Spring Break

I love teaching.

It’s one of the relatively few things I am really good at. During my sabbatical several years ago, I was unable to find enough students to have a “studio” and it was the combination of not being able to find students and not being able to teach (much) that depressed me.

I would love to teach all the time. I never say no when the opportunity to work with a student arises. Which becomes a problem when I forget that even with the best job in the world, I need time off. Time to renew, rejuvenate, time to be away from it all.

Years ago, I learned to guard breaks such as winter and spring break, or the week after Memorial Day when I don’t teach, jealously. I learned that I do need this very definite unstructured time of no lessons. Not because I am sick and tired of teaching or because I feel I need a break, but because I need the distance. I need, and cherish, the “nothingness” on the calendar. Breathing space.

There were times when I gave in and taught “just a few make-up lessons” during a break and I always regretted it. I don’t know if it’s a case of “absence makes the heart grow fonder” or simply the need to step back from it all, remove myself for a week or two, look at things and teaching issues and students from a distance and then return to teaching with renewed energy.

Whatever the reason, I have learned to say No.

Well, kind of. A few days before this year’s spring break, a former student contacted me to see if I had some time to go over some music and theory with him. How can I say no to the opportunity to work with Jamey? Wednesday afternoon we spent a delightful, intensive, productive two hours taking parts of Liszt’s Liebestraum apart, working on technical issues, interpretation, and discussing theory, jazz, improvisation, and more.

Over the course of this spring break week, in addition to working with Jamey, I had medical appointments and an appointment with our accountant; we had to be home to meet with the irrigation guy to go over how to set up the spring irrigation schedule; we were expecting a call from the insulation people about working on our attic – none of it big, but all of it things on the calendar. Something nearly every day. It had seemed like a good idea to use spring break when my afternoons are free to do some of the things that might be more difficult to fit into my schedule when I teach. But it made spring break less of a break.

I realize that I live a very privileged life. A very first-world life, with first-world problems and solutions: doctors, accountants, irrigation and insulation experts.

But I am an introvert. In order to be there for my students, I need time to myself. Unstructured alone-time. Lots of Nothingness on the calendar. Next break, I’ll do better.