Thursday, August 18, 2016

And they're off

It's a strange start to the semester, in many ways. This year's election has been surreal; we all swim through its constant downward spiral as if waiting to wake up from a dream, and there are still more than two months to go. Our retreat weekend with the incoming students has been moved up so that we're leaving tomorrow -- after only one class with them. And although I have worked steadily all summer, producing a journal article and 2/3 of a book, I still feel like I napped my way through these three months.

But here we are. Cady Gray has started grade 7 (accelerated math, we love you!), and Archer is warily wading into grade 10 (AP Physics, Algebra II and Programming woo-hoo, AP World History and Pre-AP English, not sure yet). A new batch of Honors students has landed in my class, and will be anxiously trying to keep their heads above water as they learn to navigate Blackboard and post their first assignments. I have two new teaching assistants and two new thesis students to mentor. And I'm on the search committee for our new dean, while at the same time the university searches for a new president.

It doesn't all happen at once, that's the saving grace. Except when it does. Which are the times I feel like nobody's got their hand on the regulator. More than anything I hate the feeling of a bunch of things, even little things, going wrong at once -- I start to get squirrelly when even one of those things happens, like something breaking around the house, as some primal part of my psyche whispers "this is how it begins."

That's because more than anything I like it when things are going right, when everything's under control, when there are no clouds on the horizon. Yesterday I listened to PJ Vogt, co-host of the podcast Reply All, describe how his mom obsesses about the health and well-being of everyone in her extended family. The only time she's truly relaxed and able to enjoy herself, Vogt said, was when everyone is gathered for a holiday or a reunion. That's when she can directly surveill the entire brood. No one is off falling ill or getting into an accident. Everyone's OK.

I don't have a worrying problem at this level, but I do have an addiction to security and safety. It's a trait that serves me well occasionally (saving money), but more often leads me to forgo even small risks or, worse, steer my children away from them for my peace of mind. Letting them go to camp this year was big in that regard. Maybe I can keep on taking those next steps toward their independence and my mental health.

They both had a great time at camp, by the way. Archer's favorite was all-you-can-eat meals at the cafeteria; CG's was the friends she made. You don't know how teary-eyed that last bit makes me, still, a month later.

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