Over the years, life has taught me much: Don’t talk to strangers, eat your vegetables, don’t swallow gum, don’t mix Pop Rocks candy with Coke, don’t get into white vans, and don’t use temporary tattoos with strange symbols on them. Each new experience, brings with it new lessons and morals. The older I get, the more life seems to throw repeats at me. Sometimes it feels like I’m watching Nick at Night and that same episode of Full House is playing. Or maybe, I’ve just grown so accustomed to life teaching me something that I ignore the lessons. Whatever the reason, over the past few years, I feel as though I’ve learned less than ever before from life. Everything seems to be bleeding together, like the cup of water used to rinse a paintbrush creating a brilliant picture of flowers using water colors. However, this summer seemed different. While I don’t feel as though I learned too many new lessons, I do feel as though my experiences from this summer changed me. I feel a bit different, like that time I got new glasses after having the same glasses for five years. The colors are more vivid and things seem four-dimensional. It’s pretty sweet.
In no particular order, I will recount the summer experiences that helped make my life a bit more vivid.
- Experience: Taking my son to a football camp. In mid-June, my family travelled south a bit to Connecticut, for my son to participate in a Football University Camp. It was intense, for both him and us. The weather was hot and sunny, which may be why I dropped some weight that weekend. I sweat off what felt like 20 pounds. I hate being hot. At the camp, my wife and I learned all about football recruiting for our son. It’s crazy! He needs to have video footage and a profile online in order for college coaches to see him and thus recruit him. First off, I didn’t even know my son was that committed to football. I knew he liked playing it, but him wanting to attend this camp made me realize how serious he is about the sport. He seems to want to focus on football, moving forward. While I’m not a huge fan of him doing so because of all of the health and safety risks associated with playing football, I do like that he has found a passion and is setting some goals for himself. That’s great, I just wish it was with a sport that is a bit less aggressive. Oh well, since I can’t force him to go pro in ping pong, I guess football is okay. Life Lesson: Setting life goals and finding one’s passion is crucial to make progress and bring about change in one’s life. I am now constantly thinking about how I can change and grow as an educator, which perhaps is one of the reasons why I did accomplish so much professional work this summer. Sometimes I wonder who is teaching whom, me or my son son?
- Experience: Helping family friends move from Florida to New Hampshire. In early July, a friend and I, flew down to Florida, which was hotter than my armpit after a trip to the sauna, to help his in-laws move their belongings back to New Hampshire. After arriving, we loaded the moving truck with as much of their stuff as possible. The next morning, we loaded the remainder of their things into the truck and made our long journey north. We had decided to make a few stops along the way, for fun. Our first adventure included going to an alligator farm. Alligators raised in a farm, controlled setting seem very docile and not scary at all. I almost felt like cuddling up to one as they sat in their tank of water, but then I realized it was way too hot to cuddle. Our next stop was Hilton Head, South Carolina. I heard so many cool stories about people vacationing there. So, I figured, let’s check it out. What a hot waste of time that was. There was not much there except a beach and some stores. Whoopie doo! We then traveled to Atlantic City, New Jersey. Now that was awesome. Well, it was a bit scary being caught in a torrential downpour, but walking around the city and casinos was so neat. It’s amazing. Stores in the casinos are open all day and night. So, if you have a hankering for a cookie at two in the morning, Mrs. Fields is open. How cool is that? Atlantic City was definitely the highlight of the trip for me. Our last stop before heading back to New Hampshire was the Pocono Mountain range in Pennsylvania. I wanted to go to some epic flea markets. Who doesn’t love a good bargain. We went to two amazing flea markets. The last one was by far the best. It had a huge inside part with a store that sold old Nintendo games. For a few moments, I was thrust back into my childhood playing Super Mario Brothers for hours on end. Ahh, the good ol’ days. While the trip only lasted five days, we accomplished a lot. Life Lesson: Take risks and try new things. Even though we arrived to Atlantic City tired and wet from rain, we decided to walk around the boardwalk a bit. It was awesome. So many sounds and bright lights. It was like that rave I never went to. As a teacher, I’m going to try new things in the classroom this year, even if they scare me a bit.
- Experience: My son having a cardiac event at a football camp in South Carolina. There we were, my son and I, in hot and steamy South Carolina, for another football camp. Things started off swimmingly. The drive down was long but good. The first meetings at the camp went well. Then came the first practice. My son looked really good. He made some epic catches. I was a proud dad. Then, I didn’t see for a while. I wondered where he had gone. As I made my way to the water tent to see if he was there, a medic called my name. “Mark Holt!” My son was down on the ground, clutching his chest. It was one of every parent’s nightmares. What was wrong? Would he be okay? He complained of pain in his heart and couldn’t move or really talk. We were rushed to a strange hospital in a strange place via an ambulance. Luckily, he soon felt better and it seemed as though we would be discharged after only a few hours at the hospital. Then, the doctor came in and closed the door. Now, we all know that nothing good is ever said behind closed doors. I started to get nervous. What was going on with my son? One of the blood tests came back positive for a cardiac enzyme that tells doctors that some sort of cardiac event had occurred. The doctor in the ER wanted us to see a specialist before going home, and since they didn’t have a pediatric cardiologist at that hospital, they needed to transfer us to another hospital in North Carolina, about 45 minutes away. What? My wife was back in New Hampshire and I was alone with my son in South Carolina. Fortunately, my son had no real idea what was happening because he felt fine. He said, “Why can’t we just leave the hospital?” Once we got transferred to the larger Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, they did more tests and found out that whatever cardiac event had happened to him, it was minor and didn’t seem to cause any noticeable issues. So, they discharged him later that afternoon. While my wife and I were relieved that he was being dismissed from the hospital, we were still anxious about what had caused the event. A few weeks later, once we saw a specialist back home, our fears were quelled when a stress test revealed that whatever happened to him probably wasn’t heart-related. That was great news. Life Lesson: Fake it ’till you make it. In the hospital, I appeared to my son and the hospital staff as calm, cool, and collected, while inside I was a complete mess. I just rolled with it externally while my insides felt like a fish out of water. I was so scared for my son. As a teacher, I’m really good at faking it and letting personal stresses stay personal, but, every once in awhile, I do allow my emotions to get the better of me. This year, I’m going to work on keeping everything in check, all the time. If I can come across as serene while my son is being rushed to the hospital, then I’m sure I can remain in control in the classroom.
- Experience: Family trip to Maine. My wife’s family rented two cabins on Highland Lake in Bridgton, Maine for a week in August. My wife, son, and I, along with my wife’s parents, her sister, and her two kids, spent the week together. The weather was beautiful, sunny and warm every day. It was only really hot one day, but got really cool one night. There was so much to do right there at the lake. My son and his cousins went fishing, kayaking, and swimming. We played horseshoes and had a campfire every night. It was so peaceful and relaxing. It was just what my family needed before school starts back up for me and before we drop my son off at his new school. Life Lesson: Take YOU time. Having time to oneself is so beneficial for recharging the emotional battery. We all need some down time on a regular basis. Whether you read a book, listen to music, fish, or something else, it’s vital to your sanity and the sanity of those you live and work with to take a break every once in awhile. As our schedule at my school is so hectic, I do need to remember to take me time more frequently than I have in the past. Perhaps I should take up a new hobby or just play some of the old school video games I recently purchased. Anybody up for a game of NBA Jam on the Sega?
Together, these experiences helped shape my summer, and changed me. I feel a little different. With faculty meetings for my school beginning tomorrow morning, I’m feeling energized, excited, and ready to go. Bring on the new students, new ideas, new teachers, and new experiences. I can’t wait to see how this new year will bring about more changes within me.