The Fence


This afternoon my son and I went for a brief walk around our neighborhood. It was a beautiful day. The wind was gusting, but the sun had been waiting all winter to make its presence known. And today it did. Providing the kind of warmth that made the cool breeze feel welcome.

We held hands. When he allowed me to. He’s becoming a Big Boy, so hand-holding isn’t always permitted. Sometimes we’d race down the sidewalk. I would let him get ahead of me and he would turn around and giggle like only a three-year old can. Blissful moments like these I do not take for granted. And I try not let anything interrupt them. Hoping they will last forever.

But they don’t. Somehow, invariably, thoughts of work always seem to creep into this sacred space. Like an uninvited guest that is not welcome. I try to push them away, while simultaneously clinging tighter to the interrupted moment. This is a skill that I have yet to master. Actually, I am not even close.

Why is it so difficult to stay on one side of the fence? Is it just me? Climbing back and forth is very tiresome and can become quite dangerous. And yet when I am at work I do not have difficulty staying away from the fence. Why is that? Maybe it’s because I have complete confidence in the other side of the fence. I know that it will always be there for me. No matter what. I take it for granted. Is that wrong?

Whereas, when I am at work I never know from one moment to the next what to expect. It can be invigorating, intimidating and exhilarating at the same time. And so really there is no time to even glance back at the fence. Then I go home. I cross the fence. To my place of comfort. My retreat. But from time to time I can’t help but glance back.

And when I do, I chance missing out on some of life’s most precious moments. I am guilty of this too often. Of not being altogether present, when I need to be. The other side of the fence is not going anywhere. It will be just the way I left it.

But if I continue to pay it too much attention can the same be said about my side of the fence? The side that I come home to every day. The side where my loved ones expect, at bare minimum, the same level of attention and concern I give to the other side.

This is not to say I can’t take work home. I can. And this is not to say that my work isn’t important. It is vitally important.

I just think that I need to stop straddling. Once my work for the day is complete. Once I have crossed over. I must not allow myself to look back. I must stay away from the fence. I owe it to myself. More than anything though, I owe it to those who have been waiting patiently for me all day. To climb back over. And not look back.



  1. Jon,
    Thanks for sharing this post. So important to remember to be focused on where we are and who we are with. Our students and our families deserve it! Great reminder:)

  2. I’ve heard of an idea of finding a physical marker (bridge, tree, street sigh etc) on your drive home from work where you allow yourself to think about and analyze the days work up until you get to that marker in the road. As soon as you do, you no longer give time to “that side of the fence”. I like this idea because it’s visual and will always be there everyday. Also, I think most of us try to leave work “behind” as soon as we “walk out the door”. But most educators can’t help but be reflective by nature and this way you still allow yourself to do so after work, up until the marker, if that makes sense.

  3. When I coached, I told my players (because I had been told as a player) to leave their school, worries, friends, problems, etc. off the court/field. When they crossed the line to enter the gym/field, it was time to be “all in” with their teammates. Your post reminds me of this.
    I think the hard part is that when a person is passionate about what they do, there is a very blurry line, because their job is not what they do but who they are.
    Thanks for sharing, Jon!

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