Learning to Take Care of My Damn Self

Growing up I watched my very motivated father work his fingers to the damn bone. If there was a retake needed by a football player, he’d stay until 6 to give it to them. If a parent meeting needed to happen at 5 am or 9 pm, he’d make it happen. If he needed to learn Spanish or trombone to get the information across, he’d do it.

Every evening I watched him get home late and fall asleep minutes after sitting down. And every single school break I watched him get horribly sick and spend his time off recovering.

When I started teaching I promised myself I would find a way to work for my kids, to give them every chance I can, without burning myself out.

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I have been blessed with a team of co-workers who are caring and understanding, who always look out for me. My co-teacher tells me often to take care of myself. The beginning of every department meeting is either a self care check-in (where we talk about our specific self care goals and what we are doing to reach them this week) or a self care practice (Tai Chi, guided meditation, etc.) My Assistant Principal meets with me once a week to lesson plan/unit plan/revise curriculum/talk about what’s not working and how to fix it. My in-school mentor meets with me once a week to talk about literally anything I need help with.

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I’m supported, much more so than a lot of teachers. I’m lucky and I know it. But still I got caught with a case of ignoring my own needs.

Last Monday I got up at 4 and laid on my couch sobbing because my head was pounding so hard I couldn’t move. I called in sick but by noon the fever, headache and general ick was so bad I couldn’t stop crying.

I went to the clinic in the afternoon (I’ll be honest I went mostly because I wanted to be at work the following day) and found out I had a high fever, a sinus infection, and an ear infection.

My point is: don’t do this. Don’t let it get this bad. I was sick, really obviously sick and tried to push too hard through it and for what?

Americans especially have this notion that if you are not absolutely killing yourself at work, you’re lazy. I can’t say this enough times: that’s bullsh*t.

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In Peru, we would work from about 7- or am until lunch, go get lunch and take a nap or spend time with family, and then go back to work from 3 until 5 or 6. Yeah, that’s a three hour lunch. We also took 20-30 minutes breaks throughout the day to sit and talk.

At first I was torn apart by the difference and went to the go-to argument so many others have used (or at least thought in their head): well maybe if they worked more, their country would be more advanced. This, my friends, is also bullsh*t.

The reasons that many countries struggle has more to do with internal structure and corruption than with amount of hours worked. Hard work may be important, but worker bees working their buzzers off with no break  will not improve a country or a city or a workplace or a person.

I suppose the moral of the story is: put in the work, do whatever it is you do the best that you possibly can, but remember that half of being your best is treating yourself well. Work hard, self care hard.

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Best of luck.

Learning to Take Care of My Damn Self

Celebrate Yourself

Last month I took part in Yoga Revolution, 31 days of yoga challenge from Yoga with Adriene. It was less a New Years Resolution and more an opportunity to get back to daily yoga after a few weeks off. Either way though, I really enjoyed the thirty minute daily videos from this hilarious and kind teacher. 

During the third week I was really struggling. I struggled to get to the mat. I struggled to focus. I struggled to breathe. I got mad at Adriene and at yoga and at my body. I cried in cobra and fumed in down dog. But I finished and then I came back the next day and life went on. 

A few days later Adriene hit a lot of the crap that had been holding me down. She talked about a friend of hers who has chronic back pain and wondered, “can you shift the language? Can you let go of this back pain as part of your identity?”

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She went on to explain that being kind to yourself and loving your body even when it doesn’t do what you want is the goal. Yoga isn’t about making shapes it’s about growth and making space. I had heard this, I knew this, I could quote this, but this time I actually heard it. 

Stop being such a d*ck to yourself and celebrate doing your best.  

I’m hard on myself, about everything, I’m never good enough and my body gets the worst of it. Growing up overweight I always felt that if my body wasn’t cooperating with me it was because it was inherently wrong. My fat body was the wrong body so it did things wrong. 

Can’t do that stretch? Wrong body, bad body. Can’t run as fast or long as you want? Bad body. Stomach ache, headache, joint pain? Bad body. It never occurred to me to accept my body and help it, support it to feel better. If my body is a dear friend instead of an enemy, life can be so much less painful. 

Life and yoga are about stretching, learning, growing. Not pain, not hurt, not hate. 

I learn the best life lessons while upside down.

Best of luck

** and check out Yoga with Adriene ***

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I Took a Personal Day and I’m Not Sorry

Monday was a long, but overall happy day. Tuesday, however, was much worse. We’re talking “no-good, very bad day” status. I won’t even go into the details but we’ll just say I left school after a long after school meeting, fuming. I walked to the subway half-furious, half-devastated and entirely exhausted. I did that weird little public half-cry where you wipe tears away before they really drop and try to pretend you’re not crying.

On the way home, I tried to find comfort in anything I could: I’m a good teacher, it’s almost the mid-point in the week, we get a break in two weeks wherein I’ll get to see my family and friends, I love my sweet smiling students so much…but nothing was sticking. Until I offered myself the possibility of a personal day. Not a concrete plan, just the option.

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A little backstory: in January, two of my colleagues in the history department had a little meeting without me and discussed an important topic; my continued full supply of personal and sick days. They’d both realized that I’d never taken a day off and thought it was ridiculous. As veteran teachers with 6 and 13 years experience, they are very protective of this first year baby teacher, a fact I’m endlessly grateful for. So it was no surprise when they both came to me separately and then together to convince me to take a day for myself.

They told me that it’s important to take care of yourself. They lectured me about self care and burnout. I laughed and told them I would consider taking a day in March because that’s the death month with no days off. And then Tuesday happened and I hit the end of my rope.

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Giving myself permission to call out on the subway gave me so much relief that I just continued thinking about it. Eventually, still undecided, I texted my co-teacher and told him there was a chance I’d be out. I wanted to see his response, since he’d be teaching alone the next day if I wasn’t there. He immediately texted back, telling me I deserve it and I need to take care of myself since it was a hard day. There were many emojis, he was excited, it was very sweet.

So I took a personal day and I still got up at five. I spent the day catching up on lessons and doing my homework. I went to therapy in the afternoon and spent the evening drinking tea and spending time with Boyfriend. By seven that evening I felt good, I felt ready for a 7am-10pm day with work and grad school.

And then de Blasio called a snow day. Excellent timing, de Blasio, excellent timing.

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Previous to taking this day off, I’d only taken two days off from work in my life. One for when I was so sick I couldn’t walk without passing out and the other was the day that an ex walked out on me. The idea of taking a personal day just to get my head on straight seemed weak. But my colleagues (and every other veteran teacher I interact with) have taught me just the opposite. Weakness is not listening to yourself, it’s not taking care of yourself. It’s easy to be in the building every day, it’s much harder to be present. And sometimes you have to be absent in order to be present later.

I refuse to feel guilty about this personal day because it was something I needed to do. I needed a reset and re-focus. And the snow day, well, that was just a bonus.

Best of luck.

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I Couldn’t Hate Them If I Tried

Something I’ve learned many times before but continue to learn every day is that nothing in education will turn out as expected. The “solid gold” lessons won’t be received as you imagined (or hoped), the “total crap” lessons will hit some just right, and the emotions and break-downs and fights you expect will not happen when you expect them.

My first term as a high school teacher just ended in December and nothing went as I expected. Kids I thought would throw fits over failing didn’t, kids I thought would fail pulled it out at the last second and some that I thought would pass lost their momentum too soon.

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Overwhelmingly though: I am continually floored by how much I love these kids. How much I want to hug them when they cry and tell them it’ll work out even though it feels terrible right now.

I push them hard every day, nobody is allowed to take the L. I expect greatness from everyone, no one is mediocre. I don’t hand out good grades until they’ve been earned. I get called mean on the regular, I’m always “extra” and “doing too much.” I get mad sometimes because CAN EVERYONE STOP TALKING OVER ME?

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But still, when they celebrate, I celebrate. Nothing is better than seeing that smile they tried to hide when they find out they passed.

And when they cry, I cry. Nothing is harder than seeing the despair they’re trying to hide when they find out they won’t pass.

There was this small part of my brain that thought I’d feel justified and righteous handing out failing marks to those kids that have blown off the work and made bad choices. Because I’m teaching them lessons in social studies but I’m also teaching about consequences and professionalism. I thought somehow it might feel good to give a well-earned failing mark.

I was surprised at how much it hurts me when they hurt, even when the pain is necessary.

I’ve known these kids for three months, but something clicked in the hall with Elle while I held her and let her cry through my sweater. Something clicked when Steven laughed out loud at the news of passing my class and couldn’t stop grinning. Something clicked when Kam came in late to study hall and begged me to let him finish his work and pass, and his relief when I let him.

These kids are magic. And I am forever honored to be connected to them in even the smallest way.

Best of luck.

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Millennials Are Not Idiots

Hi. My name’s Becca and I’m a millennial.

I like Snapchat and Instagram, I send a lot of obnoxious selfies to people I haven’t spoken to in person in months. I spend a lot of time considering my identity and watching Netflix. I know too much about the Kardashians. I write a damn blog. I tweet my feelings about politics, religion and ice cream. I don’t really remember the world before everyone I’ve ever met was at my fingertips.

I don’t know any recipes by heart, I can’t name the presidents in order, and I am not totally confident that I can spell, well, anything. I don’t need most of that information anymore because it’s with me all the time, on my phone, on my computer, buzzing around in the cloud. Instead of focusing on memorized facts, I can develop theories and skills.

Here’s the thing: millennials aren’t dumb, they aren’t selfish, and they aren’t irresponsible. We inherited a pretty rough landscape from our forbearers. I have heard the stereotypes and BS arguments a thousand times:

She’s living with her parents?? She’s 28! She should get a job! Getting a job nowadays is not as simple as walking from store to store and handing out resumes. You need high school and college and then grad school to get to basically anything worthwhile.

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So then, sure, I’ll go through all of that schooling and then just get a job, right? Wrong, brother. To land a real job in your field, you’ll need some unpaid work, probably while working another job for income. Yeah, many of us moved back in with our parents and you should probably step off.

We’re trying to fix things and make the world a little better, maybe while checking tumblr. Or maybe we’re staring at our phones because we’re looking for a job online, maybe we’re reading an article about how absolutely f****d this country is politically, maybe we’re emailing our mom, or maybe we’ve forgotten why we unlocked it because we’re so. damn. tired.

Millennials work hard. And sometimes we’re little sh*ts. And sometimes we’re deeply poetic or innovative or charitable. We are a great many things that none of the aggressive, facebook-pandering, condescending articles out there can take away.

Step off, bro, we’re fabulous.

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Oh, and…

Best of luck.

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Whole30 Confession #1: I’m a Binge Eater

I think the first time I really noticed my binging habits was in college. I lived in the dorms but had the cheapest meal plan which meant I still had to prepare about half of my meals. So I bought groceries, only as much as I could carry, and I lugged them home on the bus.

There was always this feeling when I got home, this itching to consume everything. My home was filled with food, fully equipped for another week. But I wanted all of it. There were so many afternoons of stomach pain from simply eating too much at once.

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Binging is like being this other person, watching yourself consume and consume. It’s not even really tasting. It’s wanting another bite even when you haven’t finished the one in your mouth. It’s not satisfaction, it is only temporary euphoria followed by guilt.

This is not some small annoying habit to break, I know that. It’s a compulsion and it’s scary. The idea of eating until your sick, well it sickens me.

My Whole30 is partially about this. Particularly with sugar, but also in general. I want to remember my identity outside of food, I want to stop thinking so much about what I ‘get to’ eat next. Whole

Best of luck.

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