The Work of Summer

Summer always seems to bring an inevitable slowdown, both in work and life.

watercolor watermelon on a picnic table
Image created via Midjourney

The first full week of summer has come and gone. The kids have spent their days at camp and several home improvement projects are underway. The weather has been a soggy mess for weeks, leaving me with an overgrown lawn and a yearning to be outside. I miss my morning walks.

Summer always seems to bring an inevitable slowdown, both in work and life. Friends and colleagues are on vacation, breaking up the rhythm of the days. There’s always a push to do things that counteracts the desire to sit around and do absolutely nothing.

We spent most of 2020 in isolation and most of 2021 adjusting to “new normal.” New normal meant the return of summer camp, but with masks. New normal meant new jobs, for both adults in this house.

I thought back to the summer days of college, working full-time at a bank where I was a teller. The air-conditioned office was a nice alternative to my un-air-conditioned apartment. But I was bored. Summer days were slow at the small bank. Fewer people came into the bank lobby because they were out and about. There was nothing to do except talk to the other tellers or read.

Yet the loan officers were busy. Frantic even. The mortgage rates were at record lows (back when we thought 5.25% was a fantastic rate) and people were refinancing like crazy. To cure my boredom, I asked one of the loan officers if I could help in any way. He showed me how to take the information from a loan file and prep the docs for closing. Later, he taught me how to take an application and get the loan approved through Fannie Mae. Pretty soon I was taking entire loans from start to finish, for all three loan officers in the branch.

I could have sat on the teller line that summer. I probably would have finished some excellent books. I didn’t a raise or anything for my work as the de facto loan processor. But the work was different and exciting; the days passed by quickly.

And that summer became the jump-start for the rest of my career. I liked banking enough that I considered a finance major. But on some sound advice from a mentor, I graduated with an English major — still determined that I would pursue banking. By that point, I had amassed quite a bit of banking knowledge.

I spent years in fintech, first onboarding new clients and later the product manager. Summers were always a reprieve. The steady waves of vacation time meant that many projects slowed down.

Summer of 2020 changed all of that. The camp that my kids attend was closed due to Covid. My kids had been home since March and the arrival of summer meant that we had nothing to keep them occupied during the day. I enrolled the kids in Outschool and paid a friend of mine (who has a Ph.D.) to prepare some fun “lessons” for them but it wasn’t enough. They were used to carefree, fun summers and instead were stuck at home.

It was difficult to get work done during the day. I was managing a team and most of my direct reports had the same problem: kids at home, nothing to do.

I was also on the executive team. At one point in July, the CEO complained about slow sales. He didn’t understand why things weren’t “back to normal” yet.

I pointed out that anyone with children at home was still struggling during the day, just to get the bare minimum done. They likely were not in a place to think about buying and implementing new software.

Looking back, it was one in a series of revelations that unfolded for me in 2020 — moments that ultimately led to me quitting my job and embarking on a new career.

That moment, in particular, made me realize how out-of-touch the CEO was with the lives of his employees. Even after I explained the constant drain of time and energy that parents were facing as a result of the pandemic, he was still irritated. It was impacting his business, and he didn’t like that.

That moment, a culmination of many moments of frustration, sent me out on a job hunt. The job hunt made me to consider what else I could do with my life… leading me to take on work as a freelance writer, and ultimately quitting six months later.

This summer, I’m reflecting and grateful. My kids happily spent a year in their classrooms. I am doing work that I enjoy and consciously choosing to minimize stress in my life.

Here’s hoping for a great summer.