I needed Canada. I needed unreliable cell service and the inability to text, tweet, or check email during the day. I needed to unplug, go for a hike, and spend time watching the street performers juggle, sing, and play the accordion. I needed time to breathe.
This year will be my twenty-second in education. It’s a world that has only accelerated since I got my first teaching job in the quiet town of Hood River, Oregon. Then and there I worried less about talking with kids about slowing down and finding balance between the pressures of school and life. I hardly thought about reassuring them that their four years of high school didn’t need to be spent building the perfect college application. I didn’t feel the need to tell them to relax and have fun.
The world has changed, and not just the world of education. We adults set the tone for our kids, and sometimes I’m sure that Wordsworth was right when he wrote: “Getting and spending we lay waste our powers.” He wrote that in 1802.
This trip I was happy to downshift into a more Victorian world. While a big move to a new position meant an uptick in electronic communications sent my way, I could only get texts and email when I was in my hotel room, and even then service was as moody as a 19th century French trapper.
…to whom I tip my beaver pelt cap and say “Merci!”
Balance was something I needed to be reminded of. Balance was something I needed to be reminded I model for my own kids; I can’t tell them to get off the tablet if I’m looking at my phone.
In Victoria I made it through more than a week greatly untethered from my phone. I only responded to a very few emails. I didn’t post to my blog. I tweeted hardly at all.
And the world didn’t end. I didn’t compromise my job or lose two dozen Twitter followers.
The dance of boundaries is a complicated one, and I know that as I return home I’ll need to be mindful if I’m to minimize my missteps. Being forced to disconnect this summer during a transition that could have sucked me into my phone or laptop reminded me that it’s okay to keep work, except the vital stuff, at work. The challenge of determining what is the vital stuff is worth engaging in to be more present at home and balanced in my life.
That last sentence is easy to write from a hotel room in Canada. The real challenge, and one I’m committed to engaging with, is to bring this lesson back to my work, and life, in the fall.