Don’t Put a Semicolon Where a Period Belongs

My eighth grade English teacher had a sign hanging above his desk that said something about how the only thing better than the hour spent reading in bed before going to sleep is the hour spent reading in bed after waking up.

In hindsight I acknowledge the level of poor judgment required for a middle school teacher to decide it was smart to proudly display  a plaque advertising his favorite things to do in bed in his classroom, but he also once told us that he had semicolon pillows (semicolons look like this ; FYI) but they were separated (comma separated? haaaaaa) so that the period was on the bed in one guestroom and the comma was on the bed in his other guest room (because he had two guest rooms even though he was a public school teacher? If nothing else that should have raised some eyebrows) and when he told the story about the pillows I remember he weirdly raised his eyebrows at the end and was like, “you should all come over and SEEEE THEM!” kind of like Count Chocula but a lot more rapey and then some time around March he stopped coming to work and we pretty much all understood it was because he was a weird fucker and probably also a pedophile.

semicolon pillow

The pillows described above do not exist on the Internet, so this is what you get.

Now that we’ve aired out a stale bit of my childhood trauma: that bit above about reading in bed? It’s true! Reading in bed is the god damn best. I’m so old now that my body won’t sleep beyond 7 AM most days, even if I go to bed at 1 (but I’m too old for that too, so I’m usually in bed by 11). However, it’s summer, and I’m a teacher, so I’m on a paid vacation right now and it’s wonderful. I keep forgetting which day it is, which actually isn’t abnormal throughout the year but it’s not going to get in the way of my life at the moment like it usually does because I don’t have anything to do until August.

(Except for the three-day conference I’m going to this week. But those are usually just team building games and continental breakfast, and I’m a champion at team building and breakfast so that’s not so much work as it is a party I’m getting paid for.

“…a party for which I’m getting paid.” Have some fucking class, me.)

So anyways I’ve been doing a lot of nothing; marvelous, enriching, nothing.

I don’t like to read during the school year, which gets in the way almost as much as frequently forgetting which day it is since  my job is to read things with children and then make the children write things about the things they read, so that I can read the things they wrote and see how well they match up to the thing they read. Or whatever.

But that’s not the fun part of my job. The fun part is the party conferences, duh.

(I think it’s important to clarify that these conferences are not actually parties, they are amazing professional development and networking opportunities and I take them very seriously and am hugely grateful for the opportunity to attend them.) 

Truly though, the fun part of the job is watching brains get bigger and perspectives shift and insights expand, but that’s done via all the reading and writing so I spend all of my reading energy during the school year on stuff that’s not necessarily fun or interesting, and this is why I don’t do a lot of reading-for-the-sake-of-reading between the months of August and June.

It’s funny how easy it actually is to find time to do the things you love when you’re happy and relaxed, though. I’ve felt guilty since I started teaching because my love for reading and writing seemed to have waned, and I was worried that everything I thought I was had turned out to actually be a lie.

(I like to jump immediately to Existential Crisis Mode.)

But it wasn’t that I had grown out of reading and writing in my spare time, I’d just added a whole bunch of insanely stressful things to my life so any “spare” time I had (and there was really quite a bit of it) was spent doing as close to nothing as possible, and creating or deciphering ideas is not nothing so I stopped doing it.

Of course – since every bit of irreverent humor in this blog comes around to some kind of deeply insightful and poignant conclusion – this sacred time (since it is Sunday, apparently after all, and yes I only just found out about that) is even more important to protect when that stress starts to nibble parasitically away at it.

It’s easy to roll over and pick up a book a Sunday morning when your Monday includes nothing – or, in this summer Sunday’s case, a day of team building and breakfast foods. Of course I’m indulging right now; I have literally nothing but time and team building and breakfast to worry about. And even though tomorrow won’t be an especially stressful day of work, I still am not likely to wake up before having stuff to do on a Monday (or any week day) and sit in bed musing about the meaning of life while reading Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy and shitting myself and laughing coffee all over because oh my lord read that book it’s hilarious.

But that’s when I need to stop the most – before go go go-ing. And therein lies the challenge (and the witticism): maintaining this precious space in the morning, before anything is required of me – whether it’s watering the plants or cultivating young minds – throughout the stress of the school year, and not just in the peace of the summer.

(I also feel that it’s important to explain that the title of this post, “Don’t Put a Semicolon where a Period Belongs,” is meant to infer that rushing through stressful days just because it’s easier isn’t going to make them better, and that on these days in particular it’s important to pause for those golden moments before leaving bed in the morning or leaving consciousness at night especially on the days when it seems like there’s no time to stop in the face of all the “go go go-ing.”

However, since the only mention of semicolons aside from the title happens to be in reference to my rapey former teacher, I’m worried that people might instead think the title is saying something about how there should have been periods in that creep’s guest beds and not semicolons and of course periods could be interpreted to represent adolescent girls so yeah I had a moment of terror when I realized my title could be misunderstood as condoning an older man’s pedophelia toward teenage girls and that was not the metaphor I was trying to develop so I apologize for any confusion.)



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