Saturday, August 6, 2016

One Important Lesson from the Summer

It's funny the things you learn when you least expect it. Unassuming, sometimes life lessons can just appear out of thin air and smack you in the face. Especially from places where you least expect them to come. 

I've always been a fan of young adult literature; I mean, I am an elementary teacher. I love the depth of characters and lessons learned that so many amazing books provide our youngsters with today. And one amazing book that I read this summer taught this adult woman a life lesson that I've been needing to internalize. 

This summer I set out to read books. For me, for relaxation, for my soul. So many summers I try to plan too much--housework, projects, school work, etc. For some reason I think that having the summer off means that I can get everything I've ever wanted to in life done in a matter of three months. That, however, has never worked out for me. My anxiety brain starts screaming at me about a month into summer, "Oh my god! You are NEVER going to get any of this done!" I start panicking that I'm not going to accomplish what I need to accomplish (more likely what I want to) in the three months I am not teaching. 

Each summer I was putting undue stress on myself. I felt like a failure if I wasn't getting all the items checked off my to-do list, and I would feel drained once school started. This summer I decided to do a lot of "me" things to help rejuvenate me for the next school year and to keep my to-do list anxiety checker at bay. This included reading a lot of books.

Checking out stacks of books from the library, I would grab what spoke to me from the shelves. I did have a small to-read list, so I picked those books up too. One of the amazing books I read this summer based on teacher friends' recommendations was Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin.

This young adult book boats a dynamic, young lead character, with whom I fell in love. Eleven-year-old Thyme Owen's family is facing a crisis. Thyme's little brother, Val, has been accepted into a new cancer trail in New York, so their family needs to move cross-country to save her brother. Thyme misses everything about her home: her house, her grandmother, her friends. The city is not a welcoming place to her, and Thyme is certain that her family will be moving back to their old home in a matter of months. As the family starts to see positive changes from Val's treatment, Thyme realizes that her family may be sticking around in New York for good. Confused by her new situation and feelings about moving, Thyme faces new life moments that she is afraid to embrace: a new school, new friends, her first crush, and a grumpy neighbor with a sweet singing bird. She is uncertain if the emotional pull she feels to New York and these new experiences are what she wants in her life. All Thyme can do is count the minutes, hours, days, and months in hopes that her brother can be cured and that her family can find their way back home.

One of my favorite reads, I related so much to this story. Eight years ago my family was in crisis. Granted I wasn't eleven years old, I believe that anyone who's ever been in a battle with cancer can understand Thyme's feelings of not wanting her life to change, yet wanting to do anything you can to help your family member in trouble. 

Eight years ago my dad passed away from a rare form of brain cancer: glioblastoma. When my dad was diagnosed, I knew that our lives would never be the same. In my 20's, I didn't that my life could change in an instant. I knew they could, but I didn't expect it to happen to me. 

After my dad passed, I really struggled understanding my new life without my dad. I didn't expect my dad to be gone before I got married. I never thought my dad would never meet my niece. I never imagined my dad would not see my sister graduate college with a degree in statistics--a math-brained person just like him. This was a life I never imagined, and nothing felt "normal" to me for a long time. 

This summer after reading a passage from Counting Thyme, something clicked with me, and it helped me to accept the fact that my life has changed. 

In New York, Thyme feels awkward in her new surroundings and doesn't feel like she fits in. She isn't fitting in with the "normal" New York kids. When things don't go Thyme's way, she wonders why her life in New York can't just be normal like they were in San Diego. In this instance, Thyme remembers an important lesson her grandmother once shared with her:

Thyme's grandmother's advice is just what I needed to hear. Of course, as an adult, I know there is no normal. I give my students this advice all the time. But I needed to hear it from someone else to allow it to resonate in my heart and soul. 

My dad may not physically be here with me, and my life may be different than it was when he was around, but this is my new normal. 

My life is normal for now, and I'm okay with that. 

Life changes, and it will continue to change. It's okay to have a new normal. You may not like it at first, but you have to embrace the happiness and joy in the moment and expect the unexpected. Of course, I wish my dad were still with me today, but it's okay to embrace my new normal and enjoy life.

Thank you for Thyme, Melanie. 

Love and happiness <3 Holly