There are three horrible days of the year. The most horrific, without a doubt is the first day of school. It doesn’t matter if you are in primary, secondary or college, the first day that alarms clocks ring back out at the ridiculous hour of say 5:30 after a summer of leisurely rolling out of bed at noon is just bad. It’s even worse compounded with the fact that no one really sleeps well the last night of summer. Between trying to squeeze every last second out of the vacation and the inevitable nervousness about the first day back to school, sleep is elusive and that alarm rings far, far too early. Granted, the first day of school does have the slight benefit of getting hopes up that maybe, just maybe, this year will be different, but after the adrenaline wears off and reality hits, it’s the same old school routine, just another year of cynicism under the belt.
The second cruelest day is the Monday after Christmas break. Two weeks is just enough time for the body to forget the rigors of being a slave to the alarm clock and also start to remember the glorious freedom of summer. The absolute exhaustion of two weeks spent with family, partying and generally over-indulging in everything, leave a person spent, in need of at least one more week to recuperate. The body knows this and the extra days between new years and the start of the new school year are almost long enough to trick the mind into believing it is relaxed. The one upside to the end of Christmas break is an absolutely clean slate for the second semester. Everything is reset and at least in my case, I have totally new classes, so there is that faint glimmer that things might be better.
The third most horrible day of the year will be tomorrow. The official end of spring break. An oasis in an otherwise non-stop month of academic failures and frustrations. An entire week (nine days to be exact) of relaxation and personal time.
Sure, mine was spent in oral agony what with the initial tooth pain and then wisdom teeth extraction, followed by even more horrible pain, but at least I got to wallow in my wretchedness. I got to pop Vicodin whenever things got too bad, nap in the middle of the day and watch the entire second and third seasons of Veronica Mars. While these didn’t make up for the anguish or constant fear I would develop dry socket, they did make it bearable. Plus, I had an entire week without the added headaches of my students and grading (the papers are due after break, which I will no doubt curse myself for later). And I got to sleep in. Sure, it was only until 7:30 when my son woke up (with a couple of days of 8:30 when my husband got up with him), but it was heaven. Warm, sunshiny heaven.
It was just long enough to completely forget the tension of my job and realize how cool this summer is going to be just hanging out with my little boy. It was also just long enough for me to really dread the thought of that alarm breaking my repose in the morning. And unlike the other two breaks, I know exactly what I am going back to. There is no hope of better (or smaller) classes. All 64 sophomores, 52 of whom have HUGE attitudes, will be waiting for me. As will Julius Caesar and a problem/solution paper, and a research paper and Animal Farm and business letters and poetry. So will the grading of all these items. And the knowledge that there are no more real breaks until graduation, which is 50 school days away.
Eliot was right, “April is the cruellest month.”