It’s been almost three complete weeks since I did a blog post. Objectively, this is a lot better than that time I kinda stopped blogging altogether for an entire calendar year, but I’m still not proud of not blogging for an almost 21 days. I promise I have been writing it on my to do lists almost daily, but it just hasn’t happened until now.
I have at several more cohesive, educational post ideas in my writing journal, but I feel like this post was important. Mainly because when I was thinking about what I should write about the following meme was the only thing I could think of:
This is how my brain works. I go for something inspirational and meaningful and a “your ecards” my mom sent to me once pops up. I like to picture that scene in Spongebob where all of the minis Spongebobs are going through filing cabinets in his brain. This is what was found in my filing cabinet this afternoon. And because I have the improv mindset of, “Yes, and…” where you embrace whatever you get and take it to the next step, here we all are now.
Let’s Be Honest About Mental Health for a Second
If you don’t know me personally you might not know this, but I struggle with mental health issues. As a culture, it’s been amazing how we’ve been opening up the dialogue about mental health more, but it’s still a hard thing to talk about. I have anxiety and depression and it manifests in lots of interesting ways. It’s been bad lately. A few weeks ago I finally had to take a step back and say, “Hey, you’re sleeping 13+ hours a day lately, what’s going on?”
This led me to reevaluating what my priorities are. I am an empath personality type, so I take on too much because I just want to save everyone. I am literally the kind of person that will remember that there are dogs who don’t get adopted and get put down and will just cry because I thought about it. That can be almost physically dangerous as a teacher because wanting to help everyone leads to not saying “no” which leads to taking on more roles and responsibilities than is feasible for your own situation. I’ve been spiraling lately dealing with the fact that I am who I am and what I am capable of is not the same as what others are. As much as a want to emulate certain teacher heroes of mine, I am not them. I will probably do some neat stuff, but at the end of my life, their stories and mine will be different and that is one-hundred and ten percent okay.
One of my colleagues, who has basically adopted me as a little sister sat my ass down and made me list everything I was doing outside of contractual obligations. In my own skewed perspective, it seemed reasonable at first, but I had to take a hard look.
The last few months with the teacher walkout and sudden thrust of public educators into the spotlight has been taxing. Suddenly, everyone had an opinion on what was happening in my classroom, though only my administrators, my students, their parents, and I really knew and had a right to have an opinion. I’m going to be honest for a second: this has all been a recipe for burnout. I haven’t had a lot of joy in teaching for while. I still love my students and I have no intention of leaving the profession, but I’ve realized I haven’t been doing a good job taking care of myself and it was manifesting in a big way.
The most obvious was the fact that I, on a whim,got a drastic hair cut. A woman who changes her hair is trying to change something in her life. It’s not always a big thing, but in my case it was. Other things included the fact that I had assignment s that were almost two months old that still needed grading and I almost failed a class in grad school even though I had A’s in all the rest before it and the fact that I was sleeping almost twice as much as I really needed to.
Going back to this conversation with my “big-sister”-mentor, she gave me some really good advice.
It’s okay to not take on everything. It’s okay to step back and do less.
This is not me saying we should all be slackers and not do our share. This is me saying that sometimes we need sift through all of the things we could be doing and ask what is really important. For me, that is family, helping kids, and reading/writing, in that order.
Also, very importantly, she told me that it was okay these last few weeks of school to not have super academically rigorous classes every single day. My students have grown leaps and bounds in their writing and understanding of literature, but I’m tired. The kids are tired. We’re all tired. It’s okay to have days were we just read, discuss, and enjoy the book together. Doing that is why I got into teaching in the first place. Books have always been my happy place and I wanted to share great books with kids who need a little more happy.
Let Your Faith Be Bigger than Your Fear
I’m operating now on the ideology of ditching things that I don’t bring me joy and doing more of the things that do. I actually took a personal day from work to sit down and evaluate what that actually meant. This is a big deal for me. I don’t take off work unless I am sick to where it is a detriment to either myself or my students. I made coffee and breakfast, sat on the back porch and just sort of meditated and evaluated my life. I ended up better for it. (And my students really impressed me with how hard they worked in my absence and how well-behaved they were for my substitute; it was like the universe was winking at me saying, “Hey, you’re on the right track now. Do not turn around.)
I stepped out of grad school. (Hi, Mom!) Notice I said stepped out and not taking a break. The program I
am was in is fantastic. It was based on leadership and leading in a Christlike way, but ultimately it was pretty geared towards academic leadership. That’s not my calling; I’m called to the front lines of education. I’m feel like I’m pretty good at building relationships and making my students feel safe and even good about themselves. For this reason, I don’t think I’m going back. It doesn’t align with my long-term career goals. I was getting a Master’s degree because I have always been a high achiever, and I felt just like that was just what I was supposed to do. I think I wanted to have a Master’s degree just to say I had a Master’s degree. That’s not a good enough reason for me.
I watched the movie, The Help the other day and something stood out. “My boy Trelaw always said we gonna have a writer in the family one day. I guess it’s gonna be me.” The way Abilene says that, hit home. She is acknowledging that life doesn’t always happen the way we plan it, the way we expect it to happen. Writing has always been a dream of mine, but I didn’t expect to start going about it in a desperate search for my joy, but it’s been going decently well. I guess that’s what happens when you let faith be bigger than your fear. Even if you’re scared, do the thing.
I can’t say that things are completely perfect now. I’m still cleaning up the cobwebs in my mind from the time I let my depression drive the bus. It’s really embarrassing to tell have to tell your students what assignment the rubrics you’re handing back to them is for because it’s been two months since they did it. It’s really, really embarrassing to regrade those projects and pass them out for the second time in a week because they first time you forgot to put the grades in the computer. I guess, I could have made up some lame excuse, but I think it’s important to be honest with kids. Telling them the truth builds trust and they take that example of owning up to your mistakes and doing something about it long after they aren’t sitting in your classroom any more.
I’ve learned in my short time as a freelance writer about a CTA, or call to action. Basically this means that at the end of a piece of writing, you give your readers a next step. Maybe it’s to go read more about an organization you are telling them about, or “click like and subscribe to my channel!” It’s supposed to be pretty organic. You don’t say, “Hey y’all this is your call to action!”‘ But in the spirit of being honest about mental health, making mistakes, and chasing your dreams here’s your call to action in the form of the most delayed and kinda sad punchline ever:
I had stopped really believing in myself and believing in what makes me feel alive. Follow mine and Journey’s advice and don’t do that. Chase your dreams like a kid chases the ice cream truck on the first day of summer break. If you’re having trouble, talk to someone about it. I’m not going to tell you it will be easy, but it could save you, and I mean that mentally, spiritually, and physically. Do more of the things that make you happy. If you want to do the thing, do the thing, even if it scares you. Even better if it scares you. And oh yeah,
Don’t stop believing,