This morning when I left for work, I decided to take the back roads through several neighborhoods rather than getting on the interstate. It’s Friday, and I didn’t feel the need to rush this morning. I was, therefore, shocked when someone cut in front of me from one side street and someone else almost plowed into me when I was driving past a different intersecting street. I then turned onto another street to find a large pickup truck barreling down the middle of the street toward me. I slowed down further and got as far to the right as possible as the driver, fortunately, returned to their own lane. I took my time slowly making my way around the lake and toward my workplace, thankful that I didn’t feel the need to be in such a rush so early in the morning. There was no one in front of me or behind me the rest of the way, and I decided to relish the view of the sun beginning to color the horizon ahead of me.
As I get older, I’m feeling the need to slow down and enjoy what matters more. In fact, lately I have this overwhelming desire to go lie in the grass and look up at the clouds while hearing the mockingbirds sing nearby. (I think I’m going to pencil that in on my calendar for tomorrow in fact!) I’m so tired, and I just want to rest and stop worrying. I feel like if I can stop worrying, my body can begin to heal.
When I was young, I remember the teacher opening the windows to allow in fresh air. We would read or work problems or do grammar exercises or take notes, and I never felt like I was in a hurry. Sometimes we would go outside to use surveying equipment to work trigonometry problems or launch rockets for physics. We had study hall, and I often went to the library to read or write poems in my spiral. There was no cell phone around to distract me from seeing the world around me. In the afternoon I would go home and sit on the back step, petting my cats or walking down to the creek listening to black birds in the woods just to the west of our house. Sometimes my sister and I would ride our bikes up and down the street. I admit we watched TV and played Atari at night.
Now, I work in a school where, even though it’s 82 degrees outside, the air conditioner freezes the students and teachers as they vainly attempt to stay warm under coats and blankets. Teachers must spend all of their free time grading papers, doing paperwork, attending meetings, completing surveys, disaggregating data, administering standardized tests/ benchmarks, conducting interventions, checking emails, or calling parents as well as keeping students off cell phones when they should be doing their school work (cell phones are allowed now because of their potential as a learning tool, but all I ever see kids do on them is watch mindless videos, play games, and post selfies). Is it any wonder that there’s a teacher shortage? So many great teachers I know are leaving the field, retiring as soon as they can. Some of them leave part way through the year, not even staying until the school year is over which used to be unheard of.
Lately, I’ve been daydreaming of retirement myself. I’m only 41, and I’m already looking forward to growing old. Only then will I truly be able to slow down, not just once in a while but all of the time. The wrinkles will be worth it!