This is a word I think about often these days, thanks to the current pandemic. I think about how many of them I have and how potentially awful it would be if one of my students were to walk into my classroom and hand-deliver me Covid-19.
Yeah, it’s been a fun year so far.
I’m 29, so that’s good. Age is on my side. But I’m a far cry from the devoted athlete I was in my late teens and early twenties. I’m asthmatic, a bit overweight, hypertensive, and I’ve just added a new health complication to the collection—a syndrome I’m not sure how I’ll manage, given my track record for self-care.
Just a few weeks ago, I was blacking out at work everyday, not realizing my iron had dropped and I was extremely dehydrated. And I taught and wrote my way through it!
The me of ten years ago would be appalled to know how far I’ve let myself go, physically. Don’t get me wrong. She would be ecstatic to see how I’ve embraced writing and held down a decent job, but she would be saddened to know that I’ve sacrificed my health to attain it all.
Health used to be so important to us.
Busy Teacher Life
Teaching is a full-time job times three, times six during a pandemic. Before Corona, I was already struggling to achieve a positive work-life balance. As a perfectionist and a holder of high and often unrealistic expectations, I’ve always had trouble leaving things unfinished. And a teacher’s work is never, ever finished.
So, I often find myself taking work home with me on week nights, weekends, and even holidays. Currently, I’m home for Thanksgiving break and already have one day slated for catching up on grading and another half-day dedicated to answering the e-mails I’ve watched blow up my phone this past weekend.
I can’t get a break. Just the thought of putting it all off until next week feels world-ending.
Sometimes, it’s hard not to identify as just a teacher. It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up, the one thing that takes up ninety percent of my time, and, often, the last thing I think about before I go to sleep.
I often forget that I’m also a sister, a daughter, a friend, an auntie, a book-lover, a musician (aspiring), and especially, a writer.
I need to make more space in my life for other roles that I enjoy.
Robbing Pete to Pay Paul
So, I tried. In 2019, I decided that I was no longer going to allow teacher to be the controlling factor of my identity. It is a profession I enjoy, but there is so much more to who I am. I had to create space for these other parts of me so that I could experience more joy in life.
So, I decided to focus on my writing again. I went to the NYC Pitch conference in New York, experienced some success there, and returned home to rewrite my novel and prepare it for submission.
My responsibilities as a teacher, of course, didn’t budge. So, I had to take time to make time. I took more time from my mornings, nights, weekends, and school breaks to get the writing done. I took time from sleep, from family, from friends, and from all of the other things I wanted to enjoy in life.
It paid off. I have a complete and polished manuscript. It’s being queried. I have another project I’m about 60% through the first draft on. I’m pleased with it.
But I’m also burnt out.
And, as I pointed out earlier, not super healthy.
Taking Back Control
Corona has forced me to slow down and think about my priorities in life (I’m sure I’m not alone there). I look around at people who are getting sick and dying and can easily see myself in their position. But unlike some people, I feel like if I get sick, like really sick, it will be for reasons that were extremely preventable.
I could be in better shape. I could take care of myself. I could set some boundaries with my work life, both professionally and personally.
There has to be a better way to do the things I love and not come away from them feeling like a zombie. So, as of today, I’m re-envisioning my life and dedicating more time to the things that make me whole.
If you’re feeling any degree of burnout like me, I hope you will join in on re-evaluating your priorities. Yes, do what makes you happy. But, also, do what makes you whole.
How are you going to reclaim your time?