Last Day of School©

            I was out for a morning run recently, when I noticed a group of kids waiting for the bus. Not that unusual on a weekday morning, but two things caught my attention: all of the kids were wearing identical brightly colored t-shirts, and several moms were standing with them (which was unusual because the kids were older). I immediately got it – it was the last day of school, which meant fun, games and excitement (at least for the kids).

            Do you remember your childhood experiences on the last day of school? For me it meant sneaking squirt guns and water balloons into school, virtually an entire day of recess and the thrill of knowing that this would be the last day of school before glorious summer.

            The funny thing is that everyone experiences the last day of school and the summer “vacation” differently. Most kids even today look forward to the last day of school with great anticipation and can’t wait for summer vacation. Yes, there are some kids who love school and have mixed emotions about the end of school year, but that’s clearly the exception. In contrast, many parents are hesitant about summer vacation because they know that they have to be better at planning and prioritizing when their kids are no longer in school. It may sound harsh, but that’s the reality. Other parents are more excited than their children about the last day of school, perhaps remembering the thrill of their own last days of school.

            As for me, I always loved the last day of school and looked forward to the summer, but I also was always ready for school to start in the fall (it actually did start closer to the fall then – school started after Labor Day, not in mid-August). I liked my summers, but getting back to school meant one step closer to being done with school, so that I could move on to the next stages of my life.

            What’s the point in all of this? The point is that it’s easy for us to get so caught up in life that we lose the in-the-moment excitement of youth. When was the last time that you looked forward to something much like the last day of school? Even when we take vacations, most often we focus on everything that we have to do to get ready to go, which creates stress. Then we leave and either work while we’re away or think about all the work that will have to be done when we get back from vacation. How often have you said (or heard others say), “It’s almost not worth taking the vacation because I have so much to catch up on when I get back?” Is life really that overly full that we can’t enjoy the moments of our vacation?

            I often ask people what they do for fun, and the most common answers are “I don’t know,” “I don’t have much time for fun,” or “It’s been so long since I did anything fun that I can’t remember.” What a sad commentary on our adulthood. Perhaps we need a lot more kid perspective and a lot less adult perspective. Have we really gotten that boring, OR did we lose sight of the little things like joy, laughter and carefree living? Personally, I think we can be adults, be responsible AND have fun.

            By the way, I’m talking to myself here too. It’s so easy for me to get caught up in the things that I need to do, want to do (for my business) or think I should do, while forgetting to make time for me, for more fun and for simplicity. My life is often overscheduled and leaves me craving unscheduled down time on the weekends or in the evenings. I don’t allow enough time in my life for the unexpected and the spontaneous. What about you?

            When I was growing up, my life was mostly spontaneity. Yes, I played some organized sports that had a schedule, and I was part of the show choir, which had scheduled concerts. However, most of my life consisted of figuring things out as I went (e.g. who will I play with, what will we play at, etc.). So often we look at our children and criticize them for not being able to just play (they want us as parents to create their play and fun for them), but we as adults are suffering from the same problem. We don’t know how to play anymore, don’t allow time for play and we’ve lost the joy in our lives (from the simple things … like the last day of school).

            This week and beyond, open up some time in your schedule (by not scheduling) for spontaneity and fun. Be willing to be spontaneous. Be willing to slow down or even stop to enjoy something simple. For example, after your exercise run just sit, rest, reflect and listen to some music while you wind down. When you get home or wrap up your work, resist the urge to click on the television and instead just sit on your porch, patio or deck with a book or with music on your headphones. Rather than figuring out a grand vacation, spontaneously go for a walk or a bike ride (and perhaps grab some ice cream while you’re out).

            Several events in the past few weeks have reminded me that life is short and, more important, that life and its moments are precious. Many special moments are not predictable and are not repeated – that’s the nature of moments – but moments are always present and continual. What makes them special is allowing them to happen and being present for them. It’s really that simple. Set your intentions now to regress – to be more kid‑like in your living, to embrace the joy in unexpected moments and to live like it’s the last day of school.

Last Day of School

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