Days of Our Lives
With Spring Break now behind us, we’ve entered that portion of the school calendar thought of by many as the ‘home stretch’. Memorial Day is suddenly less than six weeks away, and the finish line is rounding into view. Though in actuality this is one of the longest uninterrupted stretches of the school year, the looming final day of instruction – a calendar entry universally known and anticipated by students and teachers alike – somehow makes these final weeks feel rushed and compressed. Blink your eyes and school will be over.
The distinctive rhythms of the academic calendar quickly become second nature to school leaders. The most buttoned-down planning for the roll-out of a new school year almost invariably gives way to a frenetic first day of classes, followed by a period of adjustment and adaptation in search of routine. There are emotional high points – seeing parents tear up as their children, bursting with excitement, shine in a wonderfully orchestrated holiday program, or watch them receive their diplomas. And there are periods of anxiety, such as the days leading to the deadline for the submission of enrollment contracts for the coming year, or entering summer vacation short a teacher or two.
For someone like myself, whose work calendar is calibrated to the ebb and flow of activity in the California Legislature, the year’s seasons and rhythms produce an additional set of patterns. Newly introduced bills begin trickling in early on each January, and gradually increase to a torrent by the mid-February deadline. The next four months are filled with legislative committee hearings, negotiations, amendments, and floor votes. These activities are accompanied by the annual budget process, beginning with the Governor’s presentation of a preliminary budget in early January, and followed by a string of budget sub-committee hearings in each house. Following the Governor’s presentation of the “May Revise” version of the budget, a period of intensive negotiation ensues, usually culminating in a frenzied scramble to enact a budget bill prior to the statutory deadline of June 15. After a month-long summer recess extending from mid-July to mid-August, legislators reconvene in a dash to shepherd their respective bills across the finish line prior to the mid-September deadline. Over the course of the next month we wait with baited breath to learn which bills will fall victim to the Governor’s veto, and which will be signed into law.
Of course, I’m not the only one who keeps multiple calendars. If you are religious, your year is filled with holy days, festivals, commemorations, and other observances. If you are Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or a member of certain Protestant denominations, you’re probably happy to have recently marked the end of the lenten season. If you are Jewish, you are happy to have bid adieu to Passover. And if you are Muslim, you will likely be happy to conclude the month of Ramadan on April 20. (Is it any wonder studies consistently find religious persons to be happier?!)
Then there’s sports. We’ve just emerged from March Madness. The NBA and NHL playoff seasons kick off in April (roughly contemporaneous with The Masters golf tournament). One need not be partial to the ponies to know that the first Saturday in May is Kentucky Derby Day. Memorial Day is nearly synonymous with the Indy 500. Baseball season is roughly divided into periods falling prior to, and after July 4. Tennis fans know that summer is ushered in with Wimbledon and (hopefully) ushered out with the U.S. Open. Fall is for football. Soccer seems to roll on the year round.
Let’s not forget our social calendars with their standing weekly, or monthly poker/bridge/scrabble/bowling/pickleball/golf/mahjong get-togethers, theater and/or concert subscriptions, vacation periods, dinner dates with friends, party invitations, movie nights, and the like.
Each of the aforementioned calendars is secondary to a collection of personally significant dates that are inscribed in our hearts: birthdays, anniversaries of notable lifecycle events, and dates holding special idiosyncratic meaning. (Note that in service of relative brevity I have omitted parental obligation calendars, bills due, and medical appointments.)
When our various calendars are layered atop one another they evoke the image of an unfurled player-piano roll whose perforations form the soundtrack of our lives. May yours capture life’s full dynamic range and be filled with notes of meaning, purpose, achievement, fulfillment, and enjoyment. And as we look ahead to the culmination of another school year with a strangely harmonic sense of wistful anticipation, there’s no time like the present to remind ourselves that time is the one commodity that can never be replenished.
Note: The commentary and views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of the California Association of Private School Organizations, or its members.