, not necessitated per se by the coming semester but excused by it. There are many meetings and hopes and dreams of what can be accomplished. There are the distressing discussions of what won't be accomplished because there is usually some angry greater force oppressing us (this time, it's the budget. Mostly, it's the budget). And then we are all at that first day and we step tentatively onto the semester ship, and we don't step (or throw ourselves) off until December/May.
Along the journey there is the place where the excitement of the journey wears off. It's like any relationship, but it happens much more quickly. I'd say by mid-October or March, we know each other's issues. The students who are always late are still always late. The students who answer every question are still doing so. The students who couldn't make it much to the first three weeks have dropped. I've resigned myself to the fact that there are three more huge projects on the horizon, and begin to resent the projects, myself for assigning them, and the students for doing them.
And yet, every class day, I walk in and I'm glad to see them (at least, until the perpetually late student walks in and interrupts my artful sentence).
By the first of December and the first week of May, we are all about ready to get to shore. The lavatories are overflowing and the food supplies are running thin. We need land under our feet. We need a big steak and a glass of red wine. We want to take the tour bus to the castle or climb the mountain. Anything, please, anything but the ship.
But then, that last day, it's over. It's been hard and some angry words have passed between us all. We're irritated with each other, but in some strange way, we love each other, too. We've journeyed together in a journey that while the same as all the semester journeys is different, too. Never again this group of people on this school ship, this particular classroom cabin. Never again this dialogue or these personalities.
They leave their papers on my desk, and at that moment, I'm at shore, alone, missing them.
That lasts about a minute.
This is how I've lived and worked for the past twenty-three years. Sometimes, I look up to the sky as I walk to class, and I really don't know what semester I'm in--Fall or Spring. But it doesn't matter. I know the ship is just in front of me, my cabin mates there, too, waiting for me.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org