“So How Did You Spend Your Summer?”

It dawned on me sometime in the past week that I haven’t been present for the first day of school in a traditional high school in three years. Last year I taught in an alternate program for two months before getting my permanent contract at my current school, and the year before that I didn’t start work until I picked up a position mid-September. Starting back as a permanent teacher for the first time is strange enough after six years in this profession, but having to rethink the beginning of a new year is another animal on top of that.

And good gods is it tiring.

I’m not complaining, though! I’m lucky to be teaching full-time on a permanent contract, so I’ll take the fatigue and sore throat and long hours gladly if it means I can throw away the anxiety of being a temp (which we call “LTO”). Plus I get to rejoin a department I’ve really come to enjoy working with, since we’re all a little odd and dysfunctional. Working with “normal” people is boring.

But odd and dysfunctional as my colleagues and I are, discussing what we got up to over the summer threw me a little. Everyone else talks about day trips with kids, catching up on house renovations or books they wanted to read or whatnot, or extended vacations to somewhere exotic. And when they ask me I can compare with attending Readercon in Boston and then Toronto Fan Expo at the end of August, and relaxing after teaching summer school – but then I throw in, “Oh, and I finished my latest novel and sent that off” and people’s jaws drop. My gut response is always, “hold your praise for when the book sells” or something like that, and I can tell they don’t understand that attitude, because good gods, man, you wrote a book!

I get it, though; to a lot of people, finishing a novel is a big deal because they don’t think they could ever do it. From my perspective, I’m prouder of writing a novel I think is good enough to find an agent and publisher, and one that taught me things I can apply to my next project (incidentally, a comic script and a new short story). When a friend of mine at work said he and his band worked out a bunch of new songs over the summer, that impressed me. When someone introduces themselves as a microbiologist or a policy analyst for the Canadian government, I’m genuinely intrigued because I know can’t do either of those things. So maybe my colleagues wowing over me finishing a novel shouldn’t surprise me.

All of this is to say that it’s a transition to get back to the “real world,” so to speak, where most of the people I see in the week aren’t fellow creators. I have to get used to being more careful with my evenings and weekends, to make sure that a) I set aside time for writing and b) I don’t try to push myself to get too much done, to avoid cognitive burnout. I have to remember that sooner or later my new students are going to realize their teacher has a social media presence, so I should curse a little less here and on fucking Twitter. (Oops.) And no, none of this is a complaint, since I’m lucky to have a job I enjoy that gives me the stability to spend my free time writing. This is just yet another honest ramble about the real life of being a writer.

Because like I said above: good gods, it can be tiring 🙂


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