Friday, June 27, 2014


A strange thing happened to me this morning. I guess in the grand scheme it wasn't so strange, but it seemed strange so bear with me. I was standing outside of my house at about 8:30 getting read to go to work.

That's it.

Strange, right?

Maybe some context is in order. I am a teacher. Usually, people associate summers with teachers back packing through Europe or lazing on the beaches of the Caribbean. That's a dumb association to make but, hey, people are allowed to be dumb.

Teachers, over the summer do all sorts of stuff including reading books, making lunches, working as camp counselors and driving carpool. Sometimes we take classes or teach them. I was doing none of the above. I was gong in to work. But that's not the strange part.

I have some additional responsibilities at my job. During the school year and over the summer, I am in charge of books. This has led to such witty nicknames as "Rabbi Bookman" and "Book Guy." We should teach creativity. I want a better nick name. Right now, the two in the lead, based on popular usage and relevance are "Guy with the books" and "Jerkwagon." So during the summer, I keep going in to work. Again, not so strange once context is established.

But here's the thing. I don't really have a boss over the summer. The work just has to get done. The schedule? I set it. The tasks? I establish them and monitor their performance. So what was pressing me, on this particular Friday to be ready to get into a car at 8:30? Nothing.

The weather was glorious. It was the kind of morning that makes you want to take a walk, throw a ball or climb back into bed. There was no pressure, no particular demand at work. It is a short day and I have to shop for underwear and chicken and cook one of them for dinner. So why did I go? Why did I wake myself up, set a schedule for my morning and walk out of the house and drive to work? WHY?

During the school year, the answer is obvious. If I had the kind of job where I had to settle the McStevens account by July first, the answer would be obvious. But I don;t know anyone named McStevens. So why did I do it with no prodding or pressure?

That's what was strange. I did it because I knew I should. I felt that I had a responsibility that no one had to remind me of and that i had to live up to. Just because. I got the sense this morning that I was actually a grown up, doing a job because I am supposed to, totally unprompted by external concerns.

I didn't call in sick. I didn't simply stay home because there was no reason to go in. I didn't find an excuse. I just went in. And now I'm typing this, so it isn't like I am taking the whole experience too seriously. It was strange is all.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

One small step, or not

This combination is not a good one but it has inspired me. I didn't sleep last night. A bad headache treated with caffeine after 3PM means I won't be sleeping for a a couple of days and I complemented that with an elementary school graduation. So my brain is done. If I sound a bit scattered, now you know why.

While I was watching the graduation and reading the quotes that the 14 year-olds have already begun regretting I saw this line (and sing along if you know the words) "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." It takes no sleep and 46 eighth graders to make you really pay attention to that quote. It is a dumb statement and I am going to use this time to tell you why.

First off, who goes on a 1000 mile journey? I resent having to go 4 miles to a graduation exercise. I really don't like having to drive to the next town to drop my kid off for a sleep over. And if there are tolls involved? It just isn't happening. A thousand miles? What is so important that you can't see it, study it, buy it or make fun of it over the internet? So that's one thing.

But also, the journey of 1000 miles really begins with planning. Are you gong to start the walk before setting an itinerary or investigating hotels? Maybe checking your work schedule or exchanging currency? If you are going 1000 miles you will need to buy some extra shoes. And is this long journey going to be taken on foot? Maybe the journey of 1000 miles begins by calling a cab.

Finally, what if, against all common sense, I DO decide to take a 1000 mile journey on foot but, when I start the journey, instead of taking a single step, I take a standing broad jump. Or maybe I get on the floor and roll. Why does the 1000 mile journey have to start with a specific and single step? Can't I be an individual?

What we need is an updated cliche to work with, so here is my suggestion.

"The journey of 1000 miles is a bad idea but if you have to go, like for work or something, pack a sweater and buy a map. And then, when you start walking, do it however you feel comfortable. I won't judge."

That just rolls off the tongue. I can't wait to see it in all the yearbooks next year.