Starting Again…with a Great Big Asterisk This Time

School starts today. It’s Institute Day, which means no students. Instead, we get to sit through the same District, Union, Building, and Department Meetings that we’ve been having on opening day for over ten years now. I’m sure we’ll hear most of the same jokes, stories, and statistics that we always hear in the same canned speeches and recycled pep talks that we’re forced to endure every year. Then, near the end of the day, we’ll finally get some “individual time” to make sure our rooms, plans, and copies are in order so we’re ready to actually teach when the students arrive tomorrow.

School starts today. Which means summer vacation’s over. 4:00 am still feels like the middle of the night, my morning routines feel completely alien, and coffee has already ceased being a warm, delicious luxury and become a strong, black, dire necessity.

School starts today, which means life returns to routine and structure.

But with so many things returning to normal, I am becoming painfully aware of how much everything is going to change.

I quit coaching at the end of last school year. Despite the sentiments I recycled a few days ago about trying to achieve balance in my life, it was actually a very sudden decision. And it’s one that I’m still coming to grips with.

I started this site 18 months ago and during that time I’ve often wondered what it might be like to step away from coaching for a year and blog about the experience. How might my life change if I excised one of the fundamental facets of who I am? How might the balance of my life change if I were to set aside the thing that unbalances and undermines it the most? How much could I actually accomplish if I was done working at the end of school each day and actually had my weekends off? How good of a teacher could I be? How many projects could I finish around the house? How much more time could I spend with my daughters?

How much writing could I get done?

I suppose now we’ll find out.

This post is late coming, seeing as I began my “leave of absence” (I have a hard time believing I won’t go back at some point) at the start of summer vacation. I nearly cried when I had to face my position group on our last day of spring workouts and tell them out of the blue that I wasn’t going to coach them this year. I went through finals week with a ponderous void weighing on the hollows of my heart. I spent the first two weeks of summer – normally devoted to June football camp – alternately feeling like I was late for something and had forgotten somewhere I needed to be. But by the start of July, summer was mostly just summer. I did some graduate coursework – a luxury I never had time for before – which helped to keep me busy. I extended the annual trip to my grandmother’s house by an extra day just because I could. And I soaked up as much time as possible with my two young daughters and my wife. I only felt the absence of coaching when I stopped and let myself dwell on it.

You might have noticed, though, that this blog went dormant for three months. So did my writing. Sadly, I wrote significantly more last summer when I was both coaching football and preparing the house for a second child. This is where the questions about balance come in. Because I wasn’t coaching this summer, because I knew I had the extra hours to spend with my family, I felt obligated to spend ALL my extra hours with them. I took less time for myself this summer than I ever have before. In the end, I feel like I accomplished nothing over the past two months.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I loved every minute I spent with my family and I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. But it makes me wonder. One of the carrots that eased this decision for me was the promise that I would have more time to write. Yet so far I’ve written next to nothing. Ironically, the start of school should help with that. Structure is good for me. So are the pre-dawn hours. If nothing else, they’re the only time I really get to myself. The doubt still remains, though. Am I going to be a better husband, father, teacher, and author this year now that coaching has been put on hold? Am I going to finally strike a satisfying balance in my life? Or am I going to find myself wasting more time simply because I have more time to waste? Growing lazier because I don’t have the pressure to focus my effort? Actually taking less time for my own needs and my own dreams because I feel like I have the time to spend with my family thus I must spend all of that time with them while I have it?

I’m so accustomed to balancing my life against the massive and unstable weight of coaching, will I be able to keep myself level without it?

It’s the first day of school, and the morning writing hour is drawing to an end. I don’t know how ready I am to start a new year, especially while still sorting out such a major change in my life. I can tell you this much, though: I’m excited to be back in my office watching the sun come up while I type.

As always, thanks for reading.



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