I talked briefly about how I learned that life is too short. The realization that everything can change in an instant hit me hard. It wasn’t just Covid that woke me up to this. My best friend’s dad was diagnosed with cancer in the middle of a global pandemic. Someone who I consider a second father and who considers me a third daughter. Amidst all of the crazy in the world, this was somehow “normal.”
Cancer is known. It’s accepted. It’s been around for ages. Yet, it stopped me in my tracks just as quickly as hearing about Covid’s devastation. A wave of realization washed over me as I processed the news. This had nothing to do with the pandemic. This could have happened in any year, any social climate, any time. Covid or no Covid- life is too damn short. Mr. A’s spirit and outlook on life, throughout his diagnosis and treatments, inspires me to not only face my fears (Ride to the sound of battle!) but also go after my dreams! He continues to fight and stay positive- and inspire so many people! We are all faced with hardships. So, how will we handle them?
I didn’t just lose motivation and joy. I lost myself.
I have so many passions and interests and goals for myself, yet I haven’t started any of them. I was always complaining about being stressed. Don’t get me wrong, I was! Ha! I am. But complaining about it doesn’t help. It doesn’t make me any less stressed, or miserable. I was (am) exhausted all the time. I lost all motivation to do anything that brought out my creative side, the part of me that thrives and gives me purpose. I didn’t just lose motivation and joy. I lost myself.
Teaching is this ideal dream job that I put up on a pedestal.
So, I spent some time trying to figure out the source of it all: my job. Yes, we all have stressful days. Yes, this is a “weird year.” Yes, I love my students. But, I don’t love my job anymore. I don’t love teaching anymore. In some ways, I don’t know if I ever truly did. I think I just loved the idea of it. It made sense. It gave me a purpose. I was helping others (any other enneagram 2’s out there?). Teaching is this ideal dream job that I put up on a pedestal. I get to work with kids all day, have my summers off, and make a difference. I kept wondering, “Why is this not making me happy? How come I feel miserable doing what should be the greatest job ever?” Then it hit me. Like many others in this world right now, the system is broken.
They call us heroes. They don’t understand that it is survival.
There’s this whole other side of teaching that no one talks about. No one dares open up their mouth and speak up. We are trained that we have to be role models for the community. Good role models don’t cause a scene. They don’t air the dirty laundry. We are taught that we have to act in such a way that we aren’t seen as humans, but rather as saints. People applaud teachers for sacrificing their free time, using their own money to buy supplies, and do ten jobs for the price of one. They call us heroes. They don’t understand that it is survival. We can’t successfully do our jobs without spending extra hours prepping lessons, providing materials to ensure equity, or acting as a counselor, nurse, confidante, cheerleader, or sometimes parent all while trying to teach academics. There is a side of education that is hidden. We hide it because we don’t do our job for the money, we do it for the kids. We bite our tongues so that we won’t upset anyone by demanding respect. We wear masks to disguise ourselves as the saints they paint us to be. But, at what expense? When will we reach our limit? When will teachers start standing up for themselves and saying enough is enough? We give and give until there is nothing left.
I have given up all of the things that bring me joy. I work until I do nothing but sleep when I get home. I stress over every detail and over analyze emails to the point of a breakdown. Enough is enough. Life is too short.
I am choosing my own happiness over an ideal. I am choosing to stand up for myself and my fellow teachers. I am choosing to drop the mask* and be true to myself. Which is terrifying. I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know what I will do with my career, but I do know I have a bunch of passions and ideas that need some dusting off after years in the corner of my mind.
For the first time, I feel like I am a little less lost.
*Y’all know I’m using a metaphor here. Wear your damn mask in public!