The way the chips fell for me, I went straight through my schooling, from kindergarten to graduate school, with no breaks. As a result, I can only conceptualize the year in terms of an academic calendar.
I’m sure most normal people think of the year ending in December and beginning in January. Not so for me. My concept of the calendar is such that August feels like a new year, the start of something fresh and exciting and full of possibilities. Summer feels like a slump of idle time. December feels like a halfway point. Such is my life.
By mid-summer (like, now), I feel the full impact of that summer slump. Because I don’t have the seniority to teach in the summer yet, I’ve rushed around, cobbling together income with writing, working at a law firm, editing, teaching (at another school), and the odd paid shift at a dance studio. And because the weather has been breezy this week, and I’ve been listening to more country music, I feel the school year approaching.
The start of fall semester is magical to me. I never get tired of it. Last year, when I was out of school and working at a law firm rather than teaching, I missed that familiar excitement that comes with the start of a new school year. I didn’t have to buy any paper or books. I didn’t worry about class rosters or lesson plans or new ways to reinvent the teaching wheel. I just went to work everyday, punched the clock, toiled away, and went home at 5pm.
Not this year. This year, I’m back to school in August. I’ll be teaching and writing and cooking, and normalcy can be restored. All my academic pleasures can come back. Oh happy, happy end of summer.
(I may be the only person alive who celebrates the end of summer. Oh well.)
But in the meantime, in this final month and a half of hot, hot weather, and hustling around trying to make ends meet, I feel the summer slump. I feel the stagnation and exhaustion that comes with treading water for three months. And in times like these, I need comfort.
Comfort food is the perfect antidote. Whether my heart has been stepped on by someone or I’ve gotten too many rejection notices or I’ve got a sinus infection, or if I’ve committed my recurring mistake of building up too much stress so that I feel like a pressure cooker, ready to burst and send a mess of frustration and angst all over the metaphorical kitchen of my life, I know there’s a food that will ease my worries and woes. And this weekend, on my lonely Saturday afternoon, I found comfort in chocolate chip cookies.
There’s nothing particularly dignified or amazing or impressive about chocolate chip cookies. But you can count on them. You know when you mix butter and sugar and flour and chocolate chips (and a few other ingredients), and you drop spoonfuls on a cookie sheet, in fifteen minutes, you’ll have soft, melty chocolate chip cookies.
Chocolate chip cookies don’t require much of us. They meet us where we are. They’re portable, so they go with us. At work? In the car? On the couch? On the kitchen floor? The cookie is there. The cookie cares. The cookie doesn’t judge you or make you feel inadequate. It doesn’t care if your clothes match or if the kitchen is a mess or if you’ve done your grading. It’s there to comfort and satiate and provide that sense of being a kid, when foods were cooked for you, and your laundry ended up folded on its own (thanks, Mom), and on your worst days, someone was there to make it better.
I’ve become the pressure cooker again. I know I can’t sustain that pattern, but I fall into it again and again. Because I’ve told myself that the only way to get anywhere in life is to work tirelessly, nonstop, with the hopes that it’ll pay off to some extent some day down a long, long road. It’s a blind faith I have in my career. I’m not the only one who suffers from it – I live with two roommates who suffer the same affliction to varying degrees. And in these days at the end of summer, when we’re hot and tired and in need of comfort, I will meet them as I meet myself, with chocolate chip cookies and what’s left of the wine I’ve been drinking. I’ve learned to be gentle with people, in hopes they’ll be gentle back. And I’ve learned to rely on cookies. .