A weekend of dorm duty at a boarding school may not sound like your (or my) idea of fun. For any readers that are not familiar with boarding-school life, teams of faculty and staff divvy up weekends “on duty.” It’s really not so bad…you just have to remain available in case the kids need something, take them on an outing or three, show up at meals and check them in at curfew. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not what I’d call a social butterfly, so duty weekends are my current easiest excuse to lay low and re-coup after long work days. Having to stay up till 11 p.m. for curfew has (thus far, knock on wood) proved to be the biggest challenge.
As I was saying, it may not sound like fun to most (or to myself), but my first weekend on duty has actually proven to be full of beauty-filled moments. As usual, I just had to look for and recognize them. I may have figured out the recipe to enjoying a duty weekend, so should you find yourself stuck in an obscure location (for employment reasons, or otherwise) grab a pencil and paper.
-wake up early
-have a hobby you enjoy
-be open to new conversations
-drive a short bus (this one is a must!)
-have good reading material on hand
I agreed to an early-morning walk with 2 colleagues today and, once I dragged myself out of bed, could not have been happier with my decision. I didn’t have to worry about the girls in my dorm because, like all dutiful teenagers, they were fast asleep. On-the-cusp-of-fall mornings are the best. Not yet chilly enough to necessitate true brr- weather gear, nor even close to warm enough to endure the yucky vestiges of August humidity.
Some may roll their eyes and really think I’m pushing every-day beauty to its absolute limit, but the hobby I picked for today was…cleaning! I know, I know, many dread housework, but let me tell you why I love it. It’s easy (no thought required, which is a pleasure after a long work week), allows for great music listening while working and provides instant gratification: you see the fruits of your labor right away.
I ended up helping out on the sophomore retreat this afternoon (hence the driving of the short bus, i’ll get to that momentarily) and in the process had some great conversations. I’ve already explained the diversity at my school so won’t go there again, but will tell you that it was just as inspirational as usual to watch these extremely different kids interacting and collaborating. During a discussion of bee stings, I added that I was stung by a wasp last weekend, but that my sting had not swollen. I personally attribute the lack of swelling to my extreme toughness, and shared this hypothesis with the kids. One of my students looked at me with the most bewildered expression on his face, “But Miss Hendricks you’re not tough…you’re one of those happy people.” Now I was not previously aware that toughness and happiness were mutually exclusive qualities, but I know when to accept a compliment and took it as such. Being happy (even when in unusual and/or unexpected circumstances) is a skill that can take years to develop, and it was touching to see a student observe that in just three days.
I know not everyone is able to drive a short bus full of teenagers on a whim, but if you have the opportunity, please take it. The conversations I overheard (some appropriate, others less so for artsdevivres’s g-rated content) were hysterical and set me to reminiscing about my own high school years. Plus their taste in music (quite the opposite from my own) helped me begin to re-develop a long-dormant appreciation for hip hop.
The last ingredient for a successful weekend on duty is good reading material. During some much-needed down time this evening, I was able to read two (somewhat) recent interviews with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco (one in Spin, the other in Rolling Stone), both lent to me by a thoughtful student and colleague. A quote from Tweedy really hit me, so I decided to share it as an end note for today:
“I don’t think there’s anything more difficult or complex than trying to make things simple.”
Now I think this speaks for itself, but just in case: The artsdevivre way is not always the easy way. Sometimes it feels better to complain or moan about less-than-perfect circumstances. But I’ve learned those are quick fixes. It’s akin to palliative vs. preventive health care. Why habitually treat the symptoms when you can chase them away for good? Looking for beauty and being optimistic can sometimes be difficult and complex tasks. But once you learn how, their simplicity is just one more thing to add to your personal list of every-day beauty.