J and I left Houston on Sunday just as the bluebonnets were beginning to bloom…and this morning, I noticed the first forsythia flowers in Newton, blooming three weeks ahead of schedule. And just like that, my spring break is over and I’m back in Keene, not-quite-ready to face another full week after not-quite catching up with the work I’d planned to accomplish.
In other words, time flies when you’re on break presumably being productive. Every year, I look forward to spring break thinking I’ll be able to use the time I’m not teaching face-to-face classes to catch up with other tasks…and every year, the end of break arrives before I’m completely caught up. “How was your break,” both students and colleagues will ask by way of making small talk, and “too short” is my standard reply. I had hoped to spend this past week catching up online paper-grading, draft commenting, class-related reading, and other teaching tasks; instead, I’m no more caught up today than I was a week ago even though I spend much of last week working.
What surprises me about this scenario isn’t the fact that once again I find myself on a nonstop treadmill called “catching up”; it’s that I somehow fooled myself into thinking (again) that catching up was actually possible. Last spring, I reminded myself that “being caught up is as elusive as the rainbow’s end,” and years before that, I realized you can never pick all the apples a full harvest offers. When you teach at two different colleges, you’re never really on break anywhere: there’s always something on your to-do list, and on any typical day, your to-list consists of the various tasks you’d intended to do yesterday.
Time, it turns out, is still flying, and the items on my to-do list still adamantly refuse to do themselves. At the same time, time has taught me that the tasks on my to-do list aren’t going anywhere, so the catch-up I’d envisioned for last week can be accomplished this week, and the next, and the next after that. Time, it turns out, never stops flying, and the treadmill called “work” and “catching up” never run themselves out until semester’s end, when everything necessarily comes to a stop. In the meantime, I need to remind myself time and again that a teacher’s work, like a mother’s, is never done.