Editorial: Labor Day provides a much-needed pause

This weekend marks the traditional, if not the calendar, end to summer. Though life is never slow in the D.C. area, in July and August the pace is more of a jog than a sprint. From the day after Labor Day onwards, all that changes, seemingly as quickly as the flick of a light switch.

The transformation is instantly noticeable in rush-hour traffic, which shifts back from being nearly manageable in the summer to its normal gridlock. Families with children notice the change most acutely, as the start of the school year and fall sports catapults them back into the whirlwind of scheduling, activities and endless driving. Even the weather often turns noticeably cooler in the early days of September.

Labor Day weekend itself can be a bit melancholy. There are no more beach weeks, while carefully planned summer vacations have come and gone. Our workloads, whether at work or school, are about to increase exponentially. And, as lovely as September and most of October normally are weather-wise, we all know winter looms.

Labor Day weekend is like the calm before the storm. It’s that second when a swimmer takes a deep breath before diving into the pool. It’s the moment when the conductor holds the orchestra’s attention before they plunge into a performance.

What do we do with that pause?

Some people will use the long weekend to cram in a last bit of summer before heading back to work and school. There’s time for one final fling before the fun literally starts shutting down. For instance, beginning September 2, commercial planes stop flying to Nantucket from Washington. It’s either now or next year.

Others will use the time out to take stock and get organized. It’s not quite New Year’s Eve, with its well-intentioned and seldom-kept resolutions. Though January marks the calendar start of a new year, it comes midway through the school year. September 1 is much more of a true beginning.

By Labor Day, we generally know what’s on our plates for the fall: meetings will ramp up; schools and classes have been chosen. Churches end their summer schedules and businesses resume their regular hours.
This weekend, make good use of the pause. Buy those last few school supplies and shop for fall clothing. Organize your calendars and figure out how to fit in all of the back to school meetings, potluck dinners and networking events.

Even amidst the organizing, don’t forget to spend some time by a pool, in a garden or along the Potomac River. Ponder your memories from the summer. Then take a deep breath, count to three and prepare to jump back in with both feet.

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