Let me tell you a little secret about me.
I was a History and Religious Studies double major in college. (That’s not the secret part.) Both majors required hefty, hefty reading loads and lots and lots of writing.
At the start of the new college semester, when I would get the syllabus for each course, I would portion out my reading and mark it in my calendar. It would read like:
Monday – p.1-25 in Marx, 1-16 in Rousseau, and 1-33 in Wollstonecraft.
(An aside. My husband has a degree in Industrial Engineering. When we first married and we were combining our book collections, I owned maybe three copies of Karl Marx. He owned exactly zero. Never read him. It was then that I realized by liberal arts education and his engineering training intersected very little.)
So anyway, that’s not unusual, right? It just meant I was a planner?
Here’s the secret: I always (always!) planned my schedule so that I would finish the books and papers early.
The books were always done at least two weeks in advance and I normally turned in my papers a full week in advance.
You’re thinking at this point that there’s nothing wrong with that, right? That it just made me an efficient, organized student?
It kind of makes me a mess.
Yes, I always got my work done. But, sometimes, I was so far ahead in a book that I forgot the material we needed to discuss in class on a particular day. After all, I was three chapters ahead.
I knew “finishing early” was something of a double-edged sword, but I couldn’t make myself not do it. What if something comes up and I can’t get the work done? Or, more to the point, you can’t do anything fun until your work is complete.
My personality is such that if I have a task looming over me, I just cannot relax and enjoy myself. Granted, I’m hugely more self-aware than I was in college and, to a great extent, this impulse doesn’t interfere with my life too much.
(Okay, I’ll admit that when I had my first child, the sheer magnitude of not being able to turn in my “parenting” assignment early caused a few postpartum tears. The discipline of breastfeeding a child every two hours or so largely trained that out of me.)
Plus, not being in school means no syllabi to fret over.
But – and this week has really brought this to the fore – back-to-school is fraught with anxiety-provokers for me.
I read over Ws homework plans for the year last night, and felt that same old fretfulness creep in. Why? It’s his homework. (And, no, I am not a parent who does a child’s homework for him. So it’s not that.) I was presented with the soccer practice schedule and collapsed in a puddle on the floor. I’ve got meetings and obligations galore, as I’m sure all the parents with school-aged kids do in August and September, and I am on edge.
So here’s my statement of truth:
When presented with a looming large or lengthy task, I SHUT DOWN.
Blessedly, I am married to a man who actually gets calmer and more collected the larger the challenge. He keeps my keel even.
And, knowing this about myself helps me relate to my middle child who, upon being asked to clean a large mess, becomes totally and utterly unhinged. She, like me, gets overwhelmed by the bigness of it all.
I truly believe that self-awareness is more than half the battle.
But seriously, if you run into me in the next few weeks and I seem a little “not me?” I promise, come October, I will be a much nicer friend and companion.
That is, until I have to start planning for the holidays.
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What stresses you out about back-to-school?