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

Can I Be a Friend Right Now?

Life is stressful these days – I’m fully immersed in a big old pool of grad school, which often sometimes feels like drowning, while preparing for my first year of teaching in a New York City public school.

I’m fine. Everything’s fine.*

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In my time here, I’ve met some amazing humans, a few of whom are responsible for my ability to get through all of this madness. I love and respect them so very much.

I’ve been trying to improve my listening skills for the last few years because, well, listening is really important and a huge part of knowing someone deeply. I’m practicing this because I want to get better, because I love my friends and want to hear them.

Trouble is, sometimes hearing everything creates a battle between being a good friend and anxiety.

An example: there’s this paper due at the end of the month for a class I’m taking and it’s a doozy. I won’t get into the details but the issue is that it’s very involved and no one really seems to be clear on the topic, the expectations, or the process. We’re all shooting in the dark, we’re all nervous wrecks.

So we talk about it. A lot. Sometimes I’m really upset and nervous and emotional about it and sometimes I’m not. When I’m not feeling negatively about it, negative talk around me brings me down. So it’s a cycle of panic that none of us can seem to escape.

Some of my pals got an extension but I chose to turn my paper in on time; I’ll get my grade next week and I’m scared. Every time the paper comes up, I think about what happens if I messed up. What happens if I failed? It’s not a useful thought. So the conversation comes up and I get anxious about something that has yet to happen, something that might not happen.

So the answer is to stop engaging in the conversation, right? Well, remember that ‘being a good listener’ thing…?

I want to be a good friend but I also can’t hear another damn thing about this paper while my fate hangs in the air. And how do I even express that without hurting the people I love?

“Oh hey guys can you shut the hell up because I’m avoiding my feelings?”

This is a post without an answer. I don’t know what to do or what I will do. I don’t know what you should do if you’re in a similar situation.

Thoughts?

Best of luck.

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*But don’t you dare tell me things are only get harder from here because I will cut yell at you.

 

Feelings Friday: Feeling Phone-y

This week I’ve had a hard time; with blogging, with working, with going on a run without hurting myself. It’s been a week for sure.

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Lately I’ve been focusing on putting everything together for grad school and moving to New York, which mostly means thinking things are ok until I take one step forward and everything is 100% not ok. Between weird rental policies, holds on my student account, and casually taking out tens of thousands of dollars in loans financial aid, I’ve been absolutely killing myself with stress.

Until Tuesday when I left my phone at home.

When I first got to work, dug through my purse and realized I’d left it on my bed next to a slumbering Boyfriend, my first thought was “how strange, I should text Boyfriend, wait…”

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Not having my phone meant focusing on what was in front of me. It meant not checking for alerts or messages in between small children reading to me. It also meant not constantly refreshing my email to see if the realtor has gotten back to me. It meant a little peace and quiet from the self-induced stress machine that is the Internet.

Around lunch I panicked a bit, worried because I needed to work a couple of things out fairly urgently via email. However, on my lunch I found a staff computer and took care of everything in about five minutes. Without Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitstagram, Chatbook, Facelr, I was able to complete an important task without distraction.

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The starkest realization I had was that I didn’t really miss the internet constantly whispering in my ear. I didn’t get home and jump on my phone to make sure I hadn’t missed the trivial daily drama. I did check to see if I missed anything truly important and guess what, I didn’t.

So this week I’ve started leaving my phone in my purse, checking it once before lunch and then putting it away again. I haven’t missed anything dire yet and my stress level has plummeted. Turns out my phone is not my lifeline, but in some ways, my stressor.

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If you’re feeling anxious or stressed this week you should know: I feel you. I feel you so hard, bro. Take a breath, put down your phone and read a book or go for a walk. Do a thing that humans were built to do.

And best of luck.

***Sidenote: if anyone knows of any cheap(ish) apartments in NYC I’m listening…***