The Sunday Scaries

It’s a thing, you know.

As a teacher for more than 25 years (though it felt far longer), I regularly experienced the “Sunday Scaries.” This noxious condition manifests itself in different ways for different people. In fact, it was different for me different weeks. Sometimes anxiety plagued me. Others, just despondency. Usually, existential dread filled my bones. Those people who don’t have a loved one who is a teacher–or who isn’t one themselves–may struggle to understand just why a teacher would feel this way. Many of those who can’t understand would follow on with some spurious sputtering about how teaching is easy, a 9 month job, blah, blah, blah.

But those people don’t know jack, and we can safely ignore them.

For those who don’t get it, but want to, it’s simple: so much is beyond the control of a teacher. Sure, they can plan great lessons but the kids may not respond. There could be a psycho parent who calls (or, heaven forbid, visits unannounced). Perhaps there will be teen drama or an administrative walkthrough or, I’m sad enough to say, a shooter drill, if not an actual shooter.

So I feel for my friends and former colleagues still in the proverbial trenches. And when I retired, I gleefully believed that the Sunday Scaries would no longer raise their hideous head.

Alas, that’s not the case. Perhaps because I spent so long being felled by the Scaries that vestiges remain, or perhaps it’s just the nature of the game, but I’ll let you in on a secret: writers get the Sunday Scaries, too. Though mine most often occur on Sunday, writer friends seem to run afoul of them nearly every day of the week, which isn’t really fair, if you think about it. Friday Scaries shouldn’t happen at all.

They look a little different, as well. Existential dread happens, but it’s more focused on “What if I never succeed?” or “What if no one reads my book?” (Those in the querying trenches are beset with “What if I’m never published?”)

Like those experienced by educators, these scares are exacerbated by knowing our feared outcomes are largely beyond our control. Gaming the TikTok algo is harder than it seems. Finding an influencer who loves our book probably requires bribery . It’s more than hard work and a dash of talent that makes for success. So. Much. Luck. is needed as an author, too.

And luck is beyond our control.

In the absence of a fairy godmother, and after days and long nights of trawling through social media, our minds (or maybe it’s just mine) whisper “What if I’m not good enough?” “What if I <gasp> suck?”

Not once did I think that as a teacher.

And that’s probably because it is easier to be a success as a teacher. Hard work pays off most of the time. There’s generally a handful of kids in any give class that genuinely like you. Overall, more people can be great teachers than will ever be well-known authors. Good teachers are not a dime a dozen, but goof writers are regularly ignored.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what my point is other than a musing on the dark side of adulting. I have a sneaking suspicion that other professions have their versions of the Sunday Scaries, though I never experienced them to the same extent in any of the retail jobs I’ve held.

I don’t ever want to go back to the Sundays filled with dread and paper grading, but I hope my friends know that I feel their pain.

Anyway, I need to get back to planning my social media strategy for the week.

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