Last Day of School
Yesterday was the last day of school. It has been a hell of a year.
One of the things that I love about the last day of school is the way it lends itself to reflection. You can’t help but think about where the year started... and how it is ending. At the beginning of the school year it is all about clean backpacks, sharp pencils, new shoes, and big expectations. By the time you get to the last day of school, it is just about getting to the finish line. And whether you break the tape with your arms raised in triumph or collapse in exhaustion, you mainly just want it to be over.
When this school year started, we weren't sure if some of the behaviors we noticed with Justin were consistent with what other kids were going through or not. We knew that the pandemic had an impact on all children's ability to develop socially. Justin spent most of a year inside, and when we did go out he was told over and over again to keep his distance. That had to have had an impact on the way he developed socially. We just weren't sure if he was where other kids were or if there was something deeper going on.
The year ended with Justin getting an official diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, and an IEP meeting to help get in place support to help Justin through 1st grade. He is still the same amazing, beautiful, brilliant child. We just know now that some of his quirky originality isn't a result of the pandemic. It's because he quite literally thinks differently.
When the school year started Elizabeth was beginning her first full year of school in person in over two years. She will be a senior next year. She will become the 4th Hall child to successfully complete high school. Justin will accomplish that same feat in 2034. By the time he finishes we will have had at least one child in school for 32 years. That is mind boggling. As the year ends, Elizabeth is (reluctantly) looking at colleges and thinking about what happens next in her life. It is alternately exciting, terrifying, and anxiety riddled.
When the school year started Alex was thinking about whether she wanted to continue in finance and how her last year or so as a Marine wife would go. Now she is taking prenatal vitamins, picking out nursery furniture and going to OB appointments. We are going to be grandparents. I still haven’t picked out my grandpa's name yet. I am frankly still in shock that this is now something that is on my to do list.
Matthew is still Matthew. He is still in the Air Force. We have talked a couple of times. So that’s good. And I am heading to Maryland for Father’s Day to see him and hang out. I am hopeful that we can continue to rebuild our connection, one small step at a time.
Willie is Willie. He got to go to Camp Royall this week. The greatest place on earth. That was wonderful. He only got to stay four days. That was less wonderful. Willie continues to struggle. Taking him home was challenging. It was good to get to spend time with him. It was hard when we left. And both Barbara and I were physically and emotionally worn out.
And that’s how this school year has been for me. Lots of ups, and lots of downs. Barb and I are separated and working our way back together. And it has been work. Terrifying, rewarding, and important work. And some days are good. Some days aren’t. Some days are just days. And I am trying to be okay with that. It is easier said than done most of the time.
I often feel like a fraud writing these essays. I try to share wisdom and offer life advice. The truth is, my life feels like a mess most of the time. I feel like a mess. I guess the key is that I get up and try anyway. I keep pounding the rock.
I have an irrational belief that things will work out.
And I don’t just mean my stuff. I mean all of it. I think that all the things will work out. I think that we will somehow save the planet. For a while longer, at least. I think that our politics will change and that our divisions will heal. I think that Willie will find peace and that Justin will find his way and that Alex’s baby will be born into a world that can and will be better. I believe that after storms come rainbows.
I know that this belief is irrational. I know that there is nothing to suggest that these things will happen. I know that the objective evidence suggests that we are in a whole goddamn mess. One that might, in fact, be a death spiral. I know that this is true for everything from gun violence to income inequality to housing and food insecurity to basic civil discourse. I know that objectively there is not a lot of reason for optimism. I know that marriages end and societies fail and that on a long enough timeline everything crumbles.
And still. Somehow. Through it all. My hope persists.
My hope persists because there are days when school ends and summer starts and there are smiles and relief and promises of the pool and the beach and respite from the worries of the world. The simple joy that comes from finishing what you started. From seeing the year all the way to the end. And the backpacks are dingy and the shoes aren’t new anymore and you can’t even find the pencils. The world has changed. It doesn’t look the same.
It’s the last day of school. You made it. And the world renews. Hope floats.
May it ever be so.
I hope you have a great summer, everyone. I will be in touch early next week to talk about some exciting changes coming to the newsletter. So stay tuned.
In the meantime, be well y’all. Smile at the sun.
And keep pounding the rock.